Bernard of Clairvaux (Latin: Bernardus Claraevallensis), O.Cist (1090 – 20 August 1153) was born from Tescelin de Fontaine, lord of Fontaine-lès-Dijon, and Alèthe de Montbard, both members of the highest nobility of Burgundy. He was the third of seven children, six of whom were sons. At the age of nine years, he was sent to a school at Châtillon-sur-Seine run by the secular canons of Saint-Vorles. Bernard had a great taste for literature and devoted himself for some time to poetry. His success in his studies won the admiration of his teachers. He wanted to excel in literature in order to take up the study of the Bible. He had a special devotion to the Virgin Mary, and he would later write several works about the Queen of Heaven.

In the year 1111, at the age of 21, Bernard left his home to join the monastic community of Citeaux, after the death of his mother. His five brothers, two uncles, and some 30 young friends followed him into the monastery. Three years later, he was sent to found a new abbey at an isolated clearing in a glen known as the Val d’Absinthe, about 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) southeast of Bar-sur-Aube. According to tradition, Bernard founded the monastery on 25 June 1115, naming it Claire Vallée, which later evolved into Clairvaux, the valley of light. There Bernard would preach an immediate faith, in which the intercessor was the Virgin Mary.

Within four years, a dying community had recovered enough vitality to establish a new house in the nearby valley of Wormwoods, with Bernard as abbot. The zealous young man was quite demanding, though more on himself than others. A slight breakdown of health taught him to be more patient and understanding. Read more…