Congregation at Duke Chapel

Men and Women in White Meet John Deere

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Men and Women in White Meet John Deere - a Convoluted Medieval Liaison

presentation at Adult Forum by
James Ferguson
Research Collaborator, UNC Chapel Hill
April 30, 2017

Agricultural History Society Conference

23-25 June 2016

Edith Macey Conference Center - Chappaqua New York

James G. Ferguson, Jr.1

Carolina Global Food Program - UNC Chapel Hill

Men and Women in White Meet John Deere - a Convoluted Medieval Liaison

There are known knowns. There are things we know we know.
We also know there are known unknowns. That is to say we know there are some things we do not know.
But there are also unknown unknowns, the ones we don't know we don't know.
-Donald Rumsfeld, Department of Defense news briefing, 2.12.2002

This quote from former Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld opens and concludes every semester of the Honors seminar in Food and Culture - aka Eats 101 as it is known on the street - to alert our students to the labyrinthine epistemological quest which lies ahead. Trained as an experimental social psychologist, I am well schooled in the refuge of multivariate analysis of variance and P levels we use as our smoke and mirrors to "validate" our tenuous and evanescent "truths" just long enough to pen a publication or two. But for our purposes Rumsfeld's observation could not be more apt as we try to construct the contours of these men and women in white as pertains to their claims on the land in medieval - and arguably present-day - agriculture and community.2

It has been amusing to watch interest in the medieval period (often misnamed by our seminar students as the "Dark Ages") evolve exponentially in the last three decades as its chronological boundaries seemed to "expand." It is not uncommon to encounter some references to the sixth century AD, and if one permits the twentieth century architectural parvenus of neo-byzantine, neo-romanesque, and neo-gothic architecture, we find ourselves just beyond the post-medieval period. The present focus, however, is much narrower, bracketed for the most part by the late eleventh century and the late fourteenth century. We are particularly concerned with the interaction between a monastic ascetic religious ethos and the amassing of vast amounts of agricultural land whose production generated unimaginable wealth for the Cistercian organization. In addition to astute management practices, this growth depended directly on two material factors and their output - both of which shall be discussed directly. First is the grange, an innovative way of combining various sized land parcels into a large production unit managed by the monks. Second is the labor force which oversaw and worked these lands, generally celibate male lay brothers of the monastery known as conversi.

Today in the United States we know the monks and nuns variably by their original name of Cistercians or as Trappists, and their products, be it cheese, bread, or beer are readily available. Should you be a fan of Once Again peanut butter, with its emblematic raccoon label, there is a connection there as well. They have monastic establishments in Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, Oregon, Texas, Utah, and Virginia. These are the "knowns." But where did they come from and when? These are the more obscure "unknowns" - at least partially.

Emilia Jamroziak's The Cistercian Order in Medieval Europe 1090-1500 i appears to settle two aspects of the matter - the existence of an "order" and its date of origin. However, thorough - albeit controversial - research by Constance Berman as presented in The Cistercian Evolution: The Invention of a Religious Order in Twelfth-Century Europe ii suggests the date is highly suspect and further that much of the widely accepted chronology of Cistercian events is based on altered and forged documents from monastic archives. We shall address this apparent discrepancy iii further on, but at the outset an example of the earlier and widely accepted Cistercian "view book" will help.

This is a typical narrative from the landmark Monasteries of Western Europe iv by Wolfgang Braunfels:

The decisive event in the Order's history was the entry into Citeaux of Bernard of Fontaines (1091-1153) with thirty noblemen, including four of his brothers, in 1112 ... . Three years later Bernard was able to found Clairvaux with twelve brethren. Seventy-two foundations are reputed to have followed in barely forty years. This most medieval of all medieval religious figures must have exercised a compelling power of conviction ... .

The offshoots of Cîteaux and its four original daughter houses, La Ferté (1113), Pontigny (1114), Morimund and Clairvaux (both 1115), spread like a tree. Clairvaux had 355 daughter-foundations, Morimond 193, Citeaux itself 109, Pontigny 43, and La Ferté 17. Europe was parceled out between them. It was amazing what trust was reposed in many of their precocious brethren by the abbots of the great monasteries, who sent them out year after year into the unpeopled and unknown with a team of twelve equally young companions to found new settlements. By the end remote places were scarce in Europe. The General Chapter of 1152 required every new foundation from then on to be licensed. None might be set up closer than 15,000 paces to the next one. v

Braunfel's précis could not be more apt for the previously "official" narrative, constructed by the medieval monastic establishment, of the "foundation of the order" by Bernard of Clairvaux, aka St. Bernard. His exemplary life and avocation as a peerless evangelical homileticist would have earned him TIME's man of the twelfth century, but despite what guides tell tens of thousands of eager tourists at abbey sites across France every summer, he did not found the Cistercian order. Nor, as we shall see, was he without his uncharitable moments.

