Historic overview

Benedictines, Cistercians, Trappists... these names may be familiar to you, but what exactly are they and how were these different orders established? 

Benedict of Nursia.

The Benedictines

In the fifth century Benedict of Nursia drew up a monastic rule based on the way of life of the first monks. 

The three founders of Cîteaux

The Cistercians

The Order of the Cistercians is a monastic order founded in 1098 by Robert of Molesme in Cîteaux in Burgundy. The Latin name for Cîteaux is Cistercium, which gave the Cistercians their name.

Trappist monks working in the field.

The Trappists

In the 17th century Cistercian life underwent a thorough reformation at the Norman abbey of La Trappe. As the abbey strictly adheres to the Rule of St Benedict and adopts the monastic way of life followed by the Cistercians, they are correctly called Cistercians of the Strict Observance. However, they are much better known as ‘Trappists’, a name derived from their French abbey, Notre Dame de la Grande Trappe.

 Gateway to the Abbey of Our Lady of the Holy Heart at Westmalle.

History of the abbey

At the time of the French Revolution the Trappists had to flee their abbey in La Trappe, abandoning it. In 1793 a group of these monks arrived in Antwerp.