Anglican Cistercians

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St Bernard of Clairvaux, one of the most influential early Cistercians

Anglican Cistercians are members of the Anglican Communion who live a common life together according to the Cistercian tradition. This tradition is usually dated to 1098 in origin. The term Cistercian is derived from Cistercium,[1] the Latin name for the village of Cîteaux, near Dijon in eastern France. It was in this village that a group of Benedictine monks from the monastery of Molesme founded Cîteaux Abbey in 1098, with the goal of following more closely the Rule of Saint Benedict. Monks following this Rule are known as Benedictine, and were at that time the dominant force in Christian monasticism. The monks of Cîteaux Abbey effectively founded a new Order (the Cistercians), but one that remains closely associated with the Benedictine Order. As a mark of their distinctive charism and rule, Cistercian monks have long worn white habits, to distinguish themselves from Benedictine monks, who wear black habits. Within Anglicanism there has historically been less interest in the Cistercian Order than certain other monastic Rules, although Cistercian life has been represented continuously in the Church of England since at least 1966.

Anglican Cistercian history[edit]

For pre-Reformation Cistercian history in the English Church, see Cistercians.

English monastic revival[edit]

The revival of religious communities within the Anglican Communion during the 18th century, and more especially the nineteenth and twentieth centuries under the influence of the Oxford Movement, saw the revival of many of the traditional monastic rules, particularly those of the Benedictine, Franciscan, and Augustinian Orders. However, there were few attempts to revive the Cistercian Rule within the Anglican communion prior to 1966, and none that lasted more than a few years.

Ewell Monastery (OC)[edit]

In 1966 the Revd Fr Aelred Arneson OC, established the Ewell Monastery Cistercian community,[2] located at West Malling in Kent, which came to receive official recognition by both the Church of England and the world-wide Cistercian Order within the Roman Catholic Church. Fr Aelred OC was the Prior throughout the life of the monastery.[3] The Abbey buildings were constructed on the site of a former farm, with an ancient Tithe Barn being developed into the community chapel. This chapel still remains after the closure of the monastery, and is a Grade II* listed building.[4] The Cistercian Rule was never popular within twentieth-century Anglicanism, and the community never numbered more than five brothers, although these were often strengthened by temporary residents at the monastery from amongst the associates of the Order. In 2004 the community shrank again leaving the Prior, Fr Aelred, as the only remaining member living under vows. The decision was taken to end the Cistercian experiment and the monastery was closed.[5] Fr Aelred continues to live the religious life as a Cistercian solitary.

Order of Cistercians, Common Observance (OCCO)[edit]

In the United States of America in 1981 a group of largely lay-led Anglicans sought to establish a Cistercian association.[6] The original aim was to establish an association of Cistercian oblates under the care of the Benedictine Order, but the experiment developed into an unauthorised Cistercian community. Having not applied for formal recognition by the Anglican authorities, the Order, now known as the Cistercian Order of the Holy Cross, and still using the post-nomianls OCCO, has developed independently as a non-denominational Cistercian Order. Although its origins are in the Anglican Communion, it is now independent of any denominational structure. Its headquarters are at the Holy Cross Monastery in North Carolina, and it currently admits both First Order (professed) members and Oblates of both sexes.

Order of Anglican Cistercians (OCist)[edit]

In 2006, the 'Anglican Cistercian Association' was founded, with the aim of keeping Cistercian thought and devotion alive within the Anglican Communion.[7] From this Association arose the concept of a new Cistercian Order, drawing on the Cistercian heritage, the experience of Ewell Monastery (see above), and the enthusiasm of Association members for a new form of Cistercian life within the Church. The new Order was founded in 2010, with initial members taking first vows on 8 September 2011 (see below).

Order of Anglican Cistercians (OCist)[edit]

The Order of Anglican Cistercians (OCist) is an Anglican uncloistered and dispersed religious Order of ordained and lay men, single, celibate, and married, who endeavour to live according to the Rule of Saint Benedict as expressed in the reformed (Trappist Cistercian) tradition of Cîteaux (as set out in their Governing Documents). It is currently the main representative of the Cistercian tradition within Anglicanism.


This Order was founded in 2010, and is now the largest current manifestation of Cistercian life within the Anglican Communion. The founding members took first vows on 8 September 2011, in the presence of supporters, ecumenical representatives, Abbot Stuart Burns OSB of the Anglican Benedictine Mucknell Abbey (who had been appointed by the Church of England as an official consultant to the new Order), and before Bishop Mark Sowerby, Bishop of Horsham, who had accepted the position of Episcopal Visitor to the new Order. More recently (in 2013) it has received, and now operates with, the acknowledgement of the Anglican Communion's Advisory Council on the Relations of Bishops and Religious Communities.[8]


Men who are communicant members of the Anglican Communion, and who live within the jurisdiction of a British mainland Diocese (any Diocese in England, Wales, or Scotland) can apply for membership of the Order.[9]

From 2011 to 2014 the Order also admitted as 'Companions' members of any denomination who wished to make a commitment to the practical and spiritual support of the Order. The admission of Companions has now ceased.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 3rd ed., 1992.
  2. ^ History detailed here.
  3. ^ Details at this directory page.
  4. ^ Official listing status shown here.
  5. ^ Closure notice shown here.
  6. ^ Basic history is recorded here.
  7. ^ The founding of the Anglican Cistercian Association is fully reported here.
  8. ^ Order of Anglican Cistercians, in Anglican Religious Life (Current Edition, 2014-2015). ISBN 978-1-84825-464-0
  9. ^ See section headed "Residence" on this webpage.

External links[edit]