Berman puts it this way:
"What can be said definitively here is that not only was the Cistercian order not founded in 1098, it was not even founded before the death of Bernard of Clairvaux in 1153." vi

For nearly twenty years, our seminar students have slogged their way through lengthy readings on monastic culture, much of it derived from Berman's pioneering work on the Cistercians. During this time, her initially cautious skepticism about the template, in part derived from myths of the settling of the American West serving as a model for Cistercian "apostolic gestation," vii gave way to a carefully documented account, which distinctly did not feature fifteen machete swinging monks clearing space in the wilderness for a new settlement 12,000 paces away from their mother house. viii The transition was based on her painstaking primary archival research on original Latin documents, which discredited the conventional Wild West scenario based on secondary sources and historically suspect church documents.

A subtheme in the earlier version was the Cistercians' alleged aversion to nonmonastic settlement to the point of being seen as reclusive and hermetical which, if it were true, we would not be here today as there would have been no grange system on which they based their large-scale agriculture.

The older model of Cistercian success was based on a "frontier" thesis which cannot be applied to the order's foundations in southern France. By assuming that the benefits of frontier farming applied to Cistercian economic practice, earlier historians limited their search for explanations of the growth of Cistercian wealth. Although mentioning granges and conversi and tithes, they did not consider far enough the economic consequences of these Cistercian innovations. By looking at the Cistercian economy from a new point of view, one which dismisses the narrative accounts as generally idealizing and ... propagandistic, this reassessment has confirmed the linkages between many parts of the traditional picture of Cistercian practice, but has shown that granges and tithes and conversi were tied to each other in a different way than has been previously thought. In so doing, this study does not deny that Cistercians transformed the southern French countryside through their creation of granges. It does attempt to explain better what that transformation entailed and how the monks contributed to the feeding of growing cities in southern France by the late twelfth century, and to what extent the rural economic life of Cistercian monasteries had already begun to be tied to the re-emerging markets of southern Europe by the middle of the thirteenth century. ix

As noted, there is disagreement over Berman's "methodology," as discussed by the late Chrysogonus Waddell; x however, one must pose the question as to whether this renowned Trappist monk and scholar might not have had some interest in supporting the traditional historical narrative. For the present purpose it is of greater importance that on matters of agriculture, monastic community life, and economic activity, Berman and Jamroziak agree in principle. As a prelude to finding common touchpoints with our present agricultural systems, a contour of the complex medieval monastic milieu is essential. Jamroziak's title helps to establish the time frame for the Cistercian focus, although the impetus for the Benedictine Order from which the Cistercian organization was derived originated with the rule of Benedict of Nursia (480-543/547 AD).

First there is the matter of the establishment of the "Order." Jamroziak does not confront this directly, but as noted above, Berman asserts that it had not been founded by Bernard's death. Cistercians, or proto-Cistercians, however, were very much in existence. There seems to be consensus that a founding set of circumstances was set in motion by Robert of Molesme departing Molesme Abbey with fellow monks in March 1098 and arriving in Cîteaux on 21 March. 3 Berman points out that Robert's precise role may have been somewhat obscured by concerns over how to fit Bernard as well as Stephen Harding, abbot of Cîteaux, into the narrative. xi For our purposes, it is sufficient to note that there were Cistercians in the early twelfth century and it is the growth of their organization to which we now turn.

Some years ago, based on the formerly accepted Cistercian foundation "myth," I was on the point of writing an article drawing the analogy between their monastic model of expansion and positioning to that of corporations such as McDonald's, Archer Daniels Midland, and Cargill. In fact, I tentatively advanced this notion at the 2000 Oxford Symposium. xii Fortunately, Berman's 2000 work appeared and saved me from a well-intentioned, but erroneous assertion. Perhaps, noting Jamroziak's chapter heading of "The First Multinational," xiii it would have been more an instance of misplaced emphasis. There has never been a question of the dramatic geographic "reach" of Cistercian houses - both female and male - but there has been considerable speculation about its administrative and motivational underpinnings.

