Bernard was the son of Tescelin, Lord of Fontaines, and Aleth of Montbard, both belonging to the highest nobility of Burgundy – he had five brothers and one sister.
When he was 19, his mother died and he sought admission into the Cistercian order at Cîteaux Abbey, near Dijon.
Three years later, Bernard was sent with a band of twelve monks to found a new house at Vallée d’Absinthe, in the Diocese of Langres. This Bernard named Claire Vallée, or Clairvaux, on 25 June 1115, and the names of Bernard and Clairvaux would soon become inseparable.
The white dog refers to a vison his mother had when she was pregnant with Bernard. Shortly before his birth she saw him as a white dog with a reddish back which was interpreted to be Bernard as the watchdog of God.