Trappists, popular name for an order of Roman Catholic monks, officially (since 1892) the Reformed Cistercians or Cistercians of the Stricter Observance. They perpetuate the reform begun at La Trappe, Orne dept., France, by Armand de Rancé (c.1660). The reformer's aim was to restore primitive Cistercian (hence also primitive Benedictine) life; actually the Trappists surpassed both St. Benedict and St. Bernard in austerity. The reform was acclaimed in the world, but many Cistercians resisted it. The whole order was affected, but some abbeys never accepted the reform as such. The life of Trappists is one of strict seclusion from the world. Working hours are devoted to common and private worship, labor (often manual), and study; there is no recreation, meat is eaten only by the sick, and silence is observed except under unusual circumstances, but not by vow. Lay brothers do much of the farming, a peculiarly Cistercian practice. In the 19th and 20th cent. the Trappists shared in the revival of monasticism and expanded greatly. There are 12 abbeys in the United States. The head of the order, the abbot general of Cîteaux, lives in Rome.
See T. Merton, The Silent Life (1957); L. J. Lekai, The Rise of the Cistercian Strict Observance in Seventeenth Century France (1968).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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