« Prev The Cistercians Next »

§ 64. The Cistercians.

Literature.—Exordium parvum ordinis Cisterciensiae, Migne, 166. Exordium magnum ord. Cisterc., by Conrad of Eberbach, d. 1220; Migne, 185.—Manriquez: Ann. ord. Cisterc., 4 vols. Lyons, 1642.—Mabillon: Ann. ord. St. Benedict, Paris, 1706–1708.—P. Guignard: Les monuments primitifs de la règle Cistercienne, publiés d’après les manuscripts de l’abbaye de Citeaux, Dijon, 1878, pp. cxii. 656.—Pierre le Nain: Essai de l’hist. de l’ordre de Citeaux, Paris, 1696.—J. H. Newman: The Cistercian Saints of England, London, 1844.—Franz Winter: Die Cistercienser des nord-östlichen Deutschlands bis zum Auftreten der Bettelorden, 3 vols. Gotha, 1868–1871.—L. Janauschek: Origines Cisterciensium, Vienna, 1877.—B. Albers: Untersuchungen zu den ältesten Mönchsgewohnheiten. Ein Beitrag zur Benedictinerordensregel der X-XIIten Jahrhunderte, Munich, 1905.—Sharpe: Architecture of the Cisterc., London, 1874.—Cisterc. Abbeys of Yorkshire, in "Fraser’s Mag.," September, 1876.—Dean Hodges: Fountains Abbey, The Story of a Mediaeval Monastery, London, 1904.—Deutsch: art. Cistercienser, in Herzog, IV. 116–127; art. Harding, in "Dict. Natl. Biogr.," XXIV. 333–335; the Biographies of St. Bernard. For extended Lit. see the work of Janauschek.

With the Cluniac monks the Cistercians divide the distinction of being the most numerous and most useful monastic order of the Middle Ages,606606    Cardinal Hergenröther says, "The Cistercians reached a much higher distinction than the order of Cluny." Kirchengesch., II. 351.ernardins in France. Two popes, Eugenius III. and Benedict XII., proceeded from the order. Europe owes it a large debt for its service among the half-barbarian peasants of Eastern France, Southern Germany, and especially in the provinces of Northeastern Germany. Its convents set an example of skilled industry in field and garden, in the training of the vine, the culture of fish, the cultivation of orchards, and in the care of cattle.607607    In England they were careful breeders of horses (Giraldus Cambrensis, Speculum ecclesiae, IV. 130, and Brewer’s Preface, IV. 24) and were noted for their sheep and wool. Their wool was a popular article of royal taxation. John seized a year’s product to meet the payment of Richard’s ransom. M. Paris, Luard’s ed., II. 399. Henry III. forbade the monks to sell their wool. Henry II., 1257, taxed it heavily, etc. M. Paris, IV. 324, V. 610. See Stubbs, Const. Hist., I.541, II. 181, 200.

The founder, Robert Molêsme, was born in Champagne, 1024, and after attempting in vain to introduce a more rigorous discipline in several Benedictine convents, retired to the woods of Molêsme and in 1098 settled with twenty companions on some swampy ground near Citeaux,608608    The name comes from the stagnant pools in the neighborhood.,609609    He died on a Crusade. At his request his bones were taken back and buried at Citeaux, which became the burial place of his successors.

Alberic, Robert’s successor, received for the new establishment the sanction of Pascal II., and placed it under the special care of the Virgin. She is said to have appeared to him in the white dress of the order.610610    See Helyot, V. 404. According to Hauck, IV. 337, the Cistercians were the first to introduce into Germany the exaggerated cult of the Virgin.

Under the third abbot, Stephen Harding, an Englishman, known as St. Stephen, who filled the office twenty-five years (1110–1134),611611    He was a man of much administrative ability. William of Malmesbury, IV. 1, speaks of Stephen as "the original contriver of the whole scheme, the especial and celebrated ornament of our times." It is related that on a journey to Rome, and before entering Citeaux, he repeated the whole Psalter. Basil had enjoined the memorizing of the Psalter. According to the biographer of abbot Odo of Cluny, the monks of Cluny daily repeated 138 Psalms. Maitland, p. 375.anions entered the convent, and the foundation of four houses followed, 1113–1115,—La Ferté, Potigny, Clairvaux, and Morimond,—which continued to have a rank above all the other Cistercian houses subsequently founded.

New houses followed rapidly. In 1130 there were 30 Cistercian convents, in 1168, 288. A rule was framed forbidding the erection of new establishments, but without avail, and their number in the fourteenth century had risen to 738.612612    Janauschek has shown that 1800, the number formerly given, is an exaggeration. were dispensed to Cluny, was highly honored by some of the popes. Innocent III. showed them special favor, and promised them the precedence in audiences at Rome.613613    Hurter, IV. 184 sqq.

