The Cistercians are an order of monks and nuns that arose in the twelfth century to foster the integral observance of the rule of Benedict of Nursia (d. 525). The order takes its name from the first community to adopt the reform, the Abbey of Cïteaux in Burgundy, France. Benedict's Rule for Monasteries, written around the year 500, became virtually the exclusive rule for monasteries in western Europe after the time of Charlemagne (d. 814). With the foundation of Cluny in 909, a reform to bring about a more observant monastic practice was effectively forwarded by a succession of great, holy, and long-lived abbots; however, this was achieved at the cost of local autonomy and the balance of liturgy, sacred reading, personal prayer, and manual work that is so characteristic of Benedict's Rule. At Cluny and many of its dependent monasteries, the liturgy was celebrated with great splendor and duration, while manual labor became for the monks a nominal exercise.

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