The Cistercians
Cistercians are Benedictine monks. Monk is a basic human stance towards life, towards all reality. There are many kinds or congregations of monks within the Catholic and Christian tradition.   Monks are also found among almost all, if not all the great religious traditions.
In some traditions monasticism plays a very important, almost central role. Monasticism is seen as being at the very heart of the Orthodox Church. Mount Athos, the small monastic republic in northeastern Greece, is revered as the centre of Orthodox spiritual life." All Orthodox bishops must be chosen from among the ranks of the monastics.
Among the Hindus, especially in India, the size of the monastic population is extraordinary. Monasticism is seen as the ordinary culmination of the human journey and, indeed, the only way to escape from the wheel of reincarnation and attain final and lasting bliss. Among the Buddhists, monks hold a most honoured position.  In some Buddhist countries every male is expected to spend some time, however brief it may be, as a monk. In theory this acknowledges a deep reality and affords the opportunity for some intense spiritual training for life. In practice it too often becomes a mere formality undermining the real significance of monasticism. Be that as it may, monasticism is very present throughout the Buddhist world.
Monasticism is essentially a response to an inner call or compulsion.  There is a demand deep within all of  us, in response to some kind of an experience, to live a radical "yes" to what is ultimate. There is at the root of a lived monasticism an experience that has called for a redirection. There is a conversion.. In some way we want to know the goal of all human existence. And we know that it is and yet in some way is not yet within us. There is a tension. There is a need that calls forth a certain commitment.
The monk is one who is committed, almost driven, to be present to the ultimate meaning of life in such a way that we let go of and even renounce all that is not necessary to our doing this. The monk seeks the unum necessarium, the one thing necessary, the pearl of great worth–the greatest worth, the treasure of life. The monk seeks to concentrate all on this one single and ultimate goal.
Every human person seeks to find his true self, to be at one with himself, something that can be found only at the very centre, at the ground of our being where we are in some way one with the ultimate Source of Life and come forth from that Source. Monks and nuns commit themselves, usually in some public manner, to developing in an exemplary way according to his particular cultural and religious environment the deepest core of his human-ness. They commit them selves to an uncompromising search for contact with a cosmic creator.
Our modern age reflects on monasticism mainly in terms of 'how' questions. Information is provided about Cistercian architecture, the day to day organisation of the abbey's affairs, and the political interactions that led to growth and dissolution.  However, once articulated in a particular place the spiritual network cannot be ignored as a framework to articulate objectives of landscape management that have a bearing on preservation of physical remains, access to sites and organisation of routes for pilgrimage.  It is the latter notional structures that allow people to return to the 'why, questions that produced the Cistercian Order.