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Author Topic: Cistercians  (Read 248 times)
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« on: September 23, 2007, 02:30:15 am »


In 1098 a band of 21 Cluniac monks left their abbey of Molesme in Burgundy and followed their Abbot, Robert of Molesme (1027-1111), to establish a new monastery. The group was looking to cultivate a monastic community in which monks could carry out their lives in stricter observance of the Rule of St Benedict. On March 21, 1098, the small faction acquired a plot of marsh land just south of Dijon called Cîteaux (Latin: "Cistercium"), given to them expressly for the purpose of founding their Novum Monasterium.

During the first year the monks set about constructing lodging areas and farmed the lands. In the interim, there was a small chapel nearby which they used for Mass. Soon the monks in Molesme began petitioning Pope Urban II to return their abbot to them. The case was passed down to Archbishop Hugues who passed the issue on down to the local bishops. Robert was then instructed to return to his position as abbot in Molesme, where he remained for the rest of his days. A good number of the monks who helped found Cîteaux returned with him to Molesme, so that only a few remained. The remaining monks elected Prior Alberic as their abbot, under whose leadership the abbey would find its grounding. Robert had been the idealist of the order, and Alberic was their builder.

Upon assuming the role of abbot, Alberic moved the site of the fledgling community near a brook a short distance away from the original site. Alberic discontinued the use of Benedictine black garments in the abbey and clothed the monks in white cowls (undyed wool). He returned the community to the original Benedictine ideal of work and prayer, dedicated to the ideal of charity and self sustenance. Alberic also forged an alliance with the Dukes of Burgundy, working out a deal with Duke Odo the donation of a vineyard (Meursault) as well as stones with which they built their church. The church was sanctified and dedicated to The Virgin Mary on November 16, 1106 by the Bishop of Chalon sur Saône.

On January 26, 1108 Alberic died and was soon succeeded by Stephen Harding, the man responsible for carrying the order into its crucial phase. Stephen created the Cistercian constitution, called Carta Caritatis (the Charter of Charity). Stephen also acquired farms for the abbey in order to ensure its survival and ethic, the first of which was Clos Vougeot. He handed over the west wing of the monastery to a large group of lay brethren to cultivate the farms.

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