Peter the Venerable (1092 or 1094-1156)


PETER THE VENERABLE. Pierre Maurice de Montboisier, called "the Venerable," was b. in Auvergne, France, 1092 [94], and d. Christmas Day, 1156 [58], at Cluny. FIe was the seventh son of Maurice, Lord of Montboisier, and of Ringarde his wife. Four of his brothers betame ecelesiastics also; and one, Armannus, was prior of Cluny. At seventeen years of age Peter became a monk of Cluny, and at thirty (1122) he was elected abbot. He reformed the abbey, and established good management in all its distracted affairs. His rules are extant, and speak abundantly for his judgment, which was sorely tried by the return of Pontius, the previous abbot, who had been forced to go on a pilgrimage to Palestine, and resign his office. After a sharp struggle, Peter was sustained in his rule. His name of "the Venerable" was derived from his largeness of body and mind, his benevolent face, and his Christian charity. Bernard of Cluny was probably his prior. Peter was the first to acknowledge Innocent II. as pope, against Anacletus, his rival claimant, who had in fact been a Cluniac monk. This just and generous attitude is in strong contrast to that of Innocent and of St. Bernard, who seeni equally to have disregarded Peter and his motives. To meet their insinuations against laxity of discipline, he called a general chapter of his order (Benedictines), at which "two hundred priors and a thousand ecclesiastics" were present, who supported him in a more stringent rule Peter’s writings embrace Epistles (lib. 6. 22, to Heloise, being notably fine), and Tracts against the Petrobrusians, ,Jews, and Mohammedans,1 together with a few Hymns and Sequences. His principal claims to modern honor lie (1) in his having secured a Latin translation of the Koran through his own labors and those of some of his monks; (2) in his kind treatment of Abelard, whom he received after his defeat by Bernard, and ten4erly cared for until he died, and whose body lie delivered to Heloise; and (3) in his hymn "Mortis, portis, fractms, fortis," on the resurrection. This is the conjectured original of Bishop Heber’s "God is gone up with a merry noise." Peter was decidedly broader and more genial than his age and surroundings, but his writings are of slight value. Fl. lllyricus quotes him, however, as one of his "witnesses." He was but a poor Latinist; yet, in his sermon on the transfiguration, he displays real rhetorical power. His burial was beside his comrade, Henry of Blois, Bishop of Winchester, within the church at Cluny.

1 An inaccurate, offensive and obsolete name for Muslims. It should not be used by modern writers.
Samuel W. Duffield, "Peter the Venerable." Philip Schaff, ed., A Religious Encyclopaedia or Dictionary of Biblical, Historical, Doctrinal, and Practical Theology, 3rd edn, Vol. 4. Toronto, New York & London: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1894. p.1819. Footnote mine.

Primary Sources

Book or monograph J.M. Wallace-Hadrill, translator. The Fourth Book of the Chronicle of Fredegar with its Continuations. New York: Nelson, 1960. pp.97-121.

Secondary Sources

Book or monograph Gillian R. Knight, The Correspondence Between Peter the Venerable and Bernard of Clairvaux. Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2002. Hbk. ISBN: 075460067X. pp.220. {}

Related Subjects
Peter Abelard | Aelfric | Alcuin |Anselm | Augustine of Canterbury | Thomas Becket | Bede | Benedict | Bernard of Clairvaux | Boniface | Thomas Bradwardine | Bruno | Catherine of Siena | Charlemagne | Charles Martel | Clare | Clovis | Columba | Dominic | Duns Scotus | Dunstan | Meister Eckhart | Desiderius Erasmus | Francis of Assisi | Gottschalk | Gregory I | Gregory of Rimini | Gregory of Tours | Hildegard of Bingen | Hugo of St Victor | Ignatius Loyola | Innocent III | Isidore | Joachim of Fiore | John Huss | John of Wesel | Jerome of Prague | Julian of Norwich | Marjory Kempe | Ramon Llull | Nicholas of Cusa | Nicholas of Lyre | Patrick | Pepin (Pippin III) | Peter Damian | Peter Lombard | Peter the Venerable | Photius | Richard Rolle | Scholastica | Thomas Aquinas | Wilfred | William of Ockham | William of St-Theirry | John Wycliffe