In this intimate portrait of one of the Middle Ages' most consequential men, Brian Patrick McGuire delves into the life of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux to offer a refreshing interpretation that finds within this grand historical figure a deeply spiritual human being who longed for the reflective quietude of the monastery even as he helped shape the destiny of a church and a continent. Heresy and crusade, politics and papacies, theology and disputation shaped this astonishing man's life, and McGuire presents it all in a deeply informed and clear-eyed biography.
Following Bernard from his birth in 1090 to his death in 1153 at the abbey he had founded four decades earlier, Bernard of Clairvaux reveals a life teeming with momentous events and spiritual contemplation, from Bernard's central roles in the first great medieval reformation of the Church and the Second Crusade, which he came to regret, to the crafting of his books, sermons, and letters. We see what brought Bernard to monastic life and how he founded Clairvaux Abbey, established a network of Cistercian monasteries across Europe, and helped his brethren monks and abbots in heresy trials, affairs of state, and the papal schism of the 1130s.
By reevaluating Bernard's life and legacy through his own words and those of the people closest to him, McGuire reveals how this often-challenging saint saw himself and conveyed his convictions to others. Above all, this fascinating biography depicts Saint Bernard of Clairvaux as a man guided by Christian revelation and open to the achievements of the human spirit.
Introduction: In Pursuit of a Difficult Saint
1. A Time of Hope and Change
2. A Saint's Origins
3. From the New Monastery to the Valley of Light, 1115–1124
4. Monastic Commitment and Church Politics, 1124–1129
5. Toward Reformation of Church and Monastery
6. Healing a Divided Church, 1130–1135
7. Victory and Defeat: A Conflicted Church, 1136–1140
8. The World after the Schism: One Thing after Another, 1140–1145
9. Preaching a Crusade and Leaving Miracles Behind, 1146–1150
10. Business as Usual in Preparing for Death
Brian Patrick McGuire is Professor Emeritus at Roskilde University. He is author or editor of twenty-five books, including Friendship and Community.
Based on the earliest lives of Bernard and his numerous extant letters, this book provides an excellent, carefully structured chronological narrative of "a human being, not a saint."
Brian McGuire is to be congratulated on producing this volume which will provide a clear exposition of the traditional view of Bernard's career along with insight into the many concerns that attracted his attention. The author is also to be praised for openly and honestly confronting the hard questions that contemporary readers might have in reading about Bernard, and for giving direct answers to their questions.
~Cistercian Studies Quarterly
Based on an unrivaled knowledge of the relevant sources and a deep understanding of the Cistercian way of life. [T]his will undoubtedly be the definitive biography of this monumental figure for many years to come.
~Times Literary Supplement
McGuire is to be commended for continuing to try to fulfill his own teacher's command, but it makes one wonder whether Bernard's original biographers felt similarly compelled. It also raises important questions about the way in which religious communities depend on biographies of their founders for their own institutional identity.
~The Journal of Religion
Bernard of Clairvaux is a welcome and needed contribution to Cistercian scholarship and look into the motivations, ideals, and activities of a complex man who many have called the most influential individual in the first half of twelfth-century Europe. Thanks to Brian Patrick McGuire, the picture of this elusive saint becomes a bit clearer.