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The Cistercian World: Monastic Writings of the Twelfth Century (Penguin Classics) Paperback – 29 Apr 1993


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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; 1st Edition edition (29 April 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140433562
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140433562
  • Product Dimensions: 13.7 x 2.2 x 20 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 385,158 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

About the Author

Translated and edited with an introduction by Pauline Matarasso

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
The ruins of the great Cistercian houses that sprang up all over Europe in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries stand today as silent witnesses to an Order for which silence was an integral part of the spiritual life. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a wonderful collection of monastic writings. I never go for very long without reading something from this. The writings reveal a breadth of concerns; they include pastoral advice, treatises, sermons, letters, and meditations (most striking is Aelred's struggles with conscience). St. Bernard's insights too are expressed with great grace and power ('...I have a terror of the living death, the dying life...'). Some of the works are clearly personal, and were perhaps not intended for a wide readership. All of this is brilliantly supported and guided by Pauline Matterasso's notes.
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By Nicholas Casley TOP 500 REVIEWER on 30 Aug 2013
Format: Paperback
I've visited many a monastic ruin in my time, and read the guides and some literature on the architecture of the buildings and the life led therein. But apart from an overview of medieval Christian thought and belief, I have not ventured to read any actual series of writings that show either the everyday or the extraordinary mindset of `the man in the monastery'. Subtitled `Monastic Writings of the Twelfth Century', this `Penguin Classic' goes some way in meeting that need, delving as it does beneath the often bland commentaries on medieval thought in most textbooks to reproduce the actual words written by a succession of twelfth-century Cistercians. As a result, the reader can enter the thoughts of those in the choir and cloister.

As Pauline Matarasso writes in her six-page introduction, "It is the lesser men ... who throw light on the minutiae of daily living and hold up a glass to their own and their contemporaries' strengths and weaknesses, aspirations and beliefs. It is to an indefinable degree a distorting glass ... Theirs was not, however, a propaganda exercise in any crude sense." She writes, "The purpose of this anthology is to give back resonance to these voices, some strikingly individual, which have come down to us out of the great silence compounded of time and neglect and a language comprehensible to fewer and fewer people, and to prove that they can, with a minimum of decoding, speak to us today."

On her choice of extracts, "Because the past may be approached from many angles, I have given importance to variety. There are monks talking of God, monks talking about monks and, on occasion, about cabbages and kings.
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By Mr B on 20 Nov 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
An excellent overview of a period of European history commonly known as the 12th. Renaissance. It was the Age of the Cathedral building right across Europe which clearly was a response to some form of religious - devotional impulse, and the Cistercian revival under Bernard of Clairvaux was very much an integral part of the whole movement. It was the age of the Crusades whose motivation seems to have been more led by European politics than any religious motive. It was also the Golden Age of Islam, where Greek Science and Philosophy was rediscovered and transmitted to the west. It was an age of contradictions, and this nice collection provides another viewpoint.
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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Psychoanalytix on 17 Dec 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
Like all Penguin books, it seems that text-to-speech is not activated, thus denying it to visually impaird Kindle users. Most of these books have been in their catalogue for many years,so why should they choose to deny themslves sales on old titles? It does not present Penguin in a good light, I think.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 7 reviews
34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
Fascinating and Delightful 12 Aug 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is a brilliant and much needed book. It contains short (several page) extracts from all the great Cistercian writers (Bernard, Aelred, Gueric), which Pauline Matarasso has beautifully translated.
The book has two great strengths.
1. The best bits of these great authors have been chosen so that the reader receives a taste of their wisdom without being drownwed in thick theological tomes.
2. The subject matter is fascinating, ranging from monastery tales, even at the time of St Bernard, throught contemporary biographies of great men like Aelred of Reivaulx, to a beautiful description of Clairvaux.
This book was a joy and I thoroughly recommend it.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
"Wiping away the rheum of prolonged sleep..." 4 Jan 2008
By Kerry Walters - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Whenever I feel in need of a spiritual tonic, I return to this exquisite collection of writings from 12th century Cistercians. It never fails, to use the words of William of St. Thierry, one of the authors collected in it, to "wipe away the rheum of prolonged sleep."

Most of us think of medieval theology in terms of scholasticism, the method of the schools or academies (hence its name) brought to its finest point by Thomas Aquinas. Scholasticism sought to apply the logic of Aristotle to theological issues. It is rigorous, consistent, sometimes brilliant, and typically dry as dust.

But predating scholasticism, and exemplified by the 12th century Cistercians, was monastic theology, which adopted a meditative, prayerful, poetic approach. The monastic theologicans were more mystics than philosophers, more interested in wisdom than Aristotle, allegories than syllogisms, scripture than schools. The greatest among them are represented in this collection: Bernard of Clairvaux, William of St. Thierry, Guerric of Igny, Aelred of Rievaulx, Isaac of Stella (my personal favorite!), Gilbert of Hoyland, John of Ford, Adam of Perseigne, and Stephen Harding.

Reading these men is like savoring an exquisite taste. Here's a small sampling to whet your appetite:

--Bernard of Clairvaux:
"It is a cruel mercy that kills the soul while cherishing the body." (p. 48) and "You will find that it is a hoe, not a sceptre, that you want for doing a prophet's work." (p. 88)

--William of St. Thierry (speaking of God): "Sometimes I hear the voice fo your spirit, a passing whisper like the faintest breeze, and I understand it to say, 'Come to him and you will be illumined.' I hear and I am roused from my torpor." (p. 112)

--Aelred of Rievalux (from his marvelous treatise on friendship): "Some men perversely, not to say impudently, want their friends to be what they are incapable of being themselves. They are the sort who are intolerant of the slightest faults in their friends, criticize them fiercely and, with a sad want of discretion, neglect important things while making an issue of details." (pp. 183-84)

--Gilbert of Hoyland: "He who cleaves to God will become one spirit with Him." (p. 219)
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
monastic reform 5 Aug 2001
By Michael Stewart - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book introduces the reader, through the exploration of multiple primary sources,to the twelfth century rise of the Cistercians. It provides a wonderfull look into the mind of these dynamic individuals who attempted to escape from the increasingly complex world of twelfth-century Western Europe and create an internal relationship with God through the external bond of mutual friendship.
Excellent Selection 27 Dec 2013
By Cynthia C.C. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a wonderful selection of Cistercian monastic writings from the 12th century. While Bernard of Clairvaux is well-represented here, as he should be, the book also includes important writings from other Cistercians of the period. It was very nice to see these others included, especially since many sources tend to focus almost solely on Bernard. This variety gave greater depth and breadth to the writings of the period. And since these are only selections, rather than entire texts, the reader is provided with the best of the available writings, so he/she doesn't have to wade through long works to glean the crucial information.

While the historical selections are excellent, it is the introductions that make the book stellar. The introduction at the beginning is concise but informative. And each selection starts with its own introduction, placing it in broader context, and also providing useful concomitant information. Excellent work by Penguin Classics!
A Light on Early Monastic Spirituality 5 May 2013
By Bernadette T. Nicolaus - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The book is a marvelous closeup view of Bernard of Clairvaux, William of St. Thierry, Abbot Suger,Stephen Harding and others. Reading their own writings gives insights to their own spirituality, as well as to the monastic life of the 12th century, and the relationships among the members. It is so much more than a mere historical account of the time. I find it inspiring.
Bernadette
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