Clairvaux, Abbey of
CLAIRVAUX, ABBEY OF
Former cistercian abbey founded in 1115 as the third daughter abbey of cÎteaux, in the Diocese of Langres (now the Diocese of Troyes) in the Aube Valley near Bar-sur-Aube, Champagne, France (Latin, Claravallis ). Its first abbot was bernard of clairvaux, and the first religious were, for the most part, relatives who had entered Cîteaux with Bernard. Land for the abbey was donated by his cousin, Josbert of La Ferté. The abbey prospered rapidly. Its property was increased by donations and acquisitions and included as many as 12 granges and two wine cellars. Meanwhile Bernard attracted numerous recruits, and Clairvaux, which numbered as many as 700 residents, was soon able to found other abbeys: Trois-Fontaines in Champagne in 1118; Fontenay in Burgundy in 1119, Foigny in Thiérache in 1121; and Igny in Champagne. In 38 years Bernard founded 68 abbeys, which in turn founded others; by the end of the 15th century there were 350 abbeys descending from Clairvaux. Bernard assembled an important library and placed much emphasis on studies. The writings—particularly sermons—of several monks of Clairvaux have been preserved, namely, those of geoffrey of clairvaux, guerric of igny, gilbert of holland, and Henry of Clairvaux. In 1244, abbot Stephen de lexinton founded the college of St. Bernard near the University of Paris.
Clairvaux became a school for sanctity. One of its monks became Pope eugene iii, 12 were made cardinals, more than 30 became bishops, and many were abbots. Although Clairvaux escaped commendatory abbots, it nevertheless experienced a period of decline and financial difficulty during the 15th and 16th centuries. In 1615, Abbot Denis Largentier reformed the abbey, introducing the Strict Observance, but this was abandoned by his nephew and successor, Claude Largentier. During the French Revolution, the abbey was sold, and in 1808 it was converted into the central prison. None of the buildings erected by Bernard remains. The structure used by the conversi, dating from the end of the 12th century, still stands, but all other existing buildings were constructed during the 18th century. The abbey church was destroyed between 1812 and 1819.
Bibliography: Sources. Chronicon Clarevallense in Patrologia Latina, ed. j. p. migne, 217 v. (Paris 1878–90) 185:1247–52. j. waquet, Recueil des chartes de l'abbaye de Clairvaux, fasc. 1 (Troyes 1950). j. m. canivez, ed., Statuta capitulorum generalium ordinis cisterciensis, 8 v. (Louvain 1933–41). Literature. a. wilmart, "L'Ancienne bibliothèque de Clairvaux," Collectanea ordinis Cisterciensium Reformatorum 11 (1949) 101–127, 301–319. l. h. cottineau, Répertoire topobibliographique des abbayes et prieurés, 2 v. (Mâcon 1935–39) 1:799–800. beaunier, Abbayes et prieurés de l'ancienne France, ed. j. m. l. besse, 12 v. (Paris 1905–41) 12:308–344. j. m. canivez, Dictionnaire d'histoire et de géographie ecclésiastiques, ed. a. baudrillart et al. (Paris 1912–) 12:1050–61. m. a. dimier, Recueil de plans d'églises cisterciennes Grignan, 2 v. (Paris 1949) 1:100–101; Saint Bernard, pêcheur de Dieu (Paris 1953); "Saint Bernard, Fondateur de monastères," Collectio ordinis Cisterciensium Reformatorum 15(1953) 45–60, 130–139; 16 (1954) 122–128, 192–203. a. a. king, Cîteaux and Her Elder Daughters (London 1954) 207–328.
[m. a. dimier]