Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Why You Should Be Grateful for the Cistercians

There are those who argue that religion has produced only evil and that no good has come from it. Such a position is not really tenable, but consider this:

It was the Cistercian order of monks in the eleventh century who, following St. Benedict (AD 480-543), insisted on the self-sufficiency of the monasteries. But they moved away from population centers to marginal land. To achieve this, they kept records of what worked and exchanged information with other monasteries. So successful were they that by the end of the twelfth century, they had 530 houses, each a factory, all over Europe. They help spread waterwheels and were especially expert at sheep herding and wool production. This helped improve both commerce and the quality of life in Europe. James Burke (Connections, 89-113) shows how the development of the computer was dependent on the works of the Cistercian monks. If you are reading this, you can thank the Cistercians.