St. Alberic of Cîteaux
Feast day: January 26
Founder of the Cistercian Order
Died 26 January 1108
Alberic of Cîteaux, OSB, Abbot
(also known as Aubrey)
Died at Cîteaux (near Dijon), Burgundy, France, on January 26, 110
|The Virgin Mary, patroness of the Order, gives St. Alberic the white Cistercian Cuculla|
8. A hermit in the forest at Collan near Châtillon- sur-Seine, France, Saint Alberic and fellow hermits built a monastery at Molesmes in 1075. There the abbot, Saint Robert, introduced the Rule of Saint Benedict and Alberic served as prior. The monastery flourished, but new monks were quick to modify the strict rule; Robert left in despair to live as a hermit elsewhere and Alberic was imprisoned. In 1093, he left too with the Englishman Saint Stephen Harding to live as hermits, but the bishop of Langres commanded them to return to their monastery. Alberic returned and was unsuccessful in reforming the monastery. In 1098, twenty-one dissatisfied monks left Molesmes and established a new monastery in the wilderness at Cîteaux on land donated to them by the viscount of Beaune. They were joined by Saint Robert, who became their as abbot, while Alberic served as prior, and Saint Stephen Harding as subprior. Thus the trio became the co-founders of the Cistercians, although their aim was to live the Rule of Saint Benedict rather than to found a new order. (The name 'Cistercian' comes from the Latin name of its cradle, Cistertium
(Cîteaux in Burgundy).)
Robert returned to Molesmes in 1100 and Alberic was elected abbot. He restored the primitive Benedictine rule and added new austerities to it, thus putting his stamp on the Cistercian observance, though his successor, Stephen Harding, was mainly responsible for the characteristics associated with the order: the extended use of lay brothers, and the almost puritan attitude toward the Benedictine rule and to customary monastic tradition as well as to Romanesque artforms. Nevertheless, during the years of his abbacy the foundations were laid of what was quickly to grow from a single obscure house into an influential religious order, which still exists.
The old Cistercian martyrology adds: "He had a filial devotion to our Lady, from whom he received the white cowl." It could also be that the white habit was adopted as an economy because unbleached wool was less expensive than dyed wool. Alberic set the example of humble poverty and hard work in God's service; when he died his
successor Stephen told the community, "You have lost a revered father and spiritual guide; I have lost, not only a father and guide, but a friend and fellow soldier of the Lord . .
. who carried us all in his heart with affectionate love"