For context, we must briefly consider the roles of two crucial figures, Bernard of Clairvaux and Abbot Stephen Harding of Cîteaux. Although erroneously credited with founding the Cistercian "order," Bernard was a powerful and eloquent presence as a wide-ranging evangelical homileticist who devoted his life to defining the parameters of the proper spiritual life, especially as it pertained to the monastic establishment. He had nothing to do with administrative affairs. By contrast, Abbot Harding's forte is generally recognized as having been managerial such that, in numerous instances - not unlike Boston Consulting Group consultants - monks were dispatched to houses having internal management difficulties. Berman and Jamroziak are of one mind in suggesting that this may have had a much larger impact on apparent Cistercian "expansion" than the previously accepted model of duplicative "franchising" of establishments à la McDonald's. It bears emphasis, though, that the base motivation driving each enterprise could not be more opposed - spiritual devotion to God versus devotion to profit.

Figures 1, 2, and 3 indicate the growth and reach of the organization for both monasteries and convents - extraordinary for a period without railroads, airlines, and the internet. Per Jamroziak, houses were established in Austria, present-day Belgium, Bohemia, Cyprus, Denmark, England, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. xiv Although, as noted, "order" is of limited value in interpreting these maps, the indicated affiliation with mother houses is not and lines of administrative governance and communication followed the indicated symbolic markings. Further, just as contemporary corporations have established territories delineated by region or product, so did the mother houses such that the lineages to Cîteaux, Clairvaux, La Ferté, and Pontigny are shown for men. Nunneries were generally associated with Cîteaux, Clairvaux, or Tart. 4

graph of growth in number of abbeys

Figure 1. Cistercian “growth” from the Eleventh to the Fourteenth Century. map of monasteries

Figure 2. Geographical Distribution of Cistercian Monasteries According to Filiation map of nunneries

Figure 3. Geographical Distribution of Cistercian Nunneries According to Filiation.

As an aside, were the emphasis of this paper to be feminist studies, there would be a lengthy discussion on the general marginalization of women which occurred, whether with regard to supervision by male colleagues, appropriation/confiscation of productive properties under the guise of benign concern for the nuns' well-being, transfer of inferior, less productive, properties to nuns or, in some cases, outright theft. As a sidebar, it is interesting that Bernard is alleged to have had a general disregard of women and that at one point urged the General Chapter (about which more in a moment) to suspend the admission of new nunneries as he felt they were becoming too numerous. In many instances nunneries were located no closer than five miles from the nearest monastery and the nuns were encloistered. In our discussion of agriculture, they will be missing because any large-scale cultivation was performed by conversi, celibate lay brothers whose labor drove the Cistercian "machine." One wonders if such a practice was driven by the perception that women were simply too "weak" for the arduous labor required in high acreage field work. For a thorough discussion of the complex issue of "missing" Cistercian women, the interested reader is referred to Berman (2000) and Jamroziak.

Regardless of the "knowns and unknowns" of the founding myth of the Cistercian Order, we do know that the entire organization was governed by the General Chapter, which assembled annually, and at which all heads of monasteries were required to be present. Among other responsibilities, which included monitoring adherence to rules of the Order, administering sanctions for noncompliance, the General Chapter regulated the flow of new houses joining the Order and, perhaps most important, performed the vital function of comptroller with the attendant vigilant eye on the intricate network of a financial empire "too big to fail." As we turn to the focus of this paper, it is important to return to a conundrum about the Cistercians - their extraordinary productivity in the material world juxtaposed with their professed (and generally practiced) asceticism. Their movement was to some extent a reaction against the perceived excesses of the Cluniacs, also descendants of the Benedictines, and Bernard's polemic was legendary. Berman captures the sense of it:

Bernard's insistent advocacy of the superior virtues of the new order and the reaction to his statements by the previously unchallenged Cluniacs developed into a rhetorical battle between the two orders, in which the polemics of both sides had little basis in reality and in which the similarity in goals of the two monastic groups was obscured by their argument over the proper means to achieve their common ends. Debate over the legitimacy of their order made the Cistercians defensive and self-righteous in their description of their origins and soon the themes of the debate became popular literary 'topics,' which were incorporated into the writings of friend and foe alike and often repeated by historians up to the present. Frequently, Cistercians and Cluniacs were presented by narrators as opposite poles, as either end of a spectrum, or worse still, as the two sides of a balance on which whatever good said of one implied evil of the other. Moreover, the situation was confused by the fact that the stated ideals and purposes of the Cistercians, as presented by their twelfth-century advocates, could with only slight twists of language become denouncements of their enemies. xv

