"Tête de Moine" as a proper term has been used since about 1790, but the cheese has a much longer history. The monastery of Bellelay was established in 1136 and confirmed by Pope Innozenz II six years later. As early as 1192, or one century before the beginnings of the Swiss Confederation, the monks of the monastery Bellelay were first mentioned in connection with cheese. At that time they paid the annual rent on various properties with cheese made in their abbey. Time and again documents from subsequent centuries mention the use of the valuable cheese as a means of payment.
The oldest description of the Bellelay cheese dates from 1628 and states that a "very fatty milk of impeccable quality from the best grasses and herbs of the country is used". (Source: Brochure of Guido Burkhalter, Der Bellelay Käse (Tête de Moine AOP) und sein Ursprungsgebiet, Schaffhausen, Kühn, 1979, page 16)
During the French Revolution the monks were evicted from the monastery in 1797, but the cheese was still produced in the Royal cheese dairies of the former abbey. By the mid-19th century a farmer from Bellelay, A. Hofstetter, succeeded in boosting production anew when his cheese received awards at the "Concours Universel" of Paris in 1856 and at other trade fairs. Towards the end of the 19th century several village cheese dairies were established. About 10 tons of Tête de Moine AOP were exported to as far away countries as Russia. At the beginning of the 20th century the making of the cheese gradually shifted from the farms to the village dairies, and by 1950 the annual production had increased to 27,000 kg.
The founding of the cheese trade organisation in the 70ties and the invention of the «Girolle®» in 1981 mark another turning point in the history of Tête de Moine AOP.