Cistercian Expansion and Industrial Water Mill Infrastructure in Twelfth-Century France: An Unrecognized Dependency



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Cistercians have long been linked with the development and use of industrial water mill technology, but current scholarship downplays this interrelationship. The argument presented here is that the success of the Cistercian Order in twelfth-century France and Europe depended upon the incorporation and use of industrial water mill infrastructure and technology that existed in France prior to the Order’s foundation in 1098. Evidence for the presence of pre-existing hydraulic resources in France, the development of a Cistercian technological system centered on the incorporation and use of these resources, as well as an explanation of St. Bernard’s role in perpetuating an architectural and technological model throughout the Order based upon his own monastery of Clairvaux that incorporated hydraulic infrastructure into its design will be presented here. Taken together, this evidence demonstrates the dependency of the Order on these pre-existing resources.



Cistercian, Medieval, Technology, France, Water-mill, Power