Using the example of five monasteries, the film explores the artistic and cultural heritage of the Cistercian order in Italy. It shows how the materials of the Po Valley can be found in the Chiaravalle Milanese Abbey and how the art of the famous painter and builder Giotto was able to penetrate the usually stark rooms of a Cistercian church. In the buildings of the big abbeys of Lazio, influences of Burgundy are mixed with the traditions of local craftsmen. But the film also focuses on the monks representing the order today and regular visitors who try to leave their every day life behind and find some peace and quiet.
The Cistercian order was founded in 1098 in Burgundy, France. Starting with the initial abbey, Cîteaux Abbey, the order soon became a Europe-wide active Christian order with a very strict set of rules. In search of spiritual renewal the Cistercians created architectural masterpieces, which became the vanguards of gothic architecture. Their abbeys are fixed points of reference in our European cultural landscape and reflect the history of a religious movement that still exists today. The film will focus on Pontigny Abbey, La Trappe Abbey in Normandy and the world heritage site Fontenay.
Within 200 years the Cistercians founded 650 abbeys worldwide. In the twelfth century alone they founded 91 abbeys for men and 15 abbeys for women only on the territory that is modern day Germany. During the Middle Ages joining an Abbey could have been seen as an emancipatory act for women, as it was a way to avoid the rule of men. Women’s abbeys were also the only places at the time, where girls had the opportunity to learn to read and write. The film is exploring Cistercian history in Germany and focuses on, amongst others, the three still active abbeys: Waldsassen Abbey in Bavaria, St. Marienstern Abbey in Saxony and Wienhausen Abbey in Lower Saxony.