Short History of the Monachism

At the end of the 3rd century, some monks started to appear in the oriental Christianism.  These men leave the society to live in deserted areas.  Indeed, the desert is considered in the Bible as the place for purification and where God can be met.
In these deserted areas, they share their life between work, prayer and loneliness. The spiritual father of this way of living is undoubtedly the Egyptian Saint Antoine le Grand. Born in 251, he lives in loneliness in the Egyptian desert until the age of 105.
His life, as narrated by Saint Athanase, will have a very important influence on the Christian monachism both in Eastern and Western countries.
Saint Pacôme, another Egyptian, will be the father of the coenobitic monachism.
He started to organize the life of monks willing to live in communities.  The rules he established influenced Eastern and Western Christianism.
During the 4th century, monks can be found in the whole Middle East (Egypt, Palestine, Syria and Mesopotamia).
This new style of Christian life spreads in Europe to start with Gaul and more specially Provence.
The first places where monachism can be found are Saint Cassien in Marseille and Saint Honorat on the Island of Lerins.  Saint Martin and his successors also developed a life of loneliness in the West of Gaul.
Start of the Benedictine Monachism.
During the 6th century, in Italy, Saint Benedict starts to be more and more famous.  He begins his life as a hermit and becomes later on the Abbott of Subiaco and Montecassino. He becomes the legislator of the western monachism due to the Rule he wrote for his own monastery but which became progressively the Rule which will be adopted by the whole latin Church.
The Benedictine monachism was born. It develops more and more to reach its height in the 10th century with the Abbey of Cluny (founded in 910).
Cistercian Reform
At the end of the 11th century, in the same movement as the Gregorian reform, some Benedictine monks wanted to come back to the origins of their tradition.
They leave the Monastery of Molesme, in 1098, under the lead of their Abbott, Saint Robert, to found the Abbey of Citeaux, near Dijon in Burgundy.
They are the founders of the Cistercian Order which spread quickly all over Europe.  Saint Bernard, together with thirty young noblemen, arrives in Citeaux in 1112 and founds the Abbey of Clervaux.  He remains the Abbott of Clervaux until the end of his life in 1153.
Through a life of prayer, poverty, simplicity and being separated from the world, the Cistercian monks wanted to come back to the real spirit of the Rule of Saint Benedict.  It is the spirit which was at the basis of the foundation of the Abbey of Val Dieu.