Asceticism was the mantra of the early Cistercians, in dress, daily routine, and nutrition. They were essentially vegetarians of the stripe we might call ouvo/lactarian/pescatarians. Depending on geographic location, they were allotted a meager daily portion of wine or beer. Their impact continues to this day through the Trappist ales brewed in Belgium, the Netherlands, and most recently at St. Joseph's Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts. Although the French Revolution intentionally decimated the monasteries (many of which are being restored by the government as part of the "patrimony"), it did preserve the priceless viticulture which prospered especially in the Côte d'Or and Côtes de Nuits regions of Burgundy, near Dijon. Indeed, the parcels which surround the legendary Clos de Vougeot 5 still retain their medieval outline under different ownership. Those who savor pinot noir and chardonnay owe this pleasure to the Cistercians and their assiduous viticultural experimentation. 6 It would seem that meager daily allotments of wine and the demands of Holy Communion cannot explain this obvious dedication to serious and painstaking research into a very complex product. The monks made careful notes from year to year on yields by location and pursued an active grafting program according to these observations. This simple example underscores the asceticism conundrum.

In examining the complex, profitable, and immensely productive Cistercian agricultural system, two attributes demand our attention just as they do in contemporary analysis - land acquisition and the requisite labor to manage such property. Devotion in the form of prayer and intellectual activity, e.g. working with manuscripts, took priority over any activity viewed as external to the monastery. And, as shown in Figure 4 from Aubert (1943) and Dimier (1962), with the exception of food sources, the enclosed space was sufficient for all the requisite quotidian activities. Again, in this extract from a rebuke by Idung of Prüfening (probable date - 1155) one discerns a conflict between the myth and actuality of Cistercian consumption,

"Cistercian [to Cluniac]: You are asking about a way of life of which you have had personal experience, for you yourself know that meat pies, cheesecakes, pancakes, food seasoned with pepper, and pastries, are nothing but delights to the taste and ticklers of the taste buds; they are delicacies, not food for monks, and thus rejected by our Order?"

Both Berman (1986) and Jamroziak document the general knowledge of the wide variety and quantity of foodstuffs available from Cistercian properties. Meals were not limited to cheese, coarse breads, eggs, (occasional) fish, grains, vegetables and the aforesaid daily rations of drink. Indeed, Jamroziak treats this in her ironically titled chapter on the economy, Not Just Sheep and Grain, which lists bees, cattle (for meat, milk, and leather), cheese, fish, fruit and fruit trees, game, grains, herbs, pigs, salt 7, and vegetables. xvi Such variety perforce demands more than occasional labor in a small kitchen garden, and the synergy between the grange and the conversi affords the answer.

Although many claims for Cistercian "revolutionary" agricultural practices have lost traction with increased historical scrutiny, there is little doubt that they developed the grange to the point that some precedents for modern industrial agricultural practice are discernible, both in land and labor use. 8 As research questioned the "wilderness" settlement myth, it was replaced by a well-documented settlement pattern which utilized previously occupied and worked property, whether abandoned from the Roman era 9 or more recently occupied by either some sort of farm or religious group. Berman summarizes it thusly:

During the earliest period, which is usually thought to have encompassed the highest levels of Cistercian "growth," what we actually find expanding were those independent pre-Cistercian houses of monks and nuns that would later adopt Cistercian practices and eventually coalesce into an Order. Because so many accumulated resources came along with the independent reform houses when they were incorporated, by the time these communities became recognizably part of a Cistercian Order, most of them were no longer the impoverished and marginal communities that they may once have been and as they are often described in Cistercian mythology. From the third and last quarters of the twelfth century, the affiliation of large numbers of existing communities as new Cistercian houses must have contributed to late twelfth-century views that an astonishing accumulation of wealth by the Order had come from its aggressive consolidation of land and assertion of tithe privileges. The reputation for having become wealthy coincided, in fact, very closely with the invention of the Order in the third quarter of the twelfth century. This meant that almost immediately after it was conceived, the Cistercian Order had to struggle with the perception of having too much wealth. xvii

In such a context the importance of the General Chapter as well as the skill-sets of figures such as Abbott Stephen Harding is self-evident.

