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See M. B. Pennington, ed., The Cistercian Spirit (1970); C. H. Lawrence, Medieval Monasticism (1984).
a Catholic monastic order founded in France by Benedictine monks in 1098. The first monastery of the order was at Cistercium (now Cîteaux), near Dijon.
The Cistercians became influential in the 12th century, when the order was reorganized by Bernard of Clairvaux; from this time, the Cistercians were also called the Bernardines. The rule of the order, prescribing physical labor and an ascetic way of life, was adopted in 1119. By the beginning of the 14th century, the Cistercians were one of the richest and most important orders in Catholic monasticism, numbering 700 monasteries and convents in France, Germany, and other European countries. The Cistercians were used by the papacy to spread Catholicism in Eastern Europe. In the 14th century, the order fell into decline. In the 17th century, it temporarily revived in the course of the struggle against Protestantism. At this time the Trappists, an order with an even stricter rule, were formed as an offshoot of the Cistercians. In the mid-1970’s, the Cistercians, including the Trappists, numbered about 6,000.