|Introduction : genesis of the trappists (1/2)|
- Men in search of God -
Centuries ago - in 1098, to be exact - a small group of men made a profound decision. Benedictine monks in search of God, they chose to return to the old traditions that had been the basis of the original monastic movement in Occident. These monks followed a vibrant spiritual movement, Vita Apostolica, which called for a renewal of the apostolic values of dispossession.
They were in that faithful to one of their spiritual fathers, Benedict, who, in the sixth century, had enacted the “Rule” governing the behavior of the monks: obedience, silence, poverty, and humility, sharing the life of the monk between work and “lectio divina” (studies and meditation).
These men, led by Robert de Molesmes, dwelt in Cîteaux (Cistercium), in Burgundy (France); thus were the Cistercians born. The three founders, holy Robert, Albéric, and Stephen, knew how to define with accuracy and how to establish the legal position of the monastery, the standards concerning individual and conventual poverty, hospitality, the lay brothers, the future foundations of abbeys, the rules of monastic life, etc.
In 1112, Bernard De Fontaine came to Cîteaux and became one of its main promoters, through the creation of several monasteries which spread thereafter.
- The development of the Order -
The Cistercians were the founders of an order which was quickly to cover Europe of monasteries, thereby contributing, in their own manner, to the development of Western civilization. The organization of the Order supported its maintenance by harmoniously marrying the autonomy of the monasteries with a necessary level of centralization. Its development continued throughout the ensuing centuries.
From the fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries, the Order experienced many difficulties, and several monasteries closed. The original Cistercian unit was broken.
During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the influence of various cultural and societal movements led to a certain relaxation and progressive abandonment of the contemplative character in which the Order had its origins.