This lovely piece of eleventh century metalwork is the crozier of Saint Robert de Molesme (1027-1111), founder of the Cistercians. Saint Robert is a man for our time. He left his Benedictine abbey when the community would not accept his reforms. The abbey was notorious, and wedded to its sins. His biographer, Stephen of Citeaux, says
'Let it not disturb you, O Reader, that in that holy community evil claimed the place as its own, since pride invaded heavenly minds, calling them away from their heavenly country to its own region and hid amidst dust and ashes that which was more accustomed to appear in purple and fine linen.'
Refusing to reform, they more or less threw him out. Stephen adds, sagely, 'So it is that there has always been in the church both the just who make progress and the wicked who are a trial.'
Robert went to live in the woods with a group of brothers intent on poverty and simplicity, earning their food by the work of their hands and holding nothing as their own. So successful was he that his community grew and prospered, while the willful brothers of Saint Michael at Tonnere Abbey found the going hard. 'Now they fretted and wept over both their moral and financial ruin' Stephen says, so much so that they petitioned the Pope to send Robert back to them, and this time the community accepted the reforms .
Indeed, the wicked are a trial, but they have ever been with us. St Robert of Molesme's feast day is the 29th of April.