Founded in 1098 by Robert de Molesmes, in what was at the time a "desert", Cîteaux Abbey, the cradle and headquarters of the Cistercian Order, was to become, along with Cluny, a flagship of Christianity.
Cîteaux Abbey, the Abbey of "Cistels"
It was in response to the pomp of Cluny and to return to the strict rules laid down by Saint Benoit that Robert de Molesmes and his companions moved to a remote and marshy place full of rushes and reeds, called "cistels" in the Middle Ages.
Facing these difficulties, the monks met them, becoming monk farmers, specialist hydraulic engineers and monk winemakers. The young abbey soon created daughter abbeys (La Ferté, Pontigny, Bonnevaux and Clairvaux) that expanded in their turn so that by the mid-14th century, Cîteaux was the head of a vast European network.
A visit under the sign of spirituality
More than 900 years after its founding, the abbey is still run according to demanding rules: asceticism, liturgical rigour, solitude and work for the 35 monks who make up its community. In 1998, a guided tour through some of the historical buildings was opened to the public. This spiritual and cultural journey means you can discover the monastic life and Cistercian tradition by visiting the library, the cloister of the copyists, and the definitory where there is an exhibition showing how, for centuries, the monks were true specialists in working the land.
Cîteaux, an authentic monks’ cheese
The monks make a delicious artisan cheese called Cîteaux cheese. This production is performed three times a week using the milk of a herd of Montbéliarde cattle raised on the Abbey’s farm. Cîteaux cheese has a lightly pressed texture but remains soft, with a washed rind, and its flavour is fruity and close to Reblochon. You’ll find it in the abbey shop and cheese sellers in the region.