HARDING, STEPHEN, the third abbot of the celebrated monastery of Citeaux, and one of the most remarkable religious reformers of the 12th century. Of his parentage and youthful history, little is known beyond the fact that he was of a noble English family, and in early life a soldier. Under one of those religious impulses which so fre quently occurred in the middle ages, he undertook a pilgrimage to Rome. He subse quently entered the French monastery of St. Claude de Jour, where he was so dis tinguished by his strict and exemplary life, that he was chosen abbot of the monastery of with a view to the reformation of its discipline, which had become much relaxed. From this monastery he was transferred to that of Citeaux, where, on the death of Alberic in 1109, he was elected abbot. The rigor of observance which he here enforced had such an effect in deterring novices from entering the new order, that at first grave fears were entertained for its stability; but Stephen, placing his trust in the good cause which he had undertaken, persevered in the cause of reform; and he was rewarded, in 1113, by the accession of St. Bernard and thirty other youths, whose
eminent virtue gave such an impulse to the institute, that in a short time the number of claimants for admission compelled him to found several new convents, and especially that of Clairvaux, which, under the rule of St. Bernard, attained to the very highest distinction in that age. Abbot Stephen continued, till his death in 1134, to direct the fortunes of the Cistercian order; and in 1119 he drew up, in conjunction with St. Bernard and other members of the brotherhood, the well-known constitutions of the order, entitled Carta Caritatis, which were approved by popes Calixtus H. and Eugenius III., and, with some modifications, have continued down to modern times, as the rule of the Cistercian institute. See Mabillon Anna. Benedietin. t. v. p. 205.