12th Century
Bernard of Cluny

Introduction

Born: Early 12th Cen­tu­ry, Mor­laix, Bre­tagne, France.

Biography

Little is known of Ber­nard’s ear­ly life. Of Eng­lish des­cent, he en­tered Clu­ny Ab­bey, whose head then was Pe­ter the Ven­er­a­ble. It is thought Ber­nard spent the rest of his life at the ab­bey.

At that time, the Ab­bey of Clu­ny was at the ze­nith of its wealth and fame. Its build­ings, es­pe­cial­ly its church; the ser­vic­es, re­nowned for their ela­bo­rate or­der of ri­tu­al; and its com­mu­ni­ty, were the larg­est of any si­mi­lar in­sti­tu­tion.

The ab­bey thus had a po­si­tion and in­flu­ence per­haps un­equalled since. Ev­ery­thing about it was splen­did, al­most lux­ur­i­ous.

It was amid such sur­round­ings that Ber­nard spent his lei­sure hours com­pos­ing that won­drous sa­tire against the vic­es and fol­lies of his age, which has sup­plied some of the most wide­ly known and ad­mired hymns of the mo­dern Church.

His po­em De Con­temp­tu Mun­di re­mains a mon­u­ment to an au­thor of which we know lit­tle oth­er than his name. The po­em con­sists of about 3,000 lines in a me­ter known as Le­o­ni­ni Cris­ta­ti Tril­i­ces Dac­ty­li­ci (dac­tyl­ic hex­a­me­ter). John Neale wrote:

As a con­trast to the mis­e­ry and pol­lu­tion of earth, this po­em op­ens with a des­crip­tion of the peace and glo­ry of hea­ven, of such rare beau­ty as not ea­si­ly to be matched by any med­ie­val com­pos­ers on the same sub­ject.

Sources

Lyrics