At the end of the 13th century, the Cistercian monks they created a number system that they developed over two more centuries. It occurred mainly in monasteries throughout Europe.

As the BBCAt that time, the Roman numerals, since the Indo-Arabic, which are what we use today, had not yet been adopted. They were gaining ground, but there were still centuries to go before they were the dominant ones.

The Cistercian numbers had the peculiarity that they could represent any number with a single symbol, which made them very popular with the clergy. But they had a shared drawback with Roman numerals: they couldn’t be multiplied or divided.

With the arrival of the printed book and the slow disappearance of the manuscript, the Cistercian numbers fell quickly into oblivion.

But this was not the case throughout the world. Flanders wine meters They continued to use Cistercian numbers to mark volumes on barrels and divisions on their measuring rod scales until the 18th century.

Years later they would return, like when the french masons They used them before the Revolution, or the German nationalists of the 20th century to talk about Germanic folklore.

To create these numbers, the base was a line from which others emerged and formed acute, right and obtuse angles. At first the basic lines were horizontal, but then they evolved and became vertical.

But above all, they had an advantage, as he described Matthew of Paris: “What is most admirable and what we do not find in the case of Roman or Indo-Arabic numerals is that any number can be represented with a single figure.”