English Monastic Life – Cistercians

Cistercian MonkArticle

The congregation of Citeaux was at one time the most flourishing of the offshoots of the great Benedictine body. The monastery of Citeaux was established by Saint Robert of Molesme in A.D. 1092. The saint was a Benedictine, and felt himself called to something different to what he had found in the monasteries of France. The peculiar system of the Cistercians, however, was the work of Saint Stephen Harding, an Englishman, who at an early age had left his own country and never returned thither. He struck out a new line, which was a still further departure from the ideal of Saint Benedict than was the Cluniac system. The Cistercians, whilst strictly maintaining the notion that each monastery was a family endowed with the principles of fecundity, formed themselves into an Order, in the sense of an organised corporation, under the perpetual pre-eminence of the abbot and house of Citeaux, and with yearly Chapters at which all superiors were bound to attend. It was the chief object of the administration to secure absolute uniformity in all things and everywhere. This was obtained by the Chapters, and by the visitations of the abbot of Citeaux, made anywhere and everywhere at will. The Order spread during the first century of its existence with great rapidity. It is said that, by the middle of the twelfth century, Citeaux had five hundred dependencies, and that fifty years later there were more than three times that number. In England the first abbey was founded by King Henry I at Furness in A.D. 1127, and of the hundred houses existing at the general suppression three-fourths had been founded in the twelfth century. The rest, with the exception of Saint Mary Grace, London, established in 1349 by Edward III, were founded in the early part of the thirteenth century.

MLA Citation

  • Dom Adrian Gasquet. “Cistercians”. English Monastic Life, 1904. CatholicSaints.Info. 28 November 2018. Web. 18 April 2021. <>