chapter  18
29 Pages

Art and Society

One of the most famous documents of the early Cistercian era is St Bernard’s Apologia to his friend, William, Abbot of St Thierry in the diocese of Reims, written in 1125. William was very much in sympathy with Cistercian ideals, so the contents were not aimed at him, but rather at existing Benedictine orders, in particular the Cluniacs. However, contrary to received opinion, the Cluniacs were not the exclusive target; St Bernard appears to be condemning the use of ‘luxurious and excessive’ art and architecture within the monastic movement as a whole, including some previous examples in his own order (Rudolph 1990:159-91). After expressing his astonishment that ‘monks could be so lacking in moderation in matters of food and drink, and with respect to clothing and bedding, carriages and buildings’, he turns the full power of his invective upon each of them, culminating in a great attack upon the superfluities of monastic decoration.