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Cistercian Life:
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QuizThe Cistercian Order
Stephen Harding offering a model of his church to the Virgin, c. 1125. © Bibliotheque Municipale, Dijon
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The Cistercian Order was the most important of the new religious orders which developed in western Europe in the late eleventh century in response to movements for reform in the Church. Cistercians - also known as White Monks - dominated the spread of new monastic foundations in Europe and spread rapidly from Burgundy where the order began throughout France, Britain and Ireland. In Britain, their greatest impact was in the north, where Yorkshire became the nerve-centre of the monastic life.

The Cistercian way of life placed great stress on solitude and isolation; Cistercian monasteries were thus often founded far away from towns and villages. Driven by an ideal of individual poverty, Cistercian monks had no personal property and the monks worked the land with their own hands to support themselves. A successful monastery needed, however, to obtain grants of land from lay benefactors to give it an endowment large enough to support the community. Rules were agreed to govern the internal affairs of each monastery and the Cistercian Order as a whole was regulated by statutes produced at Cîteaux in Burgundy, the mother-house of the Order.

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