PETER the VENERABLE
 
(1094–1156)
 

 Abbatial Blessing
 
Illum. MS. 1240

 

 

PETER the VENERABLE (1092 or 1094–1156), eighth Abbot of Cluny. A descendant of the noble family of Montboissier, he was educated at the monastery of Sauxillanges of the congregation of Cluny, and made his profession to its abbot, St Hugh, shortly before the latter’s death in 1109. After being prior at Vézelay and Domène (1120), he was elected abbot of Cluny in 1122. Against much opposition he carried through important reforms, esp. in the financial and educational spheres, in the two general chapters of 1132 and 1146 by enforcing the detailed constitutions which he had drawn up for the congregation. His interest in the pursuit of studies at Cluny brought about a controversy with his intimate friend, St Bernard, who wished to see the monastic life confined to prayer and manual work. In 1130 Peter supported Innocent II against the antipope Anacletus II, himself a Cluniac monk, and in 1140 he gave shelter to Abelard first at Cluny and later at the priory of St-Marcel-de-Chalon. Between his numerous journeys, which took him to Spain in 1142, to Germany in 1147, twice to England, and ten times to Italy, he frequently retired to a hermitage to devote himself to study and meditation. He was the first to have the Koran translated into Latin (completed 1143) and himself wrote against the Muslims. His works, among which are treatises against Peter de Bruys and against the Jews (1144–7), a number of sermons, and some poems, show comparatively little acquaintance with the Fathers but profound knowledge of the Scriptures, and a preference for the literal sense which causes him to avoid allegorical speculations. His moderation and gentleness earned him the veneration of his contemporaries, but in the eyes of posterity he was overshadowed by the great figure of his friend, St Bernard. Though honoured as a saint, he was never canonized. Commemoration in several martyrologies is on 29 Dec.

Collected edn. of his works, Paris, 1522 (very incomplete); further collection, incl. text of statutes of Cluny during his time, in M. Marrier, OSB (ed.), Bibliotheca Cluniacensis (Paris, 1614), cols. 621–1420; works repr., with additions from E. *Martène and elsewhere (details in DTC, see below), in J. P. Migne, PL 189. 61–1054. Crit. edns. of his letters, with introd., by G. Constable (2 vols., Cambridge, Mass., 1967); of his ‘Contra Petrobrusianos Hereticos’ by J. Fearns (CCCM 10; 1968); of his ‘Adversus ludaeorum inveteratam duritiem’ by Y. Friedman (ibid. 58; 1985); of his ‘De miraculis’ by D. Bouthillier (ibid. 83; 1988); and of three of his sermons by G. Constable, in R. Bén. 64 (1954), pp. 224–72. Life by his friend, Rudolphus, pr. from a MS no longer known, in E. Martène, OSB, and U. Durand, OSB (eds.), Veterum Scriptorum et Monumentorum Amplissima Collectio, 6 (Paris, 1729), cols. 1187–202; repr. in J. P. Migne, op. cit., cols. 15–28. Further Life in M. Marrier, op. cit., cols. 589–602, repr. with other biog. material in J. P. Migne, op. cit., cols. 27–62. J. H. Pignot, Histoire de l’ordre de Cluny depuis la fondation de l’abbaye jusqu’à la mort de Pierre-le-Vénérable, 3 (1868), pp. 47–609. Good modern study by J. Leclercq, OSB (‘Figures monastiques’; Abbaye S. Wandrille, 1946), with bibl. Festschrift commemorating the 8th centenary of his death, Petrus Venerabilis, ed. G. Constable and J. Kritzeck (Studia Anselmiana, 40; 1956); Pierre Abélard—Pierre le Vénérable: Les courants philosophiques, littéraires et artistiques en Occident au milieu du XIIe siècle, Abbaye de Cluny, 2 au 9 juillet 1972 (Colloques internationaux du centre national de la recherche scientifique, 546; 1975), esp. pp. 99–269. J. P. Torrell, OP, and D. Bouthillier, Pierre le Vénérable et sa Vision du Monde (SSL 42; 1986). J. Kritzeck, Peter the Venerable and Islam (Princeton Oriental Studies, 23; 1964), incl. text of his writings against the Muslims. A. *Wilmart, OSB, ‘Le Poème apologétique de Pierre le Vénérable et les poèmes connexes’, R. Bén. 51 (1939), pp. 53–69. H. Hoffmann, ‘Zu den Briefen des Petrus Venerabilis’, Quellen und Forschungen aus Italienischen Archiven und Bibliotheken, 49 (1969), pp 399–441; 50 (1970), pp. 447–9. A. H. Bredero, Cluny et Cîteaux au douzième siècle: L’Histoire d’une controverse monastique (Amsterdam and Maarssen, 1985), passim. M. D. *Knowles, ‘Peter the Venerable’, Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, 39 (1956–7), pp. 132–45. Manitius, 3, pp. 136–44. P. Séjourné, OSB, in DTC 12 (pt. 2; 1935), cols. 2065–81; J. Hourlier, OSB, in Dict. Sp. 12 (pt. 2; 1986), cols. 1669–76, both s.v. ‘Pierre le Vénérable’.

 


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