The Center for Cistercian and Monastic Studies encourages and facilitates research on all aspects of the Cistercian tradition and in the broader field of religious traditions. The center sponsors sessions at the International Congress on Medieval Studies and collaborates with the University Libraries on digitization projects. Through the center, the Medieval Institute offers a Graduate Certificate in the History of Monastic Movements, which is open to students enrolled in a graduate degree program at Western Michigan University. The center's advisory board meets annually at the International Congress on Medieval Studies. The center's current interim director is Susan Steuer, professor, University Libraries.
The center is currently developing two digital projects. The Monastic Gazetteer is planned as an interactive map that will chart the geographic scope of monastic movements (beginning with Western monasticism) over time and provide tools for analysis and scholarly communication. The Janauschek Portal is a collaborative effort with the Verein zur Gründung und Förderung der "Europäischen Akademie für Cistercienserforschung" im ehemaligen Kloster Lehnin and the compilers of Cistopedia: Encyclopedia Cisterciensis. The portal is intended to provide access to unpublished manuscript material on Cistercian monasteries compiled by Leopold Janauschek (1827-1898), author of "Originum Cisterciensium," volume 1 (1877) and "Bibliographia Bernardina" (1891). This material includes the notes for the unpublished second volume of the "Originum," which was to focus upon foundations for women.
The Center sponsored six sessions of papers at the 51st Congress on a variety of topics pertaining to the medieval history of the Cistercian order, and the center offered an additional three panels on Thursday, May 12, at the Lee Honors College on WMU's campus: "Developing Cistercian Religion and Community," "Cistercian Networks and Technologies" and "A Roundtable Discussion on the Role of Silence in Religious Discipline." The sessions were organized by Susan Steuer.
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The center was established in 2010 as a research center under the aegis of the Medieval Institute as the successor to the Institute of Cistercian Studies, which had been founded in 1973 as a cooperative venture between Western Michigan University and Cistercian Publications, Inc.