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The Cistercians in the Middle Ages


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The Cistercians (White Monks) were the most successful monastic experiment to emerge from the tumultuous intellectual and religious fervour of the eleventh and twelfth centuries. By around 1150 they had established houses the length and breadth of Western Christendom and were internationally renowned. They sought to return to a simple form of monastic life, as set down in the Rule of St Benedict, and preferred rural locations "far from the haunts of men". But, as recent research has shown, they were by no means isolated from society but influenced, and were influenced by, the world around them; they moved with the times.
This book seeks to explore the phenomenon that was the Cistercian Order, drawing on recent research from various disciplines to consider what it was that made the Cistercians distinctive and how they responded to developments. The book addresses current debates regarding the origins and evolution of the Order; discusses the key primary sources for knowledge; and covers architecture, administration, daily life, spirituality, the economy and the monks' ties with the world.

Professor Janet Burton teaches at the School of Archaeology, History and Anthropology, University of Wales Trinity Saint David; Dr Julie Kerr is Honorary Research Fellow in the School of History, University of St Andrews.


Well-structured and rigorously edited. ANALECTA CISTERCIENSIA LXIII

This is an excellent introduction.providing a well-balanced and easily accessible overview. It is recommended to anyone interested in monastic or medieval history. H-FRANCE REVIEW

A treasure trove of detailed information. CATHOLIC HISTORICAL REVIEW

[The authors] are due the thanks of all interested in medieval monastic life for this fine addition to the literature on one of its most important manifestations. AMERICAN BENEDICTINE REVIEW

It will serve undergraduates in the area of Cistercian studies as an introduction to the riches of the primary sources and as a pointer to debates in academic literature. ENGLISH HISTORICAL REVIEW

An interesting and well-argued book. JOURNAL OF ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY

A much needed introduction. [It offers] a detailed and readable account of the Cistercians' origins and an analysis of the distinctiveness of the medieval Cistercians' way of life. THE MEDIEVAL REVIEW

Concise yet comprehensive [...] this book deserves to become a standard introductory work for anyone intent on serious Cistercian studies. NORHERN HISTORY

An impressive work of seminal scholarship. MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW

An engaging and authoritative history of the Cistercian order from its origins to the end of the Middle Ages. This volume, a further contribution to Boydell's excellent Monastic Orders series, is a wide-ranging, Europe-wide history of the Cistercians, considering them in the religious, cultural, political and economic contexts of their world and time. REVIEWS IN HISTORY

For those who teach religious orders or church history, this is must have. [...] It provides a wider understanding of the Cistercian Order and how they interacted with the world as well as a firm basis of their organisation and life in general. H-WRBI

A valuable contribution to Cistercian history. Recommended. CHOICE


First Published: 16 Aug 2011
13 Digit ISBN: 9781843836674
Pages: 256
Size: 23.4 x 15.6
Binding: Hardback
Imprint: Boydell Press
BIC Class: HBLC1

Details updated on 15 Dec 2015


  • 1  Introduction: Reform and renewal
  • 2  The 'desert-place called Cîteaux'
  • 3  'In mountain valleys and plains': the spread of the Cistercian Order
  • 4  'Lonely wooded places': the Cistercians, their sites and their buildings
  • 5  Unity and concord: the administration of the Order
  • 6  Ora et labora: daily life in the cloister
  • 7  'Angels of God': Cistercian spirituality
  • 8  Conversi, granges and the Cistercian economy
  • 9  'Lanterns shining in a dark place': the Cistercians and the world
  • 10  Bibliography

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