CISTERCIANS, sis-ter'she-ins, a monas tery founded in 1698 by Saint Robert of Mo lesme, a Benedictine monk of Cluny (q.v.) at Cistercium, near Dijon in France. After a year Robert of Molesme was succeeded as abbot by the monk Alberic and he in turn by Saint Stephen Harding, an Englishman who ruled the order during 25 years with great wisdom and who is regarded as its second founder and lawgiver: his day in the Church calendar is 17 April. The Cistercian order in his time grew to be the most considerable monastic order in the Church and to him in great part is due the founding of the four greatest Cistercian monasteries of France, next after Citeaux, namely, La Ferte, Pontigny, Clairvaux and Morimond. By the middle of the 12th century Citeaux had affiliated with it 500 abbeys and priories, and early in the 13th their number was 1,500, of which very many were convents or priories of Cistercian nuns. For 200 years the austere rule of Saint Benedict as reinforced by Saint Stephen Harding was main tained throughout the order: there was the chanting of matins and lauds at midnight throughout the year in the abbey or priory church; there was a strict fast on one slender meal from 14 September to Easter; there was abstinence at all times (cases of sickness ex cepted) from all animal food, save that very rarely milk was allowed. The austerity of the Cistercian rule extended even to the churches of the order: simplicity was sought in every thing; there was no display of ornamentation, either of the edifice or of the vestments or of the sacred vessels; the copes and chasubles em ployed in the church services were of white linen instead of silk or cloth of gold; the chalices and the pyxes, instead of being of gold incrusted with precious stones, were of plain silver. But the Church schisms and the wars
and civil commotions of the 14th century led to the plundering of the abbeys and priories, and the monastic discipline was greatly relaxed, so that on the one hand it became necessary for the see of Rome to sanction in some respects this relaxation, while on the other hand there arose zealous upholders of the ancient rules who brought back the primitive observance in all its rigor. Among the most notable of these revivers of the ancient rule was the abbot De Rance of the monastery of La Trappe (q.v.) in the 17th century. At the dissolution of the English monasteries by Henry VIII there were in England and Wales 115 Cistercian houses, of which 25 were for nuns. In the period of the French Revolution most of the Cistercian Cenobia, not only in France, but throughout the continent of Europe, were suppressed. In the United States there are three Cistercian abbeys, La Trappe at Gethsemane, Ky.; New Mellarey, near Dubuque, Iowa, and Our Lady of the Valley, Cumberland, R. I. The most noted English Cistercians' houses were the abbeys of Furness, Fountains, Rievaulx, Tin tern, Kirkstall and Woburn. A modern English Cistercian abbey is situated at Mount Saint Ber nard, not far from Leicester. Consult Janaus chek, 'Origines Cistercienses> (1877) ; Guig nard, 'Monuments primitifs de la regle Cister cienne> (1877) • Sharpe, 'Architecture of the Cistercians) (1874) ; Lefroy, 'Ruined Abbeys of (1889) ; Eulart, (Origines de !'archi tecture Gothique en Italie> (1893).