The carta charitatis, the Rule of Love, the code of the Cistercians, dates from Harding’s administration and was confirmed by Calixtus II.—1119. It commanded the strict observance of the Benedictine Rule, but introduced a new method of organization for the whole body. In contrast to the relaxed habits of the Cluniacs, the mode of life was made austerely simple. The rule of silence was emphasized and flesh forbidden, except in the case of severe illness. The conventual menu was confined to two dishes. All unnecessary adornment of the churches was avoided, so that nothing should remain in the house of God which savored of pride or superfluity. The crosses were of wood till the statutes of 1157 allowed them to be of gold. Emphasis was placed upon manual labor as an essential part of monastic life. A novice at Clairvaux writes enthusiastically of the employment of the monks, whom he found with hoes in the gardens, forks and rakes in the meadows, sickles in the fields, and axes in the forest.614614    Peter de Roya, Ep. St. Bernard, 492; Migne, 182, 711.615615    Hauck, IV. 336.r period they gave themselves to copying manuscripts.616616    One of the regulations of the chapter of 1134 enjoined silence in the scriptorium. In omnibus scriptoriis ubicunque ex consuetudine monachi scribunt silentium teneatur sicut in claustro. Maitland, p. 450.s did the mendicant orders.617617    The Cistercians are said to have produced the first Swedish translation of the Bible. Hurter, IV. 180.618618    St. Bernard declared that the office of the monk is not to preach, but to be an ascetic, and that the town should be to him as a prison, and solitude as paradise, quod monachus non habet docentis sed plangentis officium, quippe cui oppidum carcer esse debet et solitudo paradisus. A monk who goes out into the world, he said, turns things round and makes his solitude a prison and the town paradise. Ep., 365; Migne, 182, 570.lous servants of the pope and foes of heresy. The abbot Arnold was a fierce leader of the Crusades against the Albigenses.

Following the practice introduced at the convent of Hirschau, the Cistercians constituted an adjunct body of laymen, or conversi.619619    Called at Hirschau also barbati, the bearded. They were denied the tonsure and were debarred from ever becoming monks. The Cistercian dress was at first brown and then white, whence the name Gray Monks, grisei. The brethren slept on straw in cowl and their usual day dress.

The administration of the Cistercians was an oligarchy as compared with that of the Cluniacs. The abbot of Cluny was supreme in his order, and the subordinate houses received their priors by his appointment. Among the Cistercians each convent chose its own head. At the same time the community of all the houses was insured by the observance of the Rule of 1119, and by yearly chapters, which were the ultimate arbiters of questions in dispute. The five earliest houses exercised the right of annual visitation, which was performed by their abbots over five respective groups. A General Council of twenty-five consisted of these five abbots and of four others from each of the five groups. The General Chapters were held yearly and were attended by all the abbots within a certain district. Those at remote distances attended less frequently: the abbots from Spain, every two years; from Sweden and Norway, every three years; from Scotland, Ireland, Hungary, and Greece, every four years; and from the Orient, every seven years. It became a proverb that "The gray monks were always on their feet."

The Cistercians spread over all Western Europe. The Spanish orders of Alcantara and Calatrava adopted their rule. The first Cistercian house in Italy was founded 1120 at Tiglieto, Liguria, and in Germany at Altenkamp about 1123.620620    See Hauck, IV. 326 sqq., for the names of the German houses.621621    Shortly after Harding’s death, William of Malmesbury, IV. I, Rolls ed., II. 385, describes the order "as a model for all monks, a mirror to the studious, and a goad to the slothful." Gasquet, p. 221, says that three-fourths of the hundred Cistercian houses suppressed by Henry VIII. were founded in the 12th century. Fountains,622622    The ruins of Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire is described by Motley (correspondence, I. 359) as "most picturesque, and the most exquisite, and by far the most impressive ruins I have ever seen, and much more beautiful than Melrose Abbey." For the ground plan, see Dr. Venables, art. Abbey, in Enc. Brit.," I. 19, and photographs of the walls (as they are). Hodges.623623    Stephens, Hist. of Engl. Church, p. 201.

Of all the Cistercian convents, Port Royal has the most romantic history. Founded in 1204 by Mathilda de Garlande in commemoration of the safe return of her husband from the Fourth Crusade, it became in the seventeenth century a famous centre of piety and scholarship. Its association with the tenets of the Jansenists, and the attacks of Pascal upon the Jesuits, brought on its tragic downfall. The famous hospice, among the snows of St. Gotthard, is under the care of St. Bernard monks.

In the thirteenth century the power of the Cistercians yielded to the energy of the orders of St. Francis and St. Dominic. It was not a rare thing for them to pass over to the newer monastic organizations.624624    As early as 1223 such Cistercians are called fugitives by the General Chapter. Contrasting the Cistercians with the Dominicans, Matthew Paris, an. 1255, Luard’s ed., V. 529, says of them, "They do not wander through the cities and towns, but they remain quietly shut up within the walls of their domiciles, obeying their superior."nstitute a rigid reform. With the Reformation many of the houses were lost to the order in England and Germany. The Trappists started a new movement towards severity within the order. The French Revolution suppressed the venerable organization in 1790. The buildings at Citeaux, presided over by a succession of sixty-two abbots, are now used as a reformatory institution.

« Prev The Cistercians Next »
VIEWNAME is workSection