Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance

The Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance (OCSOOrdo Cisterciensis Strictioris Observantiae) is a Catholic religious order of cloistered contemplative monastics who follow the Rule of St. Benedict. A branch of the Cistercian Order, they have communities of both monks and nuns, commonly referred to as Trappists and Trappistines, respectively.


The order takes its name from La Trappe Abbey or La Grande Trappe, located in the Frenchprovince of Normandy. A reform movement began there in 1664, in reaction to the relaxation of practices in many Cistercian monasteries.[1] Armand Jean le Bouthillier de Rancé, originally the commendatory abbot of La Trappe, led the reform. As commendatory abbot, de Rancé was a layman who obtained income from the monastery but had no religious obligations. After a conversion of life between 1660 and 1662, de Rancé formally joined the abbey and became its regular abbot in 1663.[2] In 1892, several congregations of reformed or „Trappist” Cistercians were united to form an independent monastic order with the approval of the pope.[3]

General Abbots[edit]

Sébastien Wyart, 1st General Abbot of the Trappists between 1892–1904.

  1. 1892–1904: Sébastien Wyart
  2. 1904–1922: Augustin Marre
  3. 1922–1929: Jean-Baptiste Ollitraut de Keryvallan
  4. 1929–1943: Herman-Joseph Smets
  5. 1943–1951: Dominique Nogues
  6. 1951–1963: Gabriel Sortais
  7. 1964–1974: Ignace Gillet
  8. 1974–1990: Ambroise Southey
  9. 1990–2008: Bernardo-Luis-José Oliveira
  10. 2008–current: Eamon Fitzgerald

Monastic life[edit]

Trappist monks in Pertapaan Rawaseneng, Indonesia, are celebrating Terce.

A Trappist novice reading in his cell.

The Rule of St. Benedict, written in the sixth century, guides the lives of Trappists and describes the ideals and values of a monastic life.

„Strict Observance” refers to the Trappists’ goal of following closely St. Benedict’s Rule and taking the three vows described in his Rule (c. 58): stability, fidelity to monastic life, and obedience. Benedict’s insistence on lack of speech has some impact on their way of life, though (contrary to popular belief) they do not take a vow of silence.[4] Trappist monks generally speak only when necessary; thus idle talk is strongly discouraged. According to St. Benedict, speech disturbs a disciple’s quietude and receptivity, and may tempt one to exercise one’s own will instead of the will of God. Speech that leads to unkind amusement or laughter is seen as evil and is banned.[5]A Trappist sign language, distinct from other forms of monastic sign language, has developed to render speaking unnecessary. Meals are usually taken in contemplative silence as members of the order are supposed to listen to a reading.[6]

Comparing with the Benedictines and the Cistercians,[7][8] Trappists fully abstain from meat as regards „four-footed animals”.[9] While living as vegetarians,[10] they may sometimes eat fish and their diet mostly consists of „vegetables, beans, and grain products”.[9]

Though each monastery is autonomous and may have different rules, generally the stages to enter the Trappist life can be described as follows:[11]

  • Candidate/observership: candidates or observers visit a monastery and consult the vocation director and/or the superior to help them discern their vocation. Usually they will be asked to live in the monastery for a short period of time, at least one month.
  • Postulancy: candidates live as a member of the monastery as a postulant for some months, they are guided by the novice director.
  • Novitiate: postulants will be clothed with the monastic habit and are formally received as a member of this order. Novices are still guided by the novice director, and they undergo this stage for two years.
  • After novitiate, novices may take temporary vows. They will live this stage for three to nine years to deepen study, practicing the Gospel in the monastic way and integration within the society.
  • After finishing the previous stage, the professed members may take final vows for their entire life.

Goods produced[edit]

The 48th chapter of the Rule of St. Benedict states „for then are they monks in truth, if they live by the work of their hands”.[12] Following this rule, most Trappist monasteries produce goods that are sold to provide income for the monastery.

The goods produced range from cheeses, bread and other foodstuffs to clothing and coffins, though they are most famous[13] for Trappist beers, which are unique within the beer world,[14] and are lauded for their high quality and flavour.[15] Monasteries in Belgium and the Netherlands, such as Orval Abbey and Westvleteren Abbey, brew beer both for the monks themselves and for sale to the general public. (The TRAPPIST telescope of the University of Liège is named in honour of the beer.)[16][17] Trappist beers contain residual sugars and living yeast, and, unlike conventional beers, will improve with age.[18] Westvleteren 12 is often considered to be the single best beer in the world.[19]

The Trappist monks of the Tre Fontane (Three Fountains) Abbey raise the lambs whose wool is used to make the pallia of new metropolitan archbishops. The pope blesses the pallia on the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Holy Apostles; the metropolitan archbishops receive those pallia in a separate ceremony within their home dioceses from the hands of the Apostolic Nuncio (who is the personal representative of the pope in their respective countries).

In the town of Spencer, MA, American Trappists produce the first and only certified Trappist beer in the United States at Spencer Brewery. It is named in the Trappist tradition for the town in which it operates. The brewery is kept so meticulously that it also claims a status as the only pharmaceutical grade brewery in North America.


There are nearly 170 Trappist monasteries and convents in the world, homes to approximately 2,100 Trappist monks and 1,800 Trappistine nuns.[20]



Church interior of the Pertapaan Santa Maria Rawaseneng, TemanggungIndonesia

Latroun Abbey, LatrounIsrael


Latin America[edit]

  • Argentina Abadía Nuestra Señora de los Angeles in AzulArgentina (Monks)
  • Argentina Monasterio de la Madre de Cristo Hermanas Trapenses in Hinojo, Argentina (Nuns)
  • Brazil Mosteiro Trapista Nossa Senhora da Boa Vista in Rio NegrinhoBrazil (Nuns)
  • Brazil Nossa Senhora do Novo Mundo in Campo do Tenente, Brazil (Monks)
  • Chile Monasterio Sta Maria de Miraflores in RancaguaChile (Monks)
  • Chile Monasterio Nuestra Señora de Quilvo in Curicó, Chile (Nuns)
  • Dominican Republic Monasterio Santa Maria del Evangelio in JarabacoaDominican Republic (Monks)
  • Ecuador Monasterio de Santa María de la Esperanza in Esmeraldas, Ecuador (Nuns)
  • Ecuador Monasterio de Santa María del Paraíso in LatacungaEcuador (Monks)
  • Mexico Abadía Madre de Dios El Encuentro Rincón de San Jerónimo in Ciudad HidalgoMexico (Nuns)
  • Mexico Monasterio Cisterciense Virgen del Curutarán in Jacona, Mexico (Monks)
  • Nicaragua Monasterio Santa Maria de la Paz in Santo TomásNicaragua (Nuns)
  • Venezuela Monasterio N.S. de Coromoto in El TocuyoVenezuela (Nuns)
  • Venezuela Monasterio Nuestra Señora de los Andes in El Vigía, Venezuela (Monks)

North America[edit]

Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, Georgia, USA