The Cistercian Order

Cistercian Monks

Cistercian Monks

The Order of Cistercians also known as Trappists, is a Roman Catholic religious order, which consists of monasteries of monks and nuns.  It is part of the larger Cistercian family which can trace its origin back to 1098.  Cistercians follow the rule of St.Benedict, and are part of the Benedictine family as well.  Cistercians dedicate their lives, to seek union with God, through Jesus Christ, within a community of brothers or sisters.

Saint Robert of Molesme-art

Saint Robert of Molesme – Artists Impression

On the 21st March 1098, St.Robert of Molesme, Abbot of the Benedictine Abbey of Molesme, felt compelled to lead twenty-one of his monks to Citeaux, and establish a new monastery.  This new abbey was dedicated to the restoration of Benedictine Rule in its most primitive form.  A life devoted to prayer and poverty.

Tension rose amongst his followers, and the relationship between the new monastery at Citeaux, and the Benedictine Abbey of Molesme, they had left behind.  The monks of Molesme, grieved by the loss of their holy leader, and it wasn’t long before they obtained a papal decree, forcing St.Robert to return to Molesme, and take up his position once again as their Abbot.

Abbey of Citeaux

Abbey of Citeaux

The Abbey of Citeaux, continued after the loss of St.Robert’s return to Molesme, by a small number of monks who chose to remain and carry on the order.  The new Abbot was St.Alberic, who was later succeeded by St.Stephen Harding.

St.Robert, St.Alberic and St.Stephen Harding, each Abbots in their own right, are celebrated as founders of the Cistercian Order.

With the guidance of St.Alberic, the small community of monks, built their first church, and settled down to their new way of life.  St.Stephen Harding, an Englishman from Dorset, was one of the founding Abbots, of the Abbey of Citeaux.

St.Bernard was born in 1090, to parents Tescelin de Fontaine, Lord of Fontaine – les – Dijon and Alethe de Montbard of high French nobility in the Burgundy region.  In 1109, his mother died, and his life was to undertake a dramatic change.

For the next three years, Bernard a nobleman from Fontaine – les – Dijon, went on a spiritual journey.  Then in 1112, the twenty-two-year-old felt he had his calling from God, and knocked at the doors of the Abbey of Citeaux, fourteen miles to the south of Dijon, with thirty of his relatives.

Stephen quickly sensed Bernard’s talents, and so it was, after three years as a monk, St.Bernard was sent to Vallee d’Absinthe in the Diocese of Langres, where he founded the Abbey of Clairvaux.  St.Bernard was accompanied by four of Stephen’s own brothers, uncle and two cousins, alongside an architect and two other monks.

The land, upon which the Abbey of Clairvaux was to be built upon, was a gift from Hugh, Count of Champagne, who would eventually become a member of the Knights Templar.

Abbey of Clairvaux

Abbey of Clairvaux

The project they were faced with, was to build a new abbey from the ground upwards.  This new abbey would be built by their own hands, stone by stone, in the name of their God, and Bernard would become the Abbot of the Abbey of Clairvaux.

It didn’t take long, for the news to filter through, as disciples and monks flocked to St.Bernard, wishing to follow in the steps of the renowned Abbot; St.Bernard of Clairvaux.

During St.Stephen’s tenure, four daughter-houses were created; La Ferte, Pontigny, Clairvaux and Morimond, between 1113 and 1115.  This monastic life led by the Abbey of Citeaux, saw an ever-growing network of monasteries rise up through medieval Europe.  Which led to the Carta Caritatis (Charter of Charity) being drawn up, designed to harmonize a sense of unity in its monasteries.

Almost in unison with the Templars, the Cistercians grew in wealth.  Like the Knights Templar, the Cistercian order was exempt from taxes and tithes.  They were expert in farming, industry and commerce.  The lead used on their Abbey roofs, was sourced from their own mines and smelted in their own works.

The construction of their Abbey’s were well thought out, and water was a major concern in any build.  Abbey’s would be situated by a secluded river or stream.  Monks would create a dam, designed to carry water to all parts of the Abbey; flowing through kitchens, washing facilities and indoor plumbing.

The Cistercian Order opted for plain cloths on their altars, with a plain wooden cross, whilst their Benedictine rivals had altars, crosses and candle holders made of gold.

The very rule of the Templar order, held this monastic institution with the highest regard, and many a co-operative venture would be undertaken by the two.

