|Praying and working Monks - source medievalists.net|
How did the Cistercian Order originate and develop?
It was a (Benedictine) Cluniac abbot, Robert de Molesmes, who founded in 1098, with the consent of the Duke of Burgundy, Citeaux Abbey. The Cistercian reform developing at here, advocated an austere life and stripped worship. Starting with sister abbeys in La Ferte, Pontigny, Clairvaux and Morimond, Citeaux deployed in France and the rest of Europe.
In 1112, Bernard de Fontaine, monk at Citeaux and future Saint Bernard, was sent to found Clairvaux Abbey, taking with him from Clairvaux thirty companions, including his uncle André de Montbard. The latter would later become one of the nine founding knights of the Order of the Temple.
Bernard became the first abbot of Clairvaux. Within the Cistercian order, he reformed the Benedictine tradition imposing a drastic return to rigor, purity, prayer, simplicity and austerity. By opposing the opulence and richness of Cluny he goes so far as to impose on his monks an austere lifestyle similar to that of "heretics" born around the year 1000. He wanted a stripped and confident faith.
All these Cistercian monasteries, which develop as self sustaining units, became important agricultural production centers. They played a key role in clearing of land throughout the Middle Ages. They were a blue-print of the Templar commanderies with the same agricultural end economic purpose, that developed after the 1120s.
This blog is a translation of parts of this paper in French.