Trappists, a branch of the Cistercian order famed for the austere reform inaugurated by De Rance, abbot of La Trappe. (See Range.) This monastery is near Mortagne, in the French department of Orne. It was founded in 1140 by Rotrou II., count of Perche, who gave it to a colony of Benedictine monks from Savigny. In 1148 St. Bernard affiliated it to Clairvaux, and its inmates became famous for piety. During the incessant wars between the French and the English, the monks were frequently plundered and dispersed, till toward the close of the 15th century their long enforced absence from the monastery gradually weakened the habits of regular observance, and reduced their numbers to less than 20. Francis I. gave the ruined abbey in commen-dam to Cardinal du Bellay; and thenceforward all religious fervor and discipline were at an end. In the beginning of the reign of Louis XIV. only seven monks remained, whose licentious habits caused them to be called " the brigands of La Trappe," On July 13, 1664, De Rance was consecrated abbot of La Trappe in the cathedral of Seez, by Oliver Plunket, archbishop of Armagh. The old monks who did not wish to adopt the severe life inaugurated by the abbot were allowed to depart, and were pensioned out of De Rance's patrimony; and, after much opposition from the other Cistercian monasteries, and six years of patient waiting, the mild firmness of the reformer and his exemplary life attracted a small number of followers.
The chief centre of the reform, after La Trappe, was the Cistercian monastery of Tamie, near Faverges, in Upper Savoy. It adopted De Ranee's rule in 1677, was suppressed during the French revolution, and, after various vicissitudes, was again taken possession of, Oct. 15, 1861, by a colony of Trappists from Grace-Dieu, near Be-sancon. The reform was approved by Innocent XL, but under certain restrictions. The monastic rule is noted for its severity. The members rise in the morning at 2 o'clock, and devote 12 hours a day to devotional exercises, and several hours to hard labor, mostly in the field. No worldly conversation is allowed; when meeting, they salute each other with the solemn Memento mori ("Remember death"). Their scanty food consists of water and vegetables; meat, wine, and beer are entirely forbidden. They sleep on a board, with a pillow of straw; and they never undress, not even in case of sickness. Hospitality is earnestly recommended; but it is also enjoined on the members to observe, in the exercise of hospitality, as much as possible the customary silence of the order and the simplicity of its mode ot life.
In 1789 the Trappists possessed, besides La Trappe and Tamie, only one monastery in Tuscany and one in western Germany. When they were suppressed in France, Dom Augustin Lestrange, who is regarded as the second founder of the order, opened an establishment at Fribourg in Switzerland, to which some of the monks repaired. The members of the other extinguished monasteries wandered through Europe for about 20 years, without finding a permanent abode. In 1817 the French government authorized the reopening of La Trappe, and the order soon counted several flourishing establishments. It was especially prosperous under the administration of the superior general Geramb (after 1825), one of the few Trappists who have won a reputation for authorship. In 1828, and again in 1830, the suppression of all the French establishments of the order was decreed by the government, but in neither case was the decree executed. Since 1870 the Trappists have ceased to exist legally in Italy and Switzerland, and in 1874 they were suppressed in the German empire. In 1803 a colony of Trappists led by Lestrange himself settled at Pigeon Hill, near Conewago, Pa.; in the autumn of 1805 they removed to Kentucky, thence to Florissant near St. Louis in 1808, and in 1809 to a farm G m.
N. on the Illinois shore of the Mississippi. In 1813 they went to Tracadie in Nova Scotia, where they still exist. In 1848 Trappists from La Meilleraye in France settled at Gethsemane, Ky., 14 m. S. E. of Bards-town; a second establishment (now New Mel-leray abbey) has since been founded in Iowa, 12 m. from Dubuque. Both of these have been raised to the rank of abbeys, the abbots wearing the mitre. - An offshoot of the order of Trappists is the congregation of "Trappist Preachers," founded about 1845 by the abbe Muard, at Avallon, France, which connects home mis sionary labors with the observance of a Trap-pist mode of life. - The first convent of Trap-pist nuns was founded in 1692 in France.