Before moving to the library, our guide had us sat down on the banks you see in this photo. You will most likely think these banks were laid there as part of the visit to let tourists have a rest. And you - like my parents and I, and the tourists who were with us - would be terribly wrong! The banks form the perimeter where the first stone monastery was consecrated on 16 November 1106.
The statue in the second picture should represent Saint Bernard de Clairvaux (I'm not 100% sure), the most famous of the four Fathers of Cîteaux. In the third photo you see the stone at the foot of the statue.
The monks of Cîteaux organize guided tours of the monastery, which take place several times a day (more often in peak seasons).
Three ways to discover Cîteaux are offered:
1) an audio-visual presentation (diaporama), lasting around 30 minutes;
2) a guided tour of around 1 hour 15 minutes;
3) a guided tour + audio-visual presentation (around 2 hours).
None of these is free of charge. The fee you'll pay to visit Cîteaux will help the monks go on with their activities and keep the monastery in good conditions for those who will visit it in the next decades, centuries...
Don't worry if you don't understand French: you will be given a written explanation of what the guide says (in English, German, maybe Italian and Spanish too).
You can find all the visit times and entrance fees in the website below.
An exhibition has been set in a room of the definitorium with panels showing the worldwide diffusion of the Cistercians and of the orders that related to them. First, the Cistercian order spread across Western Europe, mainly in France, Spain and Italy, then also across other continents. All the monasteries are marked on these maps, with a colour for each order.
Your guide will give you much more information about the different orders.
These photos show some of the Cistercian monks who marked the history of this Order.
In the first pic, you see Bernard de Clairvaux, a Burgundian noble who decided to leave everything and went to the New Monastery in Cîteaux with 30 mates of his. The second photo gives you short information about him and a quote from Saint Benedict's Rule.
The third photo shows the three founders of Cîteaux (Robert de Molesme, Alberic and Etienne Harding) holding up the monastery they founded.
The fourth photo is about seven rather unknown monks, the so-called Martyrs of Atlas. These monks had their seat in Tibhirine, Algeria and named themselves "Cistercian wreckage in an ocean of Islam". They were abducted and executed by a local islamic army in 1996. The last photo shows the inscription with their names. Read more about them in this site.
The definitorium is the building where the monks who prepared the issues to be debated at the General Chapter. These monks were called definitors.
The construction of this building last until 1699. What remains today is a cloister and some vaulted rooms on the ground floor.
In the cloister you see the silhouettes of some monks who honoured the Cistercian Order, from its foundation to the present.
The library itself, on the first floor, is a vaulted room, where the books from different parts of the abbey were regrouped. In 1797, there were over 10,000 books.
Today the room exhibits reproductions of ancient Cîteaux manuscripts; the original ones are kept at the Dijon city library.
Our guide told us that the inscription you see in the second photo was written in I don't remember what ancient language and is now something unique.
Among all the miniatures exhibited there, our guide explained us the meaning of the one I have chosen as third photo of this tip. It portrays a richly dressed man on the top of a tree and a monk with a hatchet who is going to cut down the tree. The rich man wants to become a monk too but, in order to do so, he must fell down to the ground and get hurt, so that he understands that life also consists of sufference and sacrifice.
You can see other miniatures in this travelogue.
The devastating rage of the French Revolution led to the dismantlement of most of the abbey, while some other parts were used for other purposes.
Only three buildings have survived until today: the 15th-century library, the 17th-century definitorium and the 18th-century abbey seat by architect Lenoir (which still houses the monks).
The first four photos of this tip depict the library. In the third picture, the body on the left of the library should be the definitorium. The last photo should show the abbey seat.
The library was achieved in 1509. It housed the copyists' cells on the ground floor and a big reading room on the first floor. It is the only example left of a building where the library itself lies above the copyists' rooms.
The copyists' cloister had already been built in 1260 and was restored in 2001. It was used as a "book atelier" until the end of the 14th century.
Today, an exhibition set in a copyist's cell show the traditional binding technique, as it was practised from the 12th to the 19th century. Another cell hosts a plastic model of the abbey in 1720. I don't think we saw these exhibitions. We were just shown a copyist's cell from outside (third and fourth pic).
The visit of the abbey will start from this room, where you can see some reproductions of books, just to get an idea of what they look. The original books are not exhibited, because they are fragile and could easily get spoilt. As you may know, copying codices and other books was one of the main activities of Cistercian monks.
The guide will start with a basic introduction about churches, monks, Cistercian life. If you are used to visit churches and read guide books or history books, you may already know most of what the guide says. The problem is that most visitors are French and most French never go to church, so their knowledge about religion is very poor.
If you choose to visit the abbey, you will wait for your guide in this building, which is no longer used as a church. The statue represents Saint Robert de Molesme, the founder of the Cîteaux site.
Inside, panels have been set up to show the daily life and activities of the Cistercian monks and an exhibition shows their products (restored books, honey and so on). You can also read a prayer by abbé Olivier Quénardel, which you also find on the website in French, English, German, Dutch and Italian. This prayer reminds you that your visit will be rather spiritual than just touristic.
To introduce you to the visit of the monastery, a sequence of ten engraved paving stones telling the story of Cîteaux has been set.
The first stone bears the date 1098: the foundation of Cîteaux.
The second stone, 1198, depicts the symbol of Cîteaux and of its first four "daughters" (La Ferté, Pontigny, Clairvaux and Morimond).
The stone in the third picture is actually the fourth one (1398) and shows the fall of the monastery because of war, plague and famine. The inscription around the circle says "Free us from plague, famine and war, o Lord".
The stone for 1498 portrays the new library, in the century when printing was invented.
I haven't got the photos of the other stones, but the fifth photo shows the sheet that explains the meaning of all the engravures in French, English and German.
After leaving your car at the park, you walk down a path across beautiful meadows and already feel a new atmosphere of peace and silence, something rare in our times. You will see a lot of grass and plants during the whole visit of the abbey.