Cloisters of Saint John Lateran, Rome. Source:

Friday, 5 June 2015

The Cistercians. Part Four.

Text is from Wikipedia - the free encyclopaedia,
unless otherwise stated.

Monastery of Salem, Germany,
which contained one of the most important Cistercian Libraries.
Photo: 4 August 2005.
Source: Own work.
Author: F. Bucher (User:Fb78).
(Wikimedia Commons)

In 1153, the first King of Portugal, D. Afonso Henriques (Afonso, I), founded The Cistercian Alcobaça Monastery. The original Church was replaced by the present building from 1178, although construction progressed slowly due to attacks by the Moors. As with many Cistercian Churches, the first part to be completed was the Eastern part, necessary for the Priest-Monks: The High Altar, Side Altars and Choir Stalls. The Abbey's Church was Consecrated in 1223. Two further building phases followed, in order to complete the Nave, leading to the final Consecration of the Mediaeval Church in 1252.

As a consequence of the wars between the Christians and Moors on The Iberian Peninsula, the Cistercians established a Military Branch of The Order, in Castile, Spain, in 1157: The Order of Calatrava. Membership of The Cistercian Order had included a large number of men from Knighted Families, and, when King Alfonso VII began looking for a Military Order to defend Calatrava, which had been recovered from the Moors a decade before, the Cistercian Abbot Raymond of Fitero offered his help.

This apparently came at the suggestion of Diego Valasquez, a Monk and former Knight who was "well acquainted with Military Matters", and proposed that The Lay Brothers of the Abbey were to be employed as "Soldiers of The Cross" to defend Calatrava. The initial successes of the new Order, in the Spanish Reconquista, were brilliant, and the arrangement was approved by The General Chapter at Cîteaux and successive Popes, giving The Knights of Calatrava their Definitive Rule in 1187.

This was modelled upon The Cistercian Rule for Lay Brothers, which included: The three Monastic Vows of Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience; specific rules of silence; abstinence on four days a week; the recitation of a fixed number of Pater Nosters, daily; to sleep in their armour; and to wear, as their Full Dress, The Cistercian White Mantle with The Scarlet Cross Fleur-de-Lys.

English: The emblem of The Cistercian Military Order of Calatrava, Spain.
A Greek Cross, gules, with Fleur-de-Lys at its ends.
Español: Cruz de Calatrava, divisa de la Orden Militar homónima.
Polski: Symbol zakonu Calatrava.
Date: 25 September 2011.
Source: Own work.
Author: Heralder.
(Wikimedia Commons)

The Order of Calatrava (Spanish: Orden de Calatrava. Portuguese: Ordem de Calatrava) was the first Military Order Founded in Castile, Spain, but the second to receive Papal approval. The Papal Bull, which confirmed the Order of Calatrava as a Militia, was given by His Holiness Pope Alexander III on 26 September 1164. Most of the political and military power of The Order dissipated by the end of the 15th-Century, but the last dissolution of The Order's property did not occur until 1838.

The Order was Founded at Calatrava la Vieja, in Castile, Spain, in the 12th-Century, by Saint Raymond of Fitero, as a Military Branch of The Cistercian Order. The etymology of the name of this Military Order, "Calatrava", conveys the meaning: "Fortress of Rabah".

Calatrava was not subject to Cîteaux, but to Fitero, Navarre, Spain's Mother-House, the Cistercian Abbey of Morimond in Burgundy. By the end of the 13th-Century, it had become a major autonomous power within Castile, subject only to Morimond Abbey and the Pope. With abundant resources of men and wealth, lands and Castles scattered along the borders of Castile, and Feudal Lordship over thousands of peasants and vassals.

On more than one occasion, The Order of Calatrava brought to the field a force of 1,200 to 2,000 Knights – considerable in Mediaeval terms. Over time, as The Reconquista neared completion, the Canonical bond between Calatrava and Morimond Abbey relaxed more and more, and the Knights of The Order became virtually Secularised, finally undergoing dissolution in the 18th-19th Centuries.

