# Cistercian Numbers

In the early thirteenth century, the Cistercian monastic order developed the medieval Cistercian numerals, also known as “ciphers” in the nineteenth century. This occurred around the same time that Arabic numerals were introduced to northwestern Europe.

The Cistercian numerals are more compact than Arabic or Roman numerals, with a single symbol capable of representing any integer from 1 to 9,999. They are based on a horizontal or vertical stave, with the position of the digit on the stave indicating its place value (units, tens, hundreds, or thousands). These digits are compounded on a single stave to indicate more complex numbers.

Despite their initial adoption, the Cistercians eventually abandoned the system in favor of Arabic numerals. However, marginal use outside the order continued until the early twentieth century.

One interesting feature of these is that there is no 0 (zero) glyph. Simply the absence of a number indicates zero.

It gets more interesting when you turn it 90 degrees counter-clockwise. The use of dot instead of floating lines and boxes adds to the character of the numbers.