Bernard of Clairvaux

Bernard of Clairvaux, Saint

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (klrvō´), 1090?–1153, French churchman, mystic, Doctor of the Church. Born of noble family, in 1112 he entered the Cistercian abbey of Cîteaux, taking along 4 or 5 brothers and some 25 friends. In 1115 he headed the group sent to found a house at Clairvaux. There he remained abbot all his life, despite many efforts to elevate him to higher ecclesiastical office. A holy life, a reputation for miraculous cures, and unusual eloquence made Bernard renowned, and he became the most powerful religious influence in France and, in time, in all Western Europe. His example and mystical theology had decisive influence on the Cistercian order, and he is sometimes called its second founder. During his lifetime 68 houses were founded out of Clairvaux alone. It was he who led the long struggle to seat Innocent II, the canonically elected pope, and persuaded Lombardy to accept Emperor Lothair II. He procured the condemnation of Peter Abelard and Arnold of Brescia (1140), and he preached the Second Crusade (1146). He was the adviser of popes, especially of his friend Eugene III. He was tireless in journeys to make peace, and he undertook many arduous charitable missions; he stopped a wave of pogroms in the Rhineland (1146) and he repeatedly saved luckless peasants from the powerful. Through his writings, St. Bernard exerted a profound influence on Roman Catholic spirituality. His deep devotion to the Virgin Mary and to the Infant Jesus is evident in his work, which consists of about 330 sermons, some 500 known letters, and 13 treatises. His style, strong and eloquent, full of biblical allusions, and intensely personal and direct, has earned him the name Mellifluous Doctor. Among his sermons, the series of 86 on the Canticles have been favorites (St. Bernard on the Song of Songs, tr. 1952). The most important treatises are On the Steps of Humility and Pride (c.1125; tr. by Geoffrey Webb and Adrian Walker, 1957), On Consideration (1149–53; tr. by E. Kennan, 1989), and On the Love of God (c.1127; tr. by T. L. Connolly, 1951). He was canonized in 1174. Feast: Aug. 20.

See W. Williams, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (1952); T. Merton, The Last of the Fathers (1954, repr. 1970); O. J. Egres, Saint Bernard, His Life and Teaching (1971); J. R. Sommerfeldt, The Spiritual Teachings of Bernard of Clairvaux (1991).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2018, The Columbia University Press.

Bernard of Clairvaux: Selected full-text books and articles

Bernard of Clairvaux By G. R. Evans Oxford University Press, 2000
Spirit and Experience in Bernard of Clairvaux By McDonnell, Kilian Theological Studies, Vol. 58, No. 1, March 1997
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
The Mystical Theology of Saint Bernard By Etienne Gilson; A. H. C. Downes Sheed Sheed & Ward, 1940
The Two-Fold Knowledge: Readings on the Knowledge of Self and the Knowledge of God By Bernard of Clairvaux; Franz Posset Marquette University Press, 2004
A primary source is a work that is being studied, or that provides first-hand or direct evidence on a topic. Common types of primary sources include works of literature, historical documents, original philosophical writings, and religious texts.
Mystics By William Harmless Oxford University Press, 2008
Librarian's tip: Chap. 3 "Mystic as Experienced Exegete: Bernard of Clairvaux"
Early Medieval Philosophy By George Bosworth Burch King's Crown Press, 1951
Librarian's tip: Chap. IV "Bernard of Clairvaux"
A primary source is a work that is being studied, or that provides first-hand or direct evidence on a topic. Common types of primary sources include works of literature, historical documents, original philosophical