Used widely by religious communities in the Middle Ages, it fell out of style when printing became widespread.
Before the Arabic system became cemented as the world standard of numbers, there were Roman numerals. Each conquered nation adopted the Romans’ counting style, spreading the system across Europe and into Asia. The system is not without its difficulties, however, and some folks strove to make a simpler, easier to follow system. That’s where medieval Cistercian monks came in.
From the 13th to 15th centuries the Cistercian monks of Europe developed and used a brand-new numeral system. Called Cistercian numerals, this counting method is notable for its incredibly condensed form. Just a few lines could record any number from 1-9999. At a glance the system can seem dizzying, but the numbers don’t lie — they’re just hard for us to understand.