The Trappists: a long tradition
The great monastic tradition of the West draws its roots from the Rule of St. Benedict, who lived in the 6th century at Monte Cassino, near Rome. He proposed to his disciples, who would be called "Benedictines", a plan of life according to the Gospel, marked by an understanding of the human heart, where tenderness and humility converge. Over the centuries thousands of monasteries of men and women came into existence throughout Europe, progressively building a very influential movement.
In the 12th century, the future St. Bernard protested in reaction against this power. At first a monk in the Abbey of Cîteaux (1098) and later founder of the Abbey of Clairvaux in Champagne (1115), he recalled the members of his community to a simpler life.
His new fervour gave birth to such enthusiasm that just on Belgian territory several Abbeys deemed Cistercian came to see the light of day: Orval, the Abbey of the Koksijde Dunes, Villers-la-Ville, Aulne, Cambron, Val Dieu, and more than sixty others.
La "Grande Trappe"
The Abbeys founded in the spirit of Cîteaux are called Cistercian.
But history is frequently a perpetual renewal: the sons of Cîteaux, workers and organizers, prospered so much and so well that in the 17th century Abbot de Rancé introduced into his Cistercian monastery, "La Grande Trappe" in Normandy, a new reform celebrated for its austerity.
Other monasteries were quickly attracted to his stark lifestyle, and naturally enough "The Trappe" loaned it name to the adherents of this strict observance, who became the "Trappists".
Living as a community, the Trappists adopted a simple life and since manual labour was, as a vocation, an integral part of monastic life, the production of beer and cheese entered into this secular tradition.