With respect to land acquisition the "known" is that the Cistercians acquired very significant landholdings, the "unknown" is the means by which the process occurred. Berman asserts in both works that it was a mixture of both donation and appropriation, depending on local circumstances. At this point the conversi 10 enter the discussion. 11 At the peak of Cistercian agricultural activity they were the "John Deere" which animated the enterprise, but they also had a role in providing land via donation in exchange for shelter and upkeep in the monastery. Just as with contemporary industrial land acquisition, there seems to have been both donation and a form of "persuasion," the difference being that, in the medieval setting there was the promise of long-term care and the hope for eventual salvation. In many cases, rights of inheritance were respected such that bequests to family members would be honored before the monastery assumed control of the land. A note here about the socioeconomic status of most of the conversi needs to be added. Most often, but not always "peasants" (there was occasional nobility among the lay brothers), conversi were landowners who generally supported themselves through working on their property and perhaps raising excess crops for cash or other considerations for neighbors. While not a "comfortable life," poverty was not implied as it is in the unfortunate translation of the French paysan into the English peasant. The French connotation is that of one who lives on one's land (pays) and whose weltanschauung is so defined. This notion is implied in terroir, a concept which seems to baffle only non-French speakers. Thus, in no sense, were such people taken into monasteries (or nunneries) out of pity - there was always some sort of quid pro quo.

As Berman asserts, though, that conversi status seemed to shift over time as in early in the twelfth century they were:

able-bodied, celibate men, who entered a monastery to be farm laborers, but farm laborers with a difference, since they were free from family responsibilities, from obligations to lords, and from many of the insecurities of the peasantry. Moreover, the status of a conversus in a new Cistercian abbey in the twelfth century, when it was little different from that of a monk and when even knights entered the order as conversi, was an enviable position. For many twelfth century peasants, the status of conversus would have been desirable not only because of its economic security, but because it fulfilled religious aspirations which had earlier been denied. Only in the 1180s or 1190s did conversi begin to become second-class members of monastic communities, and the real decline in conversi status was probably somewhat later, in the mid-thirteenth century. xviii

By this time, it was clear that lay brothers were to tend to the production aspects of the property and were to live as much as practicably possible separate from the brothers, whose main concern was devotional activity. Though specialized and highly skilled in estate operations, they were nonetheless not educated by the brotherhood, thus remaining functionally illiterate. Careful examination of Figure 4 reveals the degree to which lay brothers led a parallel daily existence in the monastery without crossing paths with the brothers. It is said the only passage that they shared was that leading from funerals. It should not be taken that they shunned each other - in fact they often worked side-by-side in the fields.

floorplan of monastery

Figure 4. "Ideal" Cistercian Monastery after Aubert (1943) and Dimier (1962).

As abbey holdings grew in size, the conversi came to play ever-larger roles. The grange was a cultivation area typically located at some distance from the monastery, requiring subsidiary housing quarters. In some cases, as Jamroziak notes they were "large farms with a 'mini-monastery' encircled by walls and a gatehouse, with their own chapel, refectory, accommodation for the lay brothers and a guest house, numerous farm buildings, mills and workshops." xix Per Berman, it is difficult to obtain accurate estimates of grange size, but some may have approached 10,000 acres, clearly within range of many modern industrial farms. xx Whereas contemporary industrial farming practices tend toward monocropping because of the downstream commodity markets, consolidated granges served both their monastery's needs as well as those of the nearby rural and urban markets. 12 Thus, subsections of various acreage would be devoted to individual crops and a three-year rotation plan assured that some land lay fallow at all times.

An increasingly significant part of the Cistercian product mix, more for external than for internal consumption, came from cattle, pigs, and sheep. Pigs provided simply food, whereas cattle and sheep provided food, skins, and clothing. All three provided (organic) fertilizer as did chickens. In contrast to Joel Salatin's practice on Virginia's Polyface Farm as well as CAFOs and other large-scale production, Cistercians aggressively pursued "animal transhumance," about which Berman writes extensively. xxi In essence this involved seasonal herd or flock movement in synchrony with feeding needs and crop availability, thus warmer summer temperatures might entail moving to higher elevations and conversely, winter weather would require more temperate locations. Lacking long-haul trucking and rail transport, the monks entered into complex and occasionally tedious and contrient negotiations with landowners to guarantee expeditious - if not safe - passage for the shepherds and their animals. This would involve direct barter, payments from the abbatial treasury or what we know as "futures," in which a landowner would accept a "position" based on a promised future delivery - presumably as the animals were returning home to save transportation "costs." 13

