The Simplicity of Cistercian Abbeys Descriptive Essay by Nicky

The Simplicity of Cistercian Abbeys
A description of the style and design of Cistercian Abbeys.
# 148809 | 728 words | 3 sources | MLA | 2011 | US
Published on Nov 06, 2011 in Religion and Theology (Christianity) , Architecture (General)

$19.95 Buy and instantly download this paper now


The paper discusses how Cistercian Abbeys are remarkable for their extreme austerity and simplicity; not only do the Abbeys lack adornment, every aspect of the design was supposed to turn the monk's eyes inward, upon God, rather than upon worldly things. The paper describes the different buildings where the monks worshipped and lived and how they were spaced purely by the needs of practicality and theology, not aesthetics.

From the Paper:

"The first Cistercian Abbey was constructed in March 1098 by a small group of reformist monks who "took over some unattractive swamp land they had been given in a forest at Citeaux "intent on finally setting up a monastic house true to real Benedictine ideals" (Fletcher 2008). Lay brothers rather than renters tilled the Abbey land, meaning the monks had more control over how the land was administered. They lived in total isolation: even the lay brothers and formally sworn minks were physically separated in the monetary: "the abbey churches were divided by a high masonry wall (misleadingly called a screen) across the nave to separate the 'choir monks' from 'lay brothers' and others" (Fletcher 2008)
"The monk's spirit of renunciation "manifested itself in the choice of the sites of their monasteries. The more dismal, the more savage, the more hopeless a spot appeared, the more did it please their rigid mood" (Snell "Cistercian," 2009, p.1). However, as well as great aesthetics many of these monks were also great architects. "The Cistercian monasteries are, as a rule, found placed in deep well-watered valleys. They always stand on the border of a stream...These valleys, now so rich and productive, wore a very different aspect when the brethren first chose them as the place of their retirement. Wide swamps, deep morasses, tangled thickets, wild impassable forests, were their prevailing features" (Snell "Cistercian," 2009, p.1). It is a tribute to the craftsmanship of early monks that the extant monasteries became so hospitable."

Sample of Sources Used:

  • Fletcher, Adrian. "Cistercian: The Early Years." 2008. May 22, 2009.
  • Snell, Melissa. "Cistercian." From the 1911 Encyclopedia entry on the "Abbey." 23, 2009
  • Snell, Melissa. "Clairvaux." From the 1911 Encyclopedia entry on the "Abbey." 23, 2009

Cite this Descriptive Essay:

APA Format

The Simplicity of Cistercian Abbeys (2011, November 06) Retrieved March 01, 2024, from

MLA Format

"The Simplicity of Cistercian Abbeys" 06 November 2011. Web. 01 March. 2024. <>