Implemented in Portugal since the twelfth century, the Cistercian Order accompanied the formation of the territory and the political statement of the first dynasty. Gradually extending their monasteries in central and northern regions, thanks to the special royal protection, the white monks contributed decisively to the colonization and development of the vast areas occupied applying innovative and intensive farming techniques and, above all, a great discipline organization space.
Its origin dates back to the founding of the Cistercian Abbey (in Latin, Cistercium; in French, Citeaux), in the commune of Saint-Nicolas-les-Citeaux, Burgundy, in 1098, by Roberto de Champagne, abbot of Molesme. This, along with some fellow monks had left the monastic congregation of Cluny to resume the observance of the ancient Benedictine rule, in response to the relaxation of Cluny Order.
Through the “Charta Charitatis” in addition to the rule of Order of St. Benedict, Stephen – third abbot of the Cistercian – established the Order of the supreme authority is exercised by an annual meeting of all the abbots. The monasteries were supervised by the monastery headquarters in Citeaux, and the four oldest monasteries of the Order.
The order will play an important role in the religious history of the twelfth century, come to be imposed throughout the West for its organization and authority. One of his most important works was the colonization of the region east of the Elbe, which simultaneously promoted Christianity, Western civilization and the appreciation of land 1.
Restoration of the Benedictine rule inspired by the Gregorian reform, the Cistercian order promoted asceticism, liturgical rigor and erect, to some extent, the work as a fundamental value, as evidenced by its technical, artistic and architectural heritage.
In addition to the social role until the French Revolution, the order has great influence on the intellectual and economic level, as well as in the arts and spirituality, should its considerable development Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), exceptional charisma man . His influence and his personal prestige made him the most celebrated of the Cistercians. Although not the founder of the order, remains their spiritual mentor 2.
Currently, the Cistercian order is actually made up of two religious orders and various congregations. The order of “Common Observance had in 1988 with more than 1,300 monks nuns in 1500, over 62 monasteries and 64, respectively. The Cistercian Order of the Strict Observance (also called OCSO) currently comprises nearly 3,000 monks and nuns in 1875, over one hundred and two male monasteries and seventy-two female monasteries in the world. Are commonly called “Trappist” since the creation of the order resulted from the reform of the Trappist Abbey (in Soligny-la-Trappe, Lower Normandy, France) .
Even separated, the two orders have friendship links and collaborative relationships. The habit is also similar. The Cistercian monks are known as white because of the color of their habit.
Whilst following the Benedictine Rule, the Cistercian monks are not properly considered Benedictines. It was the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) that the word “Benedictine” came to designate the monks who did not belong to any centralized order, as opposed to Cistercians.