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IMC 2009: Sessions

Session 623: Contemplating Other Worlds: The Spiritual And Intellectual Life of Cistercians

Tuesday 14 July 2009, 11.15-12.45

Organiser:Terryl N. Kinder, _Cîteaux: Commentarii cistercienses_, Pontigny
Moderator/Chair:David N. Bell, Department of Religious Studies, Memorial University of Newfoundland
Paper 623-aThe Doctrine of Love by Aelred of Rievaulx and its Mystical Implications
(Language: English)
Ryszard Groń, Pontifical Faculty of Theology, Wrocław, Poland
Index terms: Hagiography, Language and Literature - Latin, Monasticism, Religious Life
Paper 623-bBeyond the Tabernacle: The Real and Ideal Jerusalem in the Cistercian Abbey of Santa María de las Huelgas
(Language: English)
Maria Rocío Sánchez Ameijeiras, Departamento de Historia da Arte, Universidade de Santiago de Compostela
Index terms: Architecture - Religious, Art History - Sculpture, Monasticism, Religious Life
Paper 623-cOf Chronicles and Libraries: Albric of Trois Fontaines and the Early Library at Clairvaux
(Language: English)
Stefano Mula, Department of Italian, Middlebury College, Vermont
Index terms: Archives and Sources, Manuscripts and Palaeography, Monasticism, Religious Life

Paper-a: Mysticism is a form of experiencing God in an individual's religious life. This mysticism which reflects a deep love between an individual and God, allows for verifying one's principles of faith. The role of mysticism is exceptional in the sense that it touches upon the inexpressible reality of God, yet it is capable of articulating it in a way that is adequate to the religious language as well as the limited human perception. Extremely pertinent here are the similar accounts of people of deep faith as written by those few people skilled in its rules. Among the classics of Christian mysticism are the writings of two 16th-century Spanish reformers of Carmel officially acknowledged by the Church: St John of the Cross and St Theresa of Jesus. They defined its rules and forms. Many researchers familiar with the spiritual writings of St Bernard of Clairvaux are willing to include him, as well, among the mystical teachers and there is evidence that his work was used by later generations (e.g. Etienne Gilson, The Mystical Theology of St Bernard, Cistercian Publications, Kalamazoo 1990). For quite some time Bernard has been considered a mystical authority within the Cistercian 'school of love', which he himself founded. The same school also produced the most prominent Cistercian of medieval England, Aelred of Rievaulx. Reading into his spiritual writings, especially those about love: Speculum caritatis and friendship: De spiritali amicitia indicates that he experienced mystical sensations, which he is willing to share with others.
Paper -b: The earlier cloister of the Cistercian nunnery of Santa María de Las Huelgas, known as Las Claustrillas, displays a programme of figurative decoration that can best be understood via an expanded discourse. The odd design of the piers, with a central gap, was intended to invite contemplation of the central element of the courtyard: the fountain. Considered in these terms, the buildings carved on the piers that function as a frame for the view of the fountain seem to present a literal allusion to the historic Jerusalem. This then becomes a more complex imagery that can be understood with the help of the Commentary on Psalms of St. Augustine, which the nuns would have known. This interpretation will be analyzed in the context of contemporary exegesis and imagery.
Paper-c: Knowledge of early monastic library collections is always scanty and random, due to the lack of records, and also of the serendipitous nature of research. In the case of Clairvaux, we are lucky enough to have a fragmentary list of books dating from the end of the 12th century, published for the first time by A. Wilmart, and now reprinted in the magisterial work by A. Vernet and J.-F. Genest, La Bibliothèque de l'abbaye de Clairvaux du XIIe au XIIIe siècle (Vol. I, Paris, 1979). Vernet and Genest collected in this volume all information they could gather, from early fragmentary evidence, to the major catalogues of Clairvaux's library from 1472, to travel notes from the 17th and the 18th centuries. One source that has remained completely unexploited is the Chronicon Clarevallenese, an early work of Alberic of Trois Fontaines, and a surprising repository of information regarding the library of Clairvaux. Rereading Alberic's works with an eye to his sources we will then be able to provide a small, but significant addition to our knowledge of the size and organization of the library at Clairvaux at the beginning of the 13th century.