Imaginative immersion in the Cistercian Cloister


  • Line Cecilie Engh University of Oslo



Bernard of Clairvaux, blended viewpoint, deictic displacement, lectio divina, liturgical time and space.


This article uses analytical concepts from cognitive science to explore and deepen our understanding of how medieval monastics imagined themselves as characters within biblical narratives. It argues that Cistercian monks - and in particular Bernard of Clairvaux - used techniques of imaginative immersion to enter and blend themselves into biblical viewpoints and events, thereby engaging the monks in epistemically and personally transformative experiences. The article concludes that this served to build community and to enculture monks and converts. Specifically, the article offers a close reading of two of Bernard's liturgical sermons, Sermon Two for Palm Sunday and Sermon Two on the Resurrection, to show how his sermons 1) traverse time and space and 2) blend viewpoints. Examples are also taken from texts by John Cassian, Augustine, Gregory the Great, and William of St. Thierry.

On cover:
Monks singing the Office and decorated initial A[sperges me.]. Gradual Olivetan Master (Use of the Olivetan Benedictines), illuminated manuscript on parchment ca. 1430-1439. Italy, Monastero di Santa Maria di Baggio near Milan, Ca 1400-1775.
Beinecke Ms1184: The olivetan Gradual. Gradual. General Collection, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.




How to Cite

Engh, L. C. . (2019) “Imaginative immersion in the Cistercian Cloister”, Acta ad archaeologiam et artium historiam pertinentia, 31(n.s.17), pp. 133–160. doi: 10.5617/acta.7804.