An Essay on Cistercian Liturgy

An Essay on Cistercian Liturgy

Kerr, Julie

Cistercians in Yorkshire, University of Sheffield (2004)


Concerning the mode and order of Divine services, the monks of Cîteaux decided right at the beginning to observe in everything the traditions of the Rule, cutting away entirely and rejecting all appendages to the psalms, orations and litanies, which were added (to the Office) arbitrarily by less considerate fathers. Aware of human frailty and infirmity, after sagacious consideration, they found (these additions) to be more dangerous than salutary for the monks, since their multiplicity results in their entirely tepid and negligent recitation, not only by the slothful, but also by the diligent.

The Cistercians rejected the elaborate liturgical practices of contemporary religious orders, in particular the liturgy of the Benedictine monks of Cluny, which was notoriously excessive and occupied almost the entire monastic day, allowing little time for manual labour. The Cistercians sought to impose a liturgy that was simple and faithful to the Rule of St Benedict, and stripped away appendages that had steadily accumulated over the centuries. They introduced a liturgy that was greatly reduced and centred on the eight canonical hours and a daily conventual mass – a second mass was soon added on Sundays and feast days.

Click here to read this article from Cistercians in Yorkshire

Sign up to get a Weekly Email from

* indicates required

Sign up for our weekly email newsletter!