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Bernard of Clairvaux, founder of the Cistercian Order.

   

You would be correct in objecting to this statement. However, this misconception has been repeated again and again.

Bernard, who would later be canonized, was one of the most extraordinary men of his century. His reputation as the founder of the Order, however, is unearned. He was the Order's fourth abbot.

The actual founder of the Order was Robert, who wanted to return to the true Rules of St. Benedict, which had been neglected in Cluny. After a number of disappointments in conventional Benedictine abbeys, he founded a monastery in Molesme. In 1098, after some internal troubles, he and 21 monks moved to Cîteaux, also in Burgundy. Pope Paschal II confirmed this Order, named after the 'original' monastery.

Bernard entered the monastery in 1112, as a novice, together with 30 companions. Stephen Harding was the abbot at the time. Already in 1115, Bernard became abbot of the newly founded Clairvaux Abbey. It is only later that he would be elected as head of the entire Order.

The erroneous notion that Bernard founded the Cistercian Order is likely related to the fact that the extraordinary expansion of the order began when Bernard entered it. While four or five monasteries existed in 1112, there were 365 at the time of his death in 1153. Fontenay is one of the oldest.

 

Fontenay evtl 0001

 

 

Translation: Erik Eising (M.A.)