Waverley Abbey in Surrey was the first Cistercian abbey in England. It was founded in 1128 by the Bishop of Winchester. Initially 12 monks and an abbot arrived from Aumone in France. Fifty years later there were 50 monks and 120 lay brothers.
The Cistericans, pictured above, were founded in 1098 by the monks of Citeaux who believed in austerity and hard work – again a reinterpretation of the rule of St Benedict and reforms designed to counter perceived laxity in other monastic houses. Their habit was made from unbleached wool. These were the so-called ‘White monks.’ They arrived in the south of England in 1128. In 1132 Walter Espec gave the white monks land at Rievaulx – the rest as they say, is history. Fountains Abbey is also a Cistercian foundation. Unlike Benedictines and Cluniacs they refused gifts and rights of patronage – in short anything that would have made them easily wealthy. Instead they cultivated the wilderness. An emphasis was placed upon labour. The great Yorkshire abbeys acquired land and farms over the next two hundred years extending south into Derbyshire and north into Cumberland. In 1147 Furness Abbey was founded. At that time Furness was in Lancashire rather than Cumbria as it is in present times.
The monks themselves might be described as choir monks. They quarters in the cloister and surrounding buildings enabled them to concentrate on the Divine Hours and on church services. Unlike the Cluniacs the Cistercians took an austere approach to their services and the decorations their churches.
The lay brothers lived in the west wing of the abbey, away from the cloister. They came to church for the services at sunrise and sunset but were only required to say the prayers associated with the rest of the hours at their place of work.
Buckfast Abbey – founded as Benedictine prior to the Conquest. Refounded as Savignac after the Conquest. The Savignac monks merged with the Cistercians..
Meaux Abbey (Beverley)
Roberts Bridge Abbey
Vale Royal Abbey