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A celebrated Cistercian abbey situated in the Diocese of Versailles, Seine-et-Oise, in what was called the "Isle-de-France". In 1118 Simon de Neauffle and his wife Eve donated the land for this foundation to the monks of Savigny, in order to have a monastery built there in honour of the Mother of God and St. John Baptist. Blessed Vital, Abbot of Savigny, accepted their offer, and sent a band of monks under the direction of Arnaud, who became their first abbot. Besides their first benefactors, numerous others of the nobility came to the aid of the new community. As soon as they were well established, many postulants presented themselves for admission, rendering possible the foundation of Breuil-Benoit (1137) in the Diocese of Evreu. In 1148 vaux-de-Cernay, with the entire Congregation of Savigny, entered the Order of Citeaux and became a filiation of Clairvaux. Up to this period their substance was only enough for them to live on, but from this time they became prosperous, built a church in the simple Cistercian style, and little by little, constructed the other regular places. Many of its abbots became well known. Andrew, the fourth, died Bishop of Arras; Guy, the sixth, was the most celebrated, having been delegated by the General Chapter to accompany the Fifth Crusade in 1203. Three years later he was one of the principal figures in the crusade against the Albigenses, in recognition of which service he was made Bishop of Carcasone (1211) and is commemorated in the Cistercian Menology. His nephew Peter, also a monk of Vaux-de-Cernay, accompanied him on this crusade, and left a history of both the heresy and the war. It was under his successor, Abbot Thoas, that Porrois, a monastery of Cistercian nuns (later on the famous Abbey of Port-Royal), was founded and placed under the direction of the abbots of Vaux-de-Cernay. The ninth abbot, Thibault de Marley (1235-47), was canonized and worked many miracles both before and after death. Towards the end of the fourteenth century the monastery began losing its fervour, both on account of too great wealth and because of the disturbed state of the times. But after the introduction of commendatory abbots (1542) there was little left besides the name of monks. In the seventeenth century it was restored in spirit by embracing the Reform of the Strict Observance of Denis Largentier. It was during this time that its commendatory abbot was John Casimir, King of Poland. The monastery was suppressed at the revolution (1791) and its members (twelve priests) dispersed. The buildings, after passing through various hands, are now partly restored and are much admired both by artists and archaeologists.
Gallia Christiana, VII; JONGELINUS, Notitia Abbatiarum, O. Cisterciensis (Cologne, 1640); TISSIER, Bibliotheca Patrum Cisterciensium, VII (Paris, 1669); MERLET and MOUTIER, Cartulaire de l'Abbaye de N. D., des Vaux-de-Cernay, I-III (Paris, 1857-58); MORIZE, Etude archeologique sur l'Abbaye des Vaux-de-Cernay with introduction by DE DION (Tours, 1889); DE DION, Cartulaire de Porrois plus connue sous le nom mystique de Port-Royal (Paris, 1903); BEAUNIER, Recueil historique des archeveches, eveches, abbayes et prieures de France, province ecclesiastique de Paris (Paris, 1905); MANRIQUE, Annales Cistercienses (Lyons, 1642-59); MARTENE and DURAND, Veterum Scriptorum et Monumentorum amplissima collectio, II (Paris, 1724); PETRUS, Historia Albigensium (Troyes, 1615); JANAUSCHEK, Originum Cisterciensium, I (Vienna, 1877).
EDMOND M. OBRECHT