Fountains Abbey,
Yorkshire, England.
Fountains Abbey was a Cistercian Abbey.
Photo: 28 June 2014.
Source: Own work.
Author: Diliff.
Attribution: "Photo by DAVID ILIFF.
License: CC-BY-SA 3.0"
(Wikimedia Commons)

The first Cistercian Abbey in Bohemia was founded in Sedlec, near Kutná Hora, in 1158. In the Late-13th-Century and Early-14th-Century, The Cistercian Order played an essential role in the politics and diplomacy of the Late-Přemyslid and Early-Luxembourg dynasty, as reflected in the Chronicon Aulae Regiae. This Chronicle was written by Otto and Peter of Zittau, Abbots of Zbraslav Abbey (Latin: Aula Regia, "Royal Hall"), Founded in 1292 by the King of Bohemia and Poland, King Wenceslas II. The Order also played the main role in the Early-Gothic Art of Bohemia; one of the outstanding pieces of Cistercian architecture is the Alt-Neu Shul, Prague. The first Abbey in present-day Romania was Founded in 1179, at Igris (Egres), and the second Abbey was Founded in 1204 (Cârţa Monastery).

Following The Anglo-Norman Invasion of Ireland in the 1170s, the English improved the standing of The Cistercian Order in Ireland with nine Foundations: Dunbrody Abbey; Inch Abbey; Grey Abbey; Comber Abbey; Duiske Abbey; Abington Abbey; Abbeylara Abbey; and Tracton Abbey. This last Abbey was Founded in 1225 from Whitland Abbey, in Wales, and, at least in its earliest years, its Monks were Welsh-speaking.

By this time, another ten Abbeys had been Founded by Irishmen since the Invasion, bringing the total number of Cistercian Houses in Ireland to thirty-one. This was almost half the number of those in England, but it was about thrice the number in each of Scotland and Wales. Most of these Monasteries enjoyed either Noble, Episcopal or Royal Patronage. In 1269, the Archbishop of Cashel joined the Order and established a Cistercian House at the foot of The Rock of Cashel in 1272. Similarly, the Irish-establishment of Abbeyknockmoy in County Galway was Founded in 1189 by King of Connacht, Cathal Crobhdearg Ua Conchobair, who died a Cistercian Monk and was buried there in 1224.

Ruins of the Cistercian 12th-Century
Abbeyknockmoy Abbey,
Galway, Ireland.
Photo: 9 September 2008.
Source: From
Author: liam murphy.
Attribution: liam murphy.
(Wikimedia Commons)

By the end of the 13th-Century, the Cistercian Houses numbered 500. At The Order's height, in the 15th-Century, it would have nearly 750 Houses.

It often happened that the number of Lay Brothers became excessive and out of proportion to the resources of the Monasteries, there being sometimes as many as 200, or even 300, in a single Abbey. On the other hand, at any rate in some Countries, the system of Lay Brothers in course of time worked itself out; thus, in England by the close of the 14th-Century, it had shrunk to relatively small proportions, and, in the 15th-Century, the English Cistercian Houses tended to have roughly the same numbers as that of The Black Monks.

For a hundred years, until the first quarter of the 13th-Century, The Cistercians supplanted Cluny as the most powerful Order and the chief religious influence in Western Europe. But then, in turn, their influence began to wane, as the initiative passed to The Mendicant Orders, in Ireland, Wales, and elsewhere.

However, some of the reasons of Cistercian decline were internal. Firstly, there was the permanent difficulty of maintaining the initial fervour of a Body embracing hundreds of Monasteries and thousands of Monks, spread all over Europe. As the very raison d'être of The Cistercian Order consisted in its being a Reform – a return to primitive Monachism, with its field-work and severe simplicity – any failure to live up to the ideal was more detrimental among Cistercians than among mere Benedictines, who were intended to live a life of self-denial, but not of great austerity.

Relaxations were gradually introduced, in regard to diet and simplicity of life, and also in regard to the sources of income, rents and tolls being admitted and benefices incorporated, as was done among the Benedictines; the farming operations tended to produce a commercial spirit; wealth and splendour invaded many of the Monasteries and the Choir Monks abandoned field-work. The later history of The Cistercians is largely one of attempted Revivals and Reforms. For a long time, The General Chapter continued to battle bravely against the invasion of relaxations and abuses.


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