Early in the year 1098, Robert, Abbot of Molesme, age seventy, set out on a high adventure. As a seeker for the roots of a contemplative life his curiosity had led him to one monastery after another.  He had led the monks of Collan  to Molesme and into the "hard and rough" ways of St Benedict.  There they began "to run in the way with indescribable sweetness," and the fame of the abbey they developed at Molesme rapidly spread. The monastery was then blessed not only with an abundance of good candidates but also with many rich benefactions. The new-found wealth, or rather the care of it, soon softened the way the monks of Molesme lived the Rule of Benedict.
Once again Robert longed for something purer, poorer, more simple. He was not alone in this. The better formed of his disciples, his prior Alberic, his subprior the Englishman Stephen Harding, and about twenty other devoted disciples were with him.  Without counting the cost led these monks into the wilderness of Citeaux.
Citeaux, even though they called it an eremo, was not a desert in the sense we would usually give that word. It was not a particularly attractive place, and it was far enough from the ordinary byways of the world. The pioneers knew poverty and hardship as they struggled to begin the New Monastery, the name they gave their foundation.
There was no intention on Robert's part to start a new order or even a new monastic observance as such. He and his followers only wanted to live the Rule of Saint Benedict with a certain fullness. By practicing a greater poverty they hoped to keep themselves from many of the entanglements with the secular society that land holding and benefices created.