Under this title are included several groups of cloistered nuns who, in their history and tradition, are associated with the cistercians. The first Cistercian monastery for women was organized at Tart, near cîteaux, c. 1120. Other foundations followed throughout Europe; many were Benedictine convents that adopted the Cistercian reform. In the beginning the monks had rejected any legal relationship with the nuns. A century later Cîteaux incorporated a group of convents, although most remained under diocesan jurisdiction. The incorporated convents were subject to the Cistercian general chapter and were directed by neighboring abbots who assigned chaplains and furnished occasional economic assistance. The convent of Helfta (1258), Eisleben, Saxony, under Abbess Gertrude of Hackeborn (1251–92), developed a rich mystical tradition, represented by St. gertrude (the great) and mechtild of magdeburg. Cîteaux's continuing reluctance to assume full responsibility occasioned the emergence of several prominent convents as organizers and leaders of other communities. Thus, Tart in the 13th century headed a group of 18 convents and convoked annual chapters for the abbesses. About the same time a similar and still more extensive Spanish organization was controlled by the royal Abbey of Las Huelgas, near Burgos, founded (1187) by King Alfonso VIII of Castile (1158–1214).
The Hundred Years' War, the Reformation, and subsequent secularization and warfare destroyed hundreds of convents. Surviving ones often abandoned their rural isolation and sought permanent refuge within walled cities. The 17th century witnessed a number of local reforms; many of these reformed nuns adopted the name Bernardines. Famous among the Cistercian convents of that period was port-royal, outside Paris. It was reformed by Angélique arnauld and became a stronghold of jansenism under the influence of the Abbé de Saint-Cyran (see duvergier de hauranne, jean). A later reform movement, that of the Trappistines, began during the period of the French Revolution when Dom Augustin established (1796) the convent La Sainte Volonté de Dieu near Riédra, Switzerland. In the 19th century, when the revived Cistercian Order found itself divided into Strict and Common Observances, both groups of monks renewed their associations with many Cistercian convents. The nuns of both observances lead cloistered and contemplative lives.
Cistercian Nuns of the Common Observance. Official Catholic Directory #0680; known also as Cistercians of the Original Observance, Sacer Ordo monialium Cisterciensium (OCist) or as Bernardines. The headquarters of the order is in Rome. In the U.S., the Swiss convent of Frauenthal established a monastery Valley of Our Lady Monastery (formerly known as St. Ida's Convent), in Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin in 1957.
Cistercian Nuns of the Strict Observance. Official Catholic Directory #0670; known also as Trappistines, the Ordo monialium Cisterciensium strictioris observantiae (OCSO) has its generalate in Rome, and five foundations in the U.S. Mount St. Mary's Abbey (Wrentham, MA), Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey (Dubuque, IA), Santa Rita Abbey (Sonoita, AZ), Our Lady of the Redwoods Abbey (Whitethorn, CA); Our Lady of the Angels Monastery (Crozet, VA).
Bibliography: a. j. luddy, The Cistercian Nuns (Dublin 1931). y. estienne, Les Trappistines cisterciennes de la stricte observance (Paris 1937). j. bouton, "L'Établissement des moniales cisterciennes," XXIV e Congrès de l'Assoc. Bourguignonne des Sociétés savantes (Dijon 1953) 37–70. e. g. krenig, "Mittelalterliche Frauenklöster nach den Konstitutionen von Cîteaux," Analecta Sacri Ordinis Cisterciensis 10 (1954) 1–105. m. heimbucher, Die Orden und Kongregationen der katholischen Kirche, 2 v. (3rd ed. Paderborn 1932–34) 1:356–362, 373.
[l. j. lekai/eds.]