Primary Abbey

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Monastery family tree

Within the Cistercian order, primary abbeys are those monasteries that were founded as the first daughter monasteries of the original Cistercian monastery, the Cîteaux monastery .

Location and history

The four primary abbeys were La Ferté ( 1113 ), Pontigny ( 1114 ), Clairvaux ( 1115 ) and Morimond ( 1115 ).

Together with Cîteaux, the primary abbeys were the starting point for extensive filiations of Cistercian abbeys throughout Europe. In the course of the 12th and 13th centuries, daughter and grandchildren monasteries emerged, referring to Cîteaux and the primary abbeys as mother monasteries. This centralized concept of the order's constitution was not known before the Cistercians. That is why one speaks of it as the first order and of the 12th century as the "Bernardine Age". Until 1153 , the year of the death of St. Bernhard von Clairvaux , there were a total of 333, up to the middle of the 13th century 647, up to 1675 742 Cistercian abbeys. In order of filiations, Cîteaux had 109, La Ferté 16, Pontigny 43, Clairvaux 356 and Morimond 214 daughter monasteries.

Since the late Middle Ages, the influence of the primary abbeys became weaker and weaker, because the national idea came to the fore and replaced filiation. The international network of relationships that existed through the filiation did not fit the increasingly prevalent concept of the territorial state . The primary abbeys were further weakened by close relationships with secular princes. The coming system has, at least temporarily, also affected the primary abbeys. Abbots of the primary abbeys have repeatedly nominated close relatives as successors. The close connection of the primary abbots to politics was certainly detrimental to monastic life, even if it also brought advantages to the abbeys. The strict observance that would later split the order has emerged as a counter-movement to this development.


  • Immo Eberl: The Cistercians. History of a European Order . License issue. Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 2002, ISBN 3-534-16487-3 , pp. 38ff, 47ff, 81f. (Unchanged reprint: Thorbecke, Ostfildern 2007, ISBN 978-3-7995-0190-3 ).
  • Kaspar Elm , Peter Feige: Reforms and the formation of congregations of the Cistercians in the late Middle Ages and early modern times . In: The Cistercians. Religious life between ideal and reality . Bonn 1980, ISBN 3-7927-0681-4 , pp. 243-254.