It is said, if a knight was expelled from the Knights Templar, he was not free to join secular life.  The said knight would seek shelter in a Cistercian monastery, in the hope that he would be rehabilitated.

In 1128, St.Bernard and Pope Honorius II attended the Council of Troyes, to settle conflicts within the French Church.  He offended Cardinal’s by his words, and was denounced by these men, yet his words, led to a strong bond with the Pope.

saint-bernard-of-clairvaux

St. Bernard of Clairvaux

St.Bernard, man of God became a renowned churchman in Christendom, known for correcting abuses within the faith.  He went out on a limb, defending church rights against the monarchy, who sought control of its resources, and chose their own bishops.

With news from the Holy Land, that the Crusader state of Edessa had fallen to Turkish forces.  Fear rang out, for Antioch and Jerusalem, which could see them fall into Islam control once again.

St.Bernard of Clairvaux was the man who called, who promoted the founding of the Knights Templar, and created the monastic rules of life they would follow.

St.Bernard called for a new crusade to the Holy Land, asking knights to arm themselves and wear the cross upon their chest, showing to all, they be God’s warriors.  He even used part of his own habit, fashioning crosses for many a warrior.

On the 21st August 1153, St.Bernard of Clairvaux died at the Abbey of Clairvaux in France.  At the time of his death, some 343 Cistercian monasteries had been established .  Sixty-five by him, and the remainder by fellow monks of the order.  In 1174 St.Bernard was canonized by Pope Alexander III.

The Cistercian Order continued to expand, and by the year 1200, there were in excess of 500 houses, and at the time of the reformation the number had risen to 742.

In 1664 Pope Alexander VII recognized within the Cistercian Order two observances; the Common and the Strict.  Among these arose Armand Jean de Rance, an Abbot who underwent conversion in his Abbey of Notre Dame de la Grande Trappe.  A renewal in the practice of monastic enclosure, silence and manual labour, expressing a spirit of apartness from all worldliness and a dedication to prayer and penance.  His was one community, lucky enough to have escaped destruction at the hands of the French Revolution.

During the French Revolution, Augustine de Lestrange travels led to the creation of Cistercian Orders in England, Belgium, Spain, Italy, and America.

In 1892 Pope Leo attempted to create a single Cistercian house under one order… but this proved impossible, for it now consisted of many national congregations.  This resulted with the Pope recognizing two Cistercian Orders: Order of Citeaux and Cistercian Order of the Strict Observance, also known as the Trappists.

In 1120, the Benedictine nunnery of Tart, adopted Cistercian Order rules, and sought an ever closer alliance with the monks of the order.  In modern times, the Strict Observance order, has sixty monasteries of Nuns, serving with Monks of the order in Rome.

According to the Modern Catholic Encyclopedia, the Cistercian Order have given to the Church many spiritual masters:

Bernard of Clairvaux
William of Saint Thierry
Alfred of Rievaulx
Guerric of Igny
Isaac of Stella
Gilbert of Hoyland
Adam of Perseigne

Cistercian Nunnery of Helfta in Saxony
Saint Gertrude the Great
Saint Mechtild of Magdeburg

12th Century Spiritual Masters
Thomas Merton
Thomas Keating

(Images) Abbey of Clairvaux and Citeaux: Wikipedia
(Image) Cistercian Monks: Wikipedia
(Image) Saint Robert of Molesme: Pininterest

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Knights Templar: Gothic Architecture

Gothic Cathadral - PI

Design of Gothic Cathedral

Gregorio Papareschi, was appointed to the post of Pope Innocent II, in the year 1130, supported to the Papal throne by Bernard of Clairvaux.

Pope Innocent II

Pope Innocent II

Following his appointment, to the Papal throne, Pope Innocent II, approved the request made by the Knights Templar, granting them the right, to build and run their own churches.  Overnight the Templar’s became answerable to only one person; the Pope, and out of reach of most authorities.  They could hold their own court, impose taxes, and no longer did the church hold any pressure over them.  They were their own men, and becoming a powerful order.

They planned and developed their own style of buildings, one which was French Gothic by design.  This new style was born in 1134.

The Templar’s mentor and spiritual leader; St.Bernard of Clairvaux, showed his flair, and his designs were used for the building of the north tower at Chartres Cathedral.

Gothic architecture dates back to the 12th century, it was to be an exciting time in Medieval European history, with the development of a new style of buildings.  Many a knight had served in the Holy Land, on the Crusades, and many had been influenced by the buildings and engineering styles used.