Increased meat production offers a convenient background against which to frame concluding observations about "claims on the land." Movements, whether political, religious, or social, tend to arise de novo (in the most unusual cases) or in reaction to some perceived "fault" with the dominant order - only a hermit would miss this point in 2016. Bernard of Clairvaux was undeniably the human zeitgeber for the early Cistercians. He was stern, indefatigable, ascetic, a gifted orator, devout, and a man of strong opinions about which he preached and wrote - copiously. As with a contemporary televangelist, he sought to have complete control of his rhetoric. Thus, he was vigorously opposed to decorative architecture and internal ornamentation such as the exquisite sculpted capitals at Vézelay, or the tympanum by Gislibertus at St. Lazare in Autun, which made eternal damnation more real than any sermon could do. Phyllis Pray Bober notes:

Against the figurative capitals of church and cloister, especially those with carvings copied from Byzantine textiles or fantasized bestiaries, Saint Bernard launched tirades of opprobrium for their distraction from the proper meditative life. He railed equally against the luxuries that had usurped the abstemious regime appropriate for conventual living. At Cluny the monks might not eat meat, but their fish were luxury species served with elegant sauces, and eggs - what metamorphoses ingenuity was able to devise! xxii

His exchanges with Abbot Suger of St. Denis in Paris are legendary in revealing both his rhetorical brilliance as well as his intransigence. For a certain time such charismatic figures hold near hypnotic sway over their organizations - as did Steve Jobs. Much of the organizations' activity is devoted to fulfilling such figures' visions and as Graham Ward would put it, "patrolling the boundaries" to ensure proper ritual observance. xxiii Hence the power and reach of the General Chapter.

Such slavish and unquestioning devotion nourishes many destabilizing seeds, among them the inability to accommodate inevitable external change. In the Oxford paper I argue that the integrity of ritual is maintained through repetitive and invariant performance which can be monitored by the "compliance police" for instances of nonconformity. xxiv As a system expands numerically and geographically, such monitoring becomes ever more problematic, even for the General Chapter. Constance Bouchard 14 treats extensively the interrelationship between the Cistercians and the four Dukes of Burgundy (1364 - 1477), 15 significant patrons who, in their heyday, laid "claims on the land" between Flanders and Val d'Aosta in Italy and were thus in direct competition with France. xxv Bober documents coincident cultural shifts from which the Cistercians could not isolate themselves. In speaking of both architectural and artistic evolution she adds: "The complexity of contrasting flavors bears comparison with the intricacies of Late Gothic vaulting ribs and tracery ... another aspect of the cuisine of Late Gothic International style that is consonant with all the other arts is a richness of texture and, above all, color." xxvi

As the ravages of the Black Death receded in shared memory, the humanist thrust which was to accompany, if not energize, the Renaissance, began to challenge unquestioned medieval devotion. Courtly life, in which traditional Cistercian hospitality became directly involved, brought its own seductive opulence and splendor, which for some was no doubt a welcome respite from asceticism. Perhaps most significant for our present theme, however, was the simultaneous development of Cistercian involvement in all aspects of nearby urban life, including universities. As monks received more formal - and in some cases secular - education, they were gradually welcomed as faculty in monasteries. xxvii But as Jamroziak comments, the tradition of a faith-based monastically sited workforce inevitably gave way to a leasing operation in which Cistercian lands were leased out for production. To be sure, the diverse mix of agricultural activity persisted, but without the devotional base upon which this extraordinary growth had occurred. In a very significant and transformative way, Cistercians had given up their "claims on the land" and with them, I contend, a vital part of their organization. Their community was founded as much on an intimate sustained and sustaining relationship with their vast lands (of which they saw themselves as divinely appointed stewards) as it was on devotion. Whether monk, nun, lay brother or sister, the warp and woof of quotidian life was maintained by the rhythms within the walls - a connection severed by leasing their lands.

Jamorziak concludes with a chapter entitled "Was There a Crisis of the Cistercian Order?" If one construes this as meaning that the order had drifted so far from its initial configuration as to be unrecognizable, perhaps the answer is yes. If, however, one accepts the notion that the order was changing in synchrony with a cultural shift away from the dominance of the Church, perhaps not.

This, of course, is a history conference, but the seminar we teach at UNC devotes more than a little time to the complex contemporary global agricultural scene. As the drama about GMOs continues to play against projections of nearly unbridled population growth, there is the subtheme of large scale industrial production versus local, generally organic, farming. Partisanship is fierce and the debates are reminiscent of those between Bernard and Suger, but in the end, that solution which shows the greatest concern for stewardship in the face of climate change - however caused - may be the key to survival. Could it be that the Cistercians have a twelfth century message we need to hear ... or see?


