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       The monastic influence
  the European Route of cistercian Abbeys  
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In May 2010 the route was recognised by the ‘Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe.

In the Middle Ages, the Cistercian Order, breaking away from the Benedictine feudal system, historically established itself as the first religious order to structure its actions culturally, economically and socially on a European scale, protecting its independence with its establishments by placing them all in judicial mutuality, which conveyed a readiness of a European conception

Nine centuries ago, when the Benedictines of the Cluny Order glorified God in all its splendor and magnificence in its churches, an unknown monk, Robert of Molesme, proposed to return to the devout rules of Saint Benoît of Nurcie: to pray far from people and to live from our own hand’s work.

Therefore, the ‘new monastery’ of Cîteaux became the model for the Cistercians, a monks choir and lay brothers, established in about seven hundred and fifty abbeys throughout Europe, not counting monk monasteries which they are linked to, as well as the 10,000 barns, mills, cellars, blacksmiths and town-houses which the monasteries depended on…

From Burgundy in 1098, the Cistercian development radiated throughout the whole of Europe, from its four ‘major daughters’, constructed:

  • West and north Europe, from Ferté, Pontigny and especially Clairvaux, the abbey of Saint Bernard
  • The Empire and Poland, from the abbey of Morimond

The simple architecture of the Cistercian abbeys gave way to a new aesthetic, which created roman and gothic art, and developed throughout Europe. The Cistercians participate in both the agricultural and industrial fields equally, with great efficiency and assisted in the technical revolutions in the 12th and 13th centuries.

Photo: Conseil Général des Hautes-Pyrénées

Photo: Conseil Général des Hautes-Pyrénées

The main objective of this route is to show significance of the Cistercian heritage by updating the perception A whole on major open routes through the European monasteries.

The route illustrates an example of development in a religious order, creator of an architectural style and a model of strong territorial development (like the Cistercian barns) which are still have hatched roofs in some rural European places.

The Cistercian heritage represents :

  • a cultural common heritage
  • an example of ‘strong management’ of land
  • a contribution to education and knowledge

The route of the Cistercian sites were recognised by the Council of Cultural Cooperation in 1990, which was then enlarged in 1992 due to ‘monastic influences’ where the aim is to get to know the history and the influences of monarchism in the European culture and identity, especially for the youth.

The European Charter for abbeys and Cistercian sites is a federation of networked Cistercian areas. The French association (the law of 1901) has a cultural and touristic vocation which was created in 1993. The Charter now has 167 members taken from 11 European countries.

This network brings together all the major cultural tourist sites – where 3 sites are registered to the World Heritage Site (UNESCO) – but also the little know sites from the tourist routes, owned by the state or by the local community, others which belong to private owners, associations, SCI (Société Civile Immobilière – Property Investment Company) and religious communities.

The objective of the Charter is ‘to establish a structural link between owners and/or coordinators of abbeys and Cistercian sites to make them open for public viewing, in the aim of organising collective, cultural or tourist actions, and to represent the members through these groups or through local, regional, national and international administration’.

Alcobaça, Portugal. Cliché MTP
Alcobaça, Portugal
Photo: MTP

Countries Included: Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Poland, Portugal, Sweden and Switzerland.

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 more infos ...
 other web sites
  The website of the Charter.
 Charter Cistercians
 Cistercians Le Jeudi
 media library
 Cistercian in Europe
 ABCdaire des Cisterciens
 The Cistercian Order in Poland
 Cistercians in the region of Namur
 Cistercian Monks
 Cistercian Manuscripts
 Cistercian Abbeys in France
 Abbayes Cisterciennes Portugal


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