'My thoughts on the spiritual exercises proper to cloistered monks'; the ninth prior of La Grande Chartreuse (†1180) articulates the monastic contemplative tradition in distinctively western terms. '...reading, meditation, prayer and contemplation. These make a ladder for monks by which they are lifted up from earth to heaven. It has few rungs, yet its length is immense and wonderful, for its lower end rests upon the earth, but its top pierces the clouds and seeks heavenly secrets.'
The fifth prior of the Grande Chartreuse, Guigo I was esteemed as 'a prior worthy of eternal fame', a prudent man and immensely erudite in both secular and sacred studies. His personal reflections on Holy Scripture take the form of a spiritual journey in which he blends theology and personal experience, daily practicality and ascetic insight, in a way both typical of twelfth-century reformed monasticism and uniquely carthusian.
'A mirror for the diligent, a gad-fly for the indolent', one Benedictine called the Cistercians of his day. Although cistercian studies have flourished over the past quarter century, most attention has been directed to events and literature of the second generation, the Age of Saint Bernard. Here, in commemoration of the nine-hundredth anniversary of the foundation of 'the new monastery' in 1098, documents from and studies on the earliest cistercian years have been assembled to introduce readers to the 'first founders of this church' at Citeaux.