Cîteaux & the Cistercian Order

Cîteaux and the Cistercian Order.

On March 21, 1098, a group of twenty monks left their Abbey at Molesme, in French Burgundy, to found a "new monastery" where they would follow the 6th century Rule of Saint Benedict more faithfully. These reformers were given inhospitable marsh and forestland south of Dijon for their foundation at what is now known as Cîteaux.

In 1113, a young man named Bernard joined the poor and struggling Cîteaux community with some thirty companions. Later known as Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, his charisma helped the order to expand rapidly. He was sent to found a "daughter house" at Clairvaux in 1115. In 1119 the "Charter of Charity" crafted by Cîteaux Abbot Stephen Harding was approved, establishing an "order" where each monastery had substantial autonomy, but where solidarity and relative uniformity were maintained. There were 340 Cistercian monasteries in Europe at the death of Saint Bernard in 1153, 530 by 1200, and a peak of 747 just before the 1789 French revolution. Today there are about 7000 monks and nuns in the Cistercian family worldwide, including over 4000 contemplative Trappist-Cistercians counting those at Cîteaux.

Evicted at the time of the French revolution, monks returned to Cîteaux in 1898 after an absence of a little over 100 years. Cîteaux today is a community of about 35 monks, who hosted a 900-year anniversary celebration in 1998 attended by some 800 Cistercian family monastics. Cheese fabrication using milk from Cîteaux's own herd provides self-support to the community. Its monastic enclosure is partially opened to welcome some 60,000 visitors annually for guided tours. It has a large guesthouse with 45 rooms and is visited by individuals and groups in search of the Absolute.

The Munkeby monastery in Norway is the Abbaye of Notre Dame de Cîteaux's first direct foundation in more than 500 years.

Library Cîteaux

Library (15th century)

Cîteaux Church

The church