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Who are the Trappists?

The Trappists are a Catholic religious order known for their contemplative lifestyle, dedicated to prayer and self-sufficiency. Often recognized for their artisanal products, like the world-renowned Trappist beer, they live in monastic communities, embracing silence and labor as spiritual acts. Discover how their centuries-old traditions continue to thrive in a fast-paced world and what we might learn from their mindful way of life.
Sheri Cyprus
Sheri Cyprus

Trappists is the more familiar name of the Order of Cistercians of Strict Observance (OCSO). The Roman Catholic Trappists OCSO began in 1664 at the Abbey of Notre Dame de la Grande Trappe in Normandy, France. The monks are known as Trappists, while the nuns are known as Trappistines. The Rule of St. Benedict guides the values of the Trappists and Trappistines. The sixth century Rule of St. Benedict was written by the Benedict of Nursia and is based on pax, or peace, and labora, or work and prayer.

The Trappists and Trappistines believe that a service to Christ means a simple, hard working lifestyle away from the mainstream population. Monastic communities are usually small and have only about 25 people in each community. Over 2,500 Trappists and 1,800 Trappestines belong to the OCSO.

Seven Trappist monasteries, six in Belgium and one in the Netherlands, brew and sell beer with the Trappist logo.
Seven Trappist monasteries, six in Belgium and one in the Netherlands, brew and sell beer with the Trappist logo.

Trappists and Trappistines spend most of their time praying, meditating, reading Scriptures and working in community service. Trappists and Trappistines devote their lives to God. Peaceful silence and thoughtfulness are important to Trappists and Trappistines living in monasteries.

Trappists and Trappistines do not take a vow of silence. However, as part of the OCSO, they do promise to convert to monastic life and to control their tongue. The OCSD believes in communication, not through constant conversation, but by behaving in a friendly and thoughtful manner. Trappists and Trappistines usually save conversations for special occasions or for reasons having to do with spiritual or work discussions.

Monks are trappists, while nuns are called trappistines.
Monks are trappists, while nuns are called trappistines.

A guest house is sometimes available at many Trappist monasteries. Guests interested in learning more about the monastic lifestyle may arrange ahead of time to stay in a guest house as long as they receive the approval from the Trappists. Often, the guests are those who feel a calling to serve God in a monastery and want to try the lifestyle out before taking the big step of converting to monastic life.

Trappist monks still make beer in the Netherlands.
Trappist monks still make beer in the Netherlands.

Seven Trappist monasteries, six in Belgium and one in the Netherlands, brew and sell beer with the Trappist logo. The logo signifies that the beer was made under the control of the Trappists and sold not for profit, but for assistance in monastic projects. The logo was created by the Trappists to stop non-Trappists from using the Trappist name on their products. The Trappists also produce wine and cheese.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who are the Trappists and what is their origin?

The Trappists, officially known as the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance, are a Roman Catholic religious order that originated from the Cistercian monastery of La Trappe, France. They follow the Rule of St. Benedict and are known for their commitment to a life of strict asceticism and contemplation. The order was founded in 1664 when the abbot of La Trappe felt that the Cistercian order had become too relaxed and sought to return to a stricter observance of Benedictine life.

What is the Trappists' way of life?

Trappists live a monastic life of prayer, silence, and work. They adhere to the principles of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Their daily routine includes several hours of communal prayers, including the chanting of the Liturgy of the Hours, as well as periods of silent meditation and manual labor. The work is often related to self-sustenance, such as farming, cheese-making, and brewing beer. This labor not only supports the monastery but also allows them to donate to the poor, aligning with their ethos of self-sufficiency and charity.

How do Trappist monks contribute to the economy?

Trappist monks contribute to the economy primarily through the production and sale of goods such as cheese, bread, and beer. Trappist breweries, in particular, are renowned worldwide for their high-quality beers. According to the International Trappist Association, there are 14 Trappist breweries worldwide, and their products carry the "Authentic Trappist Product" label, ensuring they meet strict criteria for quality and authenticity. The revenue generated supports the monasteries' operations and charitable activities.

Can women be Trappists?

Yes, women can be Trappists. Female members of the Order are known as Trappistines. They live in separate monasteries and follow the same Rule of St. Benedict as their male counterparts. The Trappistine nuns also engage in similar monastic practices, including prayer, silence, and work, and they often produce goods for sale to support their communities and charitable efforts.

What is the significance of Trappist silence?

Trappist silence is a fundamental aspect of their spiritual practice. It is believed to foster a contemplative environment, allowing monks and nuns to focus on their inner spiritual life and connection with God. Silence helps reduce distractions and creates a space for deep reflection and prayer. It is also seen as a form of discipline that helps cultivate self-control and mindfulness, essential qualities for their ascetic way of life.

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Discussion Comments

Vincenzo

@Melonlity -- I honestly don't see how. Alcohol, in and of itself, is typically considered evil by the more conservative protestant denominations. Catholics have never viewed alcohol as evil and, in fact, it is not uncommon to see priests enjoying a drink at a wedding or some other special occasion.

Remember that Christ's first miracle was turning water into wine and that might give you some idea of how wine fits into the Bible. And the Lord's Supper? Wine was served there and that practice is duplicated by Catholics at communion.

I believe the emphasis in the Catholic church is to teach people to not abuse alcohol. If they have a drink here and there, that is fine. Being a drunkard, however, is not fine.

Melonlity

It has always fascinated me that monasteries produce beer and wine. Isn't that suspect in a Biblical sense? I mean, I realize that making beer and wine is a great way for monasteries to raise money, but it would seem that practice breaks a few taboos.

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    • Seven Trappist monasteries, six in Belgium and one in the Netherlands, brew and sell beer with the Trappist logo.
      By: juan35mm
      Seven Trappist monasteries, six in Belgium and one in the Netherlands, brew and sell beer with the Trappist logo.
    • Monks are trappists, while nuns are called trappistines.
      By: Patrick Hermans
      Monks are trappists, while nuns are called trappistines.
    • Trappist monks still make beer in the Netherlands.
      By: Ruslan Olinchuk
      Trappist monks still make beer in the Netherlands.