NOVICE:

The renewal of Benedict’s religious ideals encountered heavy obstacles in the New Monastery (Cistercium) however. The first abbot Robert was forced by papal edict to return to the mother monastery Molesme after only one year in Cistercium, and most of the reformed monks left with him. Alberic, with whom only eight monks had remained, was elected the new abbot in 1099. This small flock tackled their problems with courage. Alberic successfully obtained privilege from Pope Pascal II by which the pope took the monastery under his protection and preserved it from any external interference. Being protected from such influences, the monks were able to implement reforms to monastic life. After Alberic’s death in 1109, they elected Stephen Harding as abbot, and he was soon to oversee more prosperous times. More and more postulants had gradually been arriving at the reformed monastery and among them in 1112 was the nobleman Bernard together with a group of about thirty of his relatives and friends. It was Bernard who gave the greatest impetus to the New Monastery, and later on to the new Order.
The number of monks was increasing, so much so that there was no more space in the monastery, and therefore in 1113 it became necessary to found the first new monasteries at La Ferté, in 1114 at Pontigny, and even two in 1115 at Morimond and at Clairvaux. Thereafter Cistercian monks began founding new monasteries one after another, at first nearby, but then in more and more distant locations. At the same time a religious union of the monasteries emerged. In 1125 the abbot Steven Harding even founded the first Cistercian community for women – the convent in Tart. The first Cistercian monastery was no longer called the New Monastery, but just Cistercium (later on Cîteaux in French), and Steven Harding had to create the links among the new communities. For this reason he drafted the important document Charta Caritatis (“Chart of Charity”), which set out the relationships among all of the Order’s monasteries. This charter became the Cistercians’ constitution, establishing that all monasteries should use identical liturgical books, preserve the same worship, follow religious rules in the same way, and foster mutual love. In order to fulfil this goal, annual canonical visitations of the monasteries were carried out, and every year general chapters (i.e. reunions of all the abbots) were held in the mother monastery Cîteaux.

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