Medieval Europe 814-1450: Architecture and Design - Research Article from Arts and Humanities Through the Eras

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Bernard of Clairvaux

c. 1090–1153

Cistercian abbot

A Definer of Monastic Austerity.

Born into an aristocratic family in Burgundy, France, Bernard entered the Cistercian monastery of Cîteaux in 1112. In 1115, he founded the monastery of Clairvaux, and by the end of his life, the order had grown into an international monastic organization of prestige and influence. Bernard's ideas on monastic life and the role of art in the cloister were reflected in the definition of Cistercian architecture. His views, eloquently set out in such tracts as the Apologia, offer a radically different attitude than those of traditional Benedictine monasticism or Cluny. Instead of seeing art and beauty as a vehicle for spiritual illumination, Bernard, certainly aware of images' attractive power, judged them as distractions that hindered the monks' devotions. He also condemned lavish church building as an arrogant and...

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