The Cistercians in Medieval Mining
The Importance of their Monasteries for Mining and Smelting in the Harz Region
Both in the Middle Ages and subsequently, the establishment and spread of the Cistercian order as one of the most important spiritual and religious phenomena of the 12th century had a substantial economic impact. The order also played a significant part in mining in the High Middle Ages. The history and records of the monasteries involved in mining are therefore very important for the history of medieval mining. Although the sources handed down are only fragmentary in some areas, the typical cultivation of the art of writing in monasteries led to source texts which are in many cases completely or largely missing in the records of the nobility, knightly families or town merchants otherwise engaged in mining.
Three basic elements in the structure of the Cistercian order essentially determined its mining activities. Apart from a particular work ethic characterising the Cistercian movement during its establishment and expansion, they included the monastery's management of its own economic affairs as a key factor in the practice of religion as well as the specific institution of lay brethren.
On this basis, the role of Cistercians in European mining is outlined and, in particular, the question discussed whether the monasteries themselves are to be regarded as the mine operators. Then the mining industry in the Harz region as an important ore-mining area in the Middle Ages is analysed in the light of the Cistercian monasteries of Goslar (Neuwerk) and Walkenried.