Monks de Cister

The Monks of Cister originate from France, Burgundy, and result from a reform of the Order of S. Bento, carried out by S. Roberto, Abbe of Molesmes, who goes on a spiritual adventure in the hermitage of Cister, near Dijon as a form of protest at the exterior pomp lived in Cluny Abbey.

Many people of all social classes came to Cister drawn by a monastic discipline lived in an ascetic practice, stripped off of all material goods. The Order projection in Europe was due to Bernard de Fontaines’ charisma who at 22 years old joined the Cister novitiate along with 32 companions.  

Three years later S. Bernard founded Claraval (1115). In the year of his death (1153) the Order of Cister already had 343 abbeys due to his big dynamism.
The “White Monks” would have arrived to Portugal around 1138. Their settling is linked to the great epopee of the West Crusades and it’s directly related to the marriage of the Count D. Henrique, of the House of Burgundy, cousin of S. Bernardo, and D. Teresa daughter of the King of Leão, Lords of the Condado Portucalense.
 The “White Monks” settling in S. João de Tarouca  (1140? 1144?) originates the first abbey of the Cister Order in Portugal affiliated directly with Claraval. Afterwards in 1145 the Monastery of Sever do Vouga was built and in 1153 the Monastery of Alcobaça.

Political, economic and strategic reasons influence the choosing of Tarouca lands. The King D. Afonso Henriques and D. Egas Moniz contribute with large sums of money and properties transfers to build the monastery.
A few years later (1155) the second wife of Egas Moniz, Teresa Afonso, carries out a reform of another Monastic Order, near S. João, the Abbey of Santa Maria de Salzedas, which is accepted as a full rightfully member of the Order of Cister in 29 de May 1156.

In Douro Valley two more Cister Abbeys were built over the 12th century: S. Pedro das Águias (Tabuaço) and Santa Maria de Aguiar (Figueira de Castelo Rodrigo). The first, affiliated to S. João de Tarouca, changes from Benedict to Cistercian around 1170; the second Abbey in Terras de Ribacoa, borderline between Portuguese and Leonese (from Leão), was reformed around 1165, affiliated to the Abbey of Moreruela (or Valparaíso?), in the Kingdom of Leão.

Two military orders came out from Cister: Avis and Christ.
The King D. João I, who was Master of Avis, started the most exciting dynasty of the History of Portugal and of the world: the dynasty of the Discoveries.
The Order of Christ contributed with large sums of money to the same cause, by the hand of Infante D. Henrique, the Navigator.  

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