The Life of Blessed Bernard of Tiron

By Licence, Tom | The Catholic Historical Review, January 2011 | Go to article overview

The Life of Blessed Bernard of Tiron


Licence, Tom, The Catholic Historical Review


The Life of Blessed Bernard of Tiron. By Geoffrey Grossus.Translated with an introduction and notes by Ruth Harwood Cline (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press. 2009- Pp. xxxiv, 177. $24.95 paperback. ISBN 978-0-813-21681-2.)

From the early-eleventh century until about the middle of the twelfth, a powerful religious revival characterized by asceticism and eremitic withdrawal flared up in many places across western Europe. Loose-knit colonies of hermits sprang up in the wastes and multiplied, sometimes attracting hundreds of recruits to an existence unconstrained by the bonds of normal society and to a lifestyle patterned on that of the desert fathers and mothers in its reliance on prayer, manual productivity, and God's natural provision.The leaders of this revival at the peak of its creativity (about the end of the eleventh century) channeled its resources into the creation of families of reformed monasteries, such as Citeaux, Fontevrault, Savigny, andTiron. Blessed Bernard (c. 1050- 1 1 16), founder of the Tironian congregation, was one of the leading luminaries.Thirty years or so after his death, a monk of Tirón named Geoffrey Grossus wrote a hagiographie account of his life, which Ruth Harwood Cline has rendered in English for the first time in this very accomplished translation. Scholars who wish to check it against the Latin text (BHL 1251) in A eta sanctorum, April 2, cols. 222-55, will be pleased to discover that the conveniently short, numbered paragraphs of the two correspond.

Despite the great need for them, competent translators are rare and sometimes undervalued. Cline's work merits praise and gratitude as much for userfriendly footnotes and introductory commentary as for the labor of bringing unread Latin to a wider audience. Maps locate places noted in the text within the geography of modern France, and a timeline of significant events provides chronology constructed from cartularies. For the most part, the reader is expected to take this on trust, because Cline does not reveal the reasoning or sources behind every given date, but her introduction does at least highlight errors in Geoffrey's account and the artificiality of its structure (pedimental chiasmus centered on visits to the pope created a tidier pattern than any that Bernard's career could have followed). …

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