1 James Ferguson is a lecturer in the Department of History and Director of the Carolina Global Food Program, both at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He initiated the Honors Seminar in Food and Culture at UNC in 1997 and with his colleague, Samantha Buckner Terhune, inaugurated the Food Studies undergraduate major in 2008. Although - or perhaps because - his training is in experimental social psychology and sociology, he has been intrigued by the contours of monastic life since being an invited guest in his midteens at lunch in a chapter house in Canterbury. That the participants willingly consumed their essentially tasteless communal repast in silence has been of interest ever since.

2 I am most grateful to UNC colleague (and honoree at this conference) Peter Coclanis for his insightful and invaluable comments on a previous draft of this paper by a novitiate in the field.

3 Jamroziak notes that "We will never know if this, like many later events in the early history of the Cistercians, happened exactly in this way, as our knowledge is based on the 'founding myth' of the order, the creation of four succeeding generations of Cistercian monks, none of whom of course were eyewitnesses." (p. 14)

4 Figures 1, 2, and 3 provide data respectively for numerical growth of "Cistercian" houses until 1500, the settlements of monks, and the settlements of nuns.

5 Considered their foremost viticultural site, Clos de Vougeot was established by the Cistercians with donations and purchases dating from the 12th C. to the early 14th C. The clos (walled area) was essentially completed by 1336.

6 As noted above, Pontigny was a mother house in the Cistercian organization and is the largest abbey church still standing in France. The chardonnay grape, the only one permitted in white wines from Burgundy, is said to have originated here. The Late Jurassic Kimmeridgean marl composed of clay, decomposed oyster shells, and limestone is said to create the unique and complex nature of Chablis. Duke Philip the Good of Burgundy was so protective of pinot noir that in 1395 he ordered the elimination of the gamay grape and banished it to the Beaujolais - to the delight of connoisseurs ever since. Hugh Johnson's The Story of Wine provides greater detail on the banishment of the gamay grape.

7 Whether from maritime salt pans or from such complex mining operations as in the Parma/Piacenza region of Italy, Wieliczka and Bochnia in Poland, or Salin-les-Bains in the French Jura region. A visit to the latter offers the food-interested historian double the memorable experience via a pass by Arbois for Poulet au Vin Jaune - the region's gastronomical crown jewel featuring Vin Jaune (yellow wine) from savignon grapes unique to the region, crème fraiche, and morilles (morels) and, of course, poulet de Bresse. To round out a true agricultural historical sojourn, the Martinet Museum in Corcelles features an eighteenth century forge as well as a vast collection of harvest and cultivation tools. The site is actively productive and furnishes scythes and other manual tools geared to location and type of crop, e.g., soft wheat versus hard wheat.

8 Seemingly undisputed is the development at Fontenay Abbey of the hydraulic hammer, which allowed a much enhanced production of tools from the water-driven iron forge used on site and sold in the region. According to ASM International's 1996 award: "The Forge of Fontenay, erected around 1220 as a part of the Abbey of Fontenay, is the first metallurgical factory in Europe and the place of the invention of the hydraulic hammer. This invention became the basis of industrial manufacturing of iron in Europe."

9 Two aspects of the grange are perhaps separable here - size and management. Peter Coclanis suggests (private communication) that their origin may be found in abandoned, but discernible, large scale Roman estates called latifundia. Often state appropriated lands, owned by senators, and cultivated by slaves, their production throughout the Empire was devoted to furnishing Rome with food. In archaeologist Carole Crumley's Regional Dynamics: Burgundian Landscapes in Historical Perspective, Walter Berry notes in his chapter, "Southern Burgundy in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages," "The creation of large agrarian villages and the formation of spatially and organizationally unified latifundia, such as are known from other areas of late Roman Gaul (Grenier 1934:2.2:897-899), seems to have occurred primarily in the Autun basin and in the larger river valleys. Elsewhere in the region the tendency of dispersed habitation to retreat, together with the impetus toward settlement nucleation, led instead to the emergence of a pattern made up of a relatively large number of small, though now more compact, centers." p. 467. As noted in this paper, Cistercian management practices were distinctive and were instrumental in the generation and preservation of the order's wealth.

10 As an amusing side note, according to a recent New York Times piece, it seems that they are still with us in the form of an Israeli written program, for agricultural management called "conversi."

11 There were conversae (lay sisters) as well, but as one might expect, their duties were more likely to be as dairymaids or hospital aids. (Berman, 2000.)

