Member of a Roman Catholic monastic order founded by St. Stephen Harding (1098) at Cǐteaux (Latin, Cistercium), Burgundy, by Benedictines dissatisfied with their abbey's laxity. Cistercians were severely ascetic, rejected feudal revenues, and engaged in manual labor. Uniform rules applied to all houses, and all abbots were to meet annually at Cǐteaux. St. Bernard de Clairvaux founded 68 abbeys in his lifetime. Discipline declined as the order grew, and Cistercians disappeared from northern Europe after the Reformation. The order underwent reforms in the 16th–17th century; members of the reformed order are popularly known as Trappists after the abbey of La Trapp. Until the 1960s, they slept, ate, and worked in perpetual silence. The original order, which underwent more moderate reforms, also survives.
Learn more about Cistercian with a free trial on Britannica.com.