How were the medieval Cistercians different?

The basis of the Cistercian way of life was traditional, in that they, like other monks, followed the Rule of St Benedict. Indeed, the reason given for the decision in 1098 to leave Molesme for Citeaux was the failure of that community to observe the Rule properly. So in what way did the Cistercians differ from the Benedictines?

Benedictine houses by the eleventh century were by their nature independent institutions. Some, it is true, had coalesced into congregations. These, the most famous among them being Cluny, added liturgical customs on to the basic framework of the Benedictin Rule. 

But the Cistercians went further, and over a period of time came to devise structures which bound individual houses together in a way that had not been tried before. The congregation of Citeaux spread rapidly: monasteries sent out colonies, or daughter houses, to establish new foundations, and some existing monasteries adopted Cistercian customs. For instance, in 1147 the Cistercian General Chapter admitted the entire orders of Savigny and of Obazine, the latter with both men’s and women’s houses.

In order to preserve the unity of observance it was decided that each year the abbot of each Cistercian house should travel to Citeaux to attend the Annual General Chapter. The Chapter became the legislative body of the Order, taking decisions and enacting decrees that regulated the Cistercian way of life. It was also a disciplinary body, placing penalties on those who fell short of the rigorous standards of observance that it required. Moreover every year the abbot of each mother house - those houses which had sent out colonies - visited each of its daughter houses. This annual visitation was a further check on the observance in all the monasteries of the Order. These mechanisms were laid down in the written constitution of the Cistercians, the Carta Caritatis or Charter of Love.

By developing in this way the Cistercians invented the new idea of a monastic Order.

This blog quotes sections, with minor alterations, of this page and a quote form Illustration shows present day Citeaux Abbey, Saint-Nicolas-lès-Cîteaux, Bourgogne, France, source

 Support TemplarsNow™ by becoming a Patrontipping us or buying one of our Reliable Books

No comments: