Cîteaux Abbey (French: Abbaye de Cîteaux) is a Roman Catholic abbey located in Saint-Nicolas-lès-Cîteaux, south of Dijon, France. Today it belongs to the Trappists, or Cistercians of the Strict Observance (OCSO). Cîteaux, formerly spelled Cisteaux, is the mother house of the Cistercian order.
The abbey has about 35 members. The monks produce a cheese branded under the abbey's name, as well as caramels and honey-based candies.
Cîteaux Abbey was founded on Saint Benedict's Day, 21 March 1098, by a group of monks from Molesme Abbey seeking to follow more closely the Rule of St. Benedict. They were led by Saint Robert of Molesme, who became the first abbot. The site was wooded and swampy, in a sparsely populated area. The toponym predates the abbey, but its origin is uncertain. Theories include a derivation from cis tertium [lapidem miliarium], "this side of the third [milestone]" of the Roman road connecting Langres and Chalons sur Saône, or alternatively from cisternae "cisterns", which in Middle Latin could refer to stagnant pools of a swamp.
The second abbot was Saint Alberic, and the third abbot Saint Stephen Harding, who wrote the Charta Caritatis, that described the organisation of the order. Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, a monk of Cîteaux Abbey, left it in 1115 to found Clairvaux Abbey, of which he was the first abbot. His influence in the Cistercian order and beyond is of prime importance. He reaffirmed the importance of strict observance to the Rule of St. Benedict.
The great church of Cîteaux Abbey, begun in around 1140, was completed in 1193. The Dukes of Burgundy subsequently used it as their dynastic place of burial.
The influence of the Cistercian order grew very rapidly, owing much to Saint Bernard, and at the beginning of the 13th century the order had more than 500 houses. Cîteaux was then an important center of Christianity. In 1244, King Louis IX of France (Saint Louis) and his mother Blanche of Castile visited the abbey.
During the Hundred Years' War, the monastery was pillaged in 1360 (when the monks sought refuge in Dijon), 1365, 1434 and 1438. In 1380, the Earl of Buckingham stayed at L'Aumône Abbey, a daughter house of Cîteaux located in the forest of Marchenoir whilst his army was quartered in the surrounding Forest.
In the beginning of the 16th century, the abbey was a strong community of about 200 members. The abbey was badly hit by the French Wars of Religion.
The abbey then slowly declined for the next century. In 1698, the abbey only had 72 professed monks.
In 1791, during the French Revolution, the abbey was seized and sold by the government.
In 1898, the remains of the abbey were bought back and repopulated by monks of other abbeys.
- Valdemar of Denmark (bishop) (1158 - 1236)
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- Jens Rüffer: Die Zisterzienser und ihre Klöster. Leben und Bauen für Gott. Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 2008, ISBN 978-3-534-18811-6, p. 10.
- Watkin Wynn Williams, Studies in St. Bernard of Clairvaux, 1927, p. 75. citing Du Cange "cisternae": Dicitur de loco humili et paludoso, ubi stagnat aqua.
- John Froissart, John (1395). Froissart's Chronicles Book II. Manuscript. Retrieved 1 August 2015.
- Plouvier, M. and Saint-Denis, A. (eds.), 1998: Pour une histoire monumentale de Cîteaux, 1098-1998 (Commentarii cistercienses. Studia et documenta, 8), Cîteaux.
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