The order, a reformed Benedictine sect, was founded in Citeaux, Burgundy in 1098 by St. Stephen Harding, an Englishman, and St. Bernard of Clairvaux. Noted for locating their monasteries in wild, remote regions, the Cistercians eschewed anything that was not plain. Their clothing was unbleached, undyed wool, their food was simple (no meat, fish, or eggs) and they slept on bare boards in unheated cells. They labored in the fields rather than studying in the cloisters.Their churches were undecorated, with no towers or stained glass. They developed a productive system of agriculture, and their abbeys grew wealthy dispite their expressed desire for poverty. Their churches were undecorated, and Cistercian architecture much imitated
The Cistercians instituted the use of 'conversi', lay brothers who were turned from the service of the world to the service of God. They did only manual labor and adhered to a relaxed regimen, being excused from some of the normal religious requirements of the regular monks. The use of these 'conversi' was adopted by other orders, such as the Premonstratensians. The Trappist monks are a later reform of the Cistercians. They are called the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance. There are, today, a number of impressive Cistercian remains, including: Fountains, Rievaulx, Furness, Tintern and Valle Crucis.
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