12 Although the early "foundation myths" would have monasteries in remote and isolated locations, they were for the most part located near other settlements with which they traded. This was especially true of preexisting sites whose management and expansion they assumed.

13 As Jamroziak discusses in her economics chapter, in later years the Cistercians maintained multinational markets with trading relationships rivalling those found on the CBOT, minus the internet.

14 Constance Brittain Bouchard, Strong of Body, Brave and Noble: Chivalry and Society in Medieval France, Ithaca: Cornell U Press, 1998.
______ Holy Entrepreneurs: Cistercians, Knights, and Economic Exchange in Twelfth-Century Burgundy, Ithaca: Cornell U Press, 2009.

15 It is important to remember that Bernard was born of nobility in Fontaine-Lés Dijon.


i Emilia Jamroziak, The Cistercian Order in Medieval Europe 1090-1500, (New York: Routledge, 2013).

ii Constance Berman, The Cistercian Evolution: The Invention of a Religious Order in Twelfth-Century Europe, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000.

iii Jamroziak seems to call into question Berman's "methodology" while at the same time agreeing with many of her conclusions. Further, she offers no competing methodology, but rather cites a preferred (although not radically different) set of conclusions drawn from contemporary monastic writings. This is, of course, precisely Berman's point that there is a vested programmatic interest in hewing to approved orthodoxy.

iv Wolfgang Braunfels, Monasteries of Western Europe: The Architecture of the Orders, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1972).

v Braunfels, p. 68.

vi Berman, 2000, p. 236.

vii _____ "Medieval Agriculture, the Southern French Countryside, and the Early Cistercians. A Study of Forty-Three Monasteries." Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, New Series, Vol. 76, No. 5 (1986).

viii Ibid.

ix Ibid, p. 189

x Chrysogonus Waddell, "The Myth of Cistercian Origins: C.H. Berman and the Manuscript Sources," Citeaux: Commentari Cistercienses 51 (2000), pp. 299-386.

xi Berman, 2000, p. 94.

xii James G. Ferguson, Jr., "Do This in Remembrance: Ritual Observance as the 'Rough Ground' of Memory,"Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery, 9 September 2000.

xiii Jamroziak, pp. 43-91.

xiv Ibid., pp. 69, 74.

xv Berman, 1986, p. 5.

xvi Jamroziak, pp. 183-207.

xvii Berman, 2000, pp.109-10.

xviii Berman, 2000, pp.109-10.

xix Jamroziak, p. 185.

xx Berman, 1986.

xxi Ferguson, 2000.

xxii Bober

xxiii Graham Ward, "Flesh Sweeter Than Honey," in Sian Griffiths and Jennifer Wallace, eds. Consuming Passions: Food in the Age of Anxiety. Manchester: U Manchester Press, 1998. Quoted in Ferguson, 2000.

xxiv Ibid.

xxv Phyllis Pray Bober, "Late Gothic International Style," in Art, Culture & Cuisine - Ancient & Medieval Gastronomy, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999, pp. 219-66.

xxvi Jamroziak, pp. 229-30.


Berman, Constance, "Medieval Agriculture, the Southern French Countryside, and the Early Cistercians. A Study of Forty-Three Monasteries." Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, New Series, Vol. 76, No. 5 1986.

______ The Cistercian Evolution: The Invention of a Religious Order in Twelfth-Century Europe, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000.

Berry, Walter E., "Southern Burgundy in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages", in Regional Dynamics: Burgundian Landscapes in Historical Perspective, Carole L. Crumley and William H. Marquart, eds. San Diego: Academic Press, 1987.

Bober, Phyllis Pray, Art, Culture & Cuisine - Ancient & Medieval Gastronomy, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999.

Bouchard, Constance, Strong of Body, Brave and Noble: Chivalry and Society in Medieval France, Ithaca: Cornell U Press, 1998.

______Holy Entrepreneurs: Cistercians, Knights, and Economic Exchange in Twelfth Century Burgundy, Ithaca: Cornell U Press, 2009.

Braunfels, Wolfgang, Monasteries of Western Europe: The Architecture of the Orders, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1972.

Jamroziak, Emilia, The Cistercian Order in Medieval Europe 1090-1500, New York: Routledge, 2013.

Waddell, Chrysogonus, "The Myth of Cistercian Origins: C.H. Berman and the Manuscript Sources," Citeaux: Commentari Cistercienses 51 (2000), pp. 299-386.