While our physical offices are closed until further notice in accordance with Austin's COVID-19 "stay home-work safe" order, the Handbook of Texas will remain available at no-cost for you, your fellow history enthusiasts, and all Texas students currently mandated to study from home. If you have the capacity to help us maintain our online Texas history resources during these uncertain times, please consider making a 100% tax-deductible contribution today. Thank you for your support of TSHA and Texas history. Donate Today »


Bede K. Lackner

CISTERCIAN FATHERS. Our Lady of Dallas Abbey, the home of the Cistercians in Texas, is located in Irving off Highway 114, near Texas Stadium, Las Colinas, and the University of Dallas. It comprises thirty-six acres dotted with elevations and mesquite trees, and its brick buildings exhibit both modern and traditional architectural features. Its chapel, built in the early 1990s, is a massive limestone building with no veneers and few modern features; according to one critic, "the Cistercian church evokes 900 years of history, scholarship and prayer." The members of the community dedicate themselves exclusively to the love of God and the service of their fellow men. To be undivided in their loyalties they renounce marriage and individual ownership and subordinate their wills to the higher ideals of their institution. They belong to the world-wide Cistercian order, hence are called Cistercians. The name derives from Citeaux (in Latin, Cistercium), their parent abbey in Burgundy, founded as a reform branch of the Benedictine order in 1098. The Cistercians, who adopted the white habit and black scapular, quickly spread over all of Europe and influenced medieval life in numerous ways. Their constitutional document, the Charter of Charity, is said to have inspired parliamentary government. The Cistercians in Irving came from the abbey of Zirc in western Hungary, founded in 1182. Upon higher request, Zirc, cloistered at first, accepted full educational and teaching responsibilities in the latter part of the eighteenth century. Afterward the monk-priests also acquired academic degrees in the liberal arts and taught in one of the five modern college preparatory schools of the abbey. They trained generations of prominent public figures and intellectual leaders.

Hungarian monks living in the United States after the Communist takeover were invited by Bishop Thomas Gorman to the Diocese of Dallas-Fort Worth. They moved into their own monastery, built on the campus of the University of Dallas, in 1958. Five years later their priory was raised to the status of an abbey. Since then, buildings have multiplied on their grounds, and American vocations have increased their ranks. The Irving Cistercians follow a rigorous daily schedule. Their communal prayer life includes the recitation of the monastic office, made up largely of psalms, and on Sundays they also chant traditional Gregorian melodies. As teachers, they staff their own Cistercian Preparatory School for boys grades five through twelve, built on their premises in 1963, or serve as teachers or administrators at the University of Dallas. They carry out their priestly ministry in the abbey, as well as in parishes, convents, and military bases of the metropolitan area.

Individually, the monks are well-versed in languages and have earned advanced degrees in the classics, modern languages, science, history, music, philosophy, and theology. Some have published scholarly books and articles, given talks on a variety of subjects, or cultivated the fine arts on a highly professional level. Thus one can see attractive sculptures, paintings, ceramics, and prints all over the monastery. Collectively, the Cistercians contribute their spirituality, achievements, and cosmopolitan enthusiasm to the culture of North Texas.

Dallas Morning News, May 29, 1992. Louis J. Lekai, The Cistercians: Ideals and Reality (Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1977). Louis J. Lekai, "Hungarian Cistercians in America," Records of the American Catholic Historical Society of Philadelphia 79 (December 1968).

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Bede K. Lackner, "CISTERCIAN FATHERS," accessed July 12, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/ixc05.

Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...