Gothic architecture evolved over a 300 year period, with bright and airy interiors, pointed arches to emphasize light and soaring spaces, ribbed vaulting, flying buttresses, tall spires and gargoyles.

The early forms of Gothic architecture was predominately used for the building of cathedrals, and later used in the building of castles, palaces and bridges.

Gothic architecture first emerged in northern France around 1140.

Westminster Abbey

Westminster Abbey

The Gothic style of building was soon taken up by the English, and used in Canterbury Cathedral and Westminster Abbey.

Gothic architecture in Medieval England was developed from Norman building styles, which related to buildings from 1200 – 1500.

Early English Style: 1200 – 1300

Decorated Style: 1300- 1400

Perpendicular Style: 1400 – 1500

Gothic churches and buildings were different to Normans, on their style and way of construction.

  • Stone blocks lined side by side was the choice of Normans, but Gothic buildings used many a shaped stone.
  • Hollow walls favoured by Normans, became solid under Gothic builds, thus they could handle far greater weight.
  • The use of pointed arches strengthened buildings, compared to Normans round arches.

Cathedral roofs were much larger, and buttresses were installed to take extra weight, alongside the nave and into the foundations.  These changes spread additional weight around the building, creating additional strength.

Wikipedia Images

Second Crusade: St. Bernard of Clairvaux

saint-bernard-of-clairvaux

St. Bernard of Clairvaux

St. Bernard was born in 1090, to parents Tescelin de Fontaine, Lord of Fontaine-les-Dijon and Alethe de Montbard of high French nobility in the Burgundy region.

Aged nine, Bernard attended Chatillon-sur-Seine school.  In 1109 at the age of nineteen his mother died.

The young Bernard, felt he had been called by God in 1112, aged just twenty-two, to enter the order of Cistercian Monks of Citeaux.  Bernard’s testimony was so compelling, some thirty friends and brothers felt compelled to follow him into monastic life in 1113.

The Abbey of Citeaux, founded by St. Robert of Molesmes was dedicated to the restoring of Benedictine Rule in its most primitive form.  A life devoted to prayer and poverty.

After three years as a monk, St. Bernard and twelve monks were sent to Vallee d’Absinthe in the Diocese of Langres; where he founded the Abbey of Clairvaux.  In 1116, he was named Abbot of Clairvaux.  In just a few years, disciples and monks were flocking to St. Bernard, wishing to follow the renowned Abbot; St. Bernard of Clairvaux.

In 1128, St. Bernard was called upon by Pope Honorius II to attend the Council of Troyes, to assist in the settling of conflicts within the French church.  He offended Cardinals by his suggestions, who denounced him, as nothing more than a meddling monk, yet his words struck a chord with Cardinal Harmeric and the Papal Court, which led to a strong bond between St. Bernard and the Pope.

St. Bernard this man of God was becoming a renowned churchman in Christendom, as he assisted in correcting abuses within the faith.  Defending church rights against the monarchy who sought to control its resources, and choose their own bishops.

In 1143, St. Bernard must have been a proud man, to see one of his pupils and fellow Cistercian Monk; Bernard of Pisa elected by his peers as Pope, taking the name; “Pope Eugenius III.”

Within a few years, news came from the Holy Land that shocked the Christian world.  The crusader state of Edessa had fallen to Turkish forces, with Antioch and Jerusalem highly likely to fall into Islam control once again.

St.Bernard will be remembered for calling for the founding of the Knights Templar, and he was responsible for the monastic rules of life they would follow.

St. Bernard was put in charge of rallying support for a new crusade, asking knights to arm themselves and wear the cross, showing they be God’s warriors.  He even cut off pieces of his own habit, and fashioned crosses for many warriors.  It is said that King Louis, Queen Eleanor of France and the Holy Roman Emperor; Frederick Barbarossa accepted these cloth crosses.

The Second Crusade was a failure, and he attributed the defeat, believing the crusaders no longer believed in securing the Holy Land.  He believed it be the sinfulness of the crusaders that led to its failure.

On the 21st August 1153, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, aged 63 died at Clairvaux in France.

His Legacy:

At his death, some 343 Cistercian monasteries had been established by him and fellow monks of his order.

In 1174 was canonized by Pope Alexander III.

In 1830, was named doctor of the church by Pope Pius VIII.

Image: Wikipedia