The History of Port Salut / Saint Paulin
The Trappist name was originally given to the monks from the LaTrappe Abbey in Normandy. This Cistercian order is best known for their self sufficiency and production of fine food/beverages within the Abbey grounds. They are known best for their jams, honeys, liqueur, and Trappist beers even today.
Several of these Abbeys had developed through France and the rest of Europe prior to the French Revolution, but with the upheaval of the revolution the monks were forced to leave France (13 February 1790, all religious orders were dissolved). Prior to the French Revolution, the Abbeys were major landholders and supported themselves and their works through the tributes and tithes due these Monastic centers in return for land leases. Cheese was included as payments, as a means to preserve the milk from these leaseholders and hence, the Abbeys did not make it.
The monks from the LaTrappe Abbey fled with their Abbot Dom Augustine de Lestranges to Switzerland. During this exile, they learned the essentials of making this cheese as a means to support themselves. Upon their return in 1815, they brought their cheese making with them and they built the Monastery of Notre Dame du Port du Salut in Entrammes, France. Here, they also began to make and evolve this cheese they had learned to produce in Switzerland. The cheese they produced is naturally named after their monastery. It was these monks that refined the bacterial rinds that now are signature to many of our aromatic cheeses like this. Similar cheeses are collectively known today as Trappist cheeses.
For many years, and well up into the 20th century, Port du Salut was a very respected cheese and sold well in Paris and throughout France. However, the demands of the government to make changes in their production, plus the costs of upgrading their facility, eventually caused the monks to cease producing this cheese. The rights to production were eventually sold to one of the larger cheese factories and the name is still held by them, but the process is much different today (noted primarily by the very orange dyed rinds).
Fortunately for all cheese lovers, the process was also passed on to other Abbeys and Convents and similar cheeses are still made the traditional way in France, as well as in Canada, the US, and Denmark. But that and the stories of it all will be saved for another time. One of the names that evolved was Saint Paulin, since Port Salut was now only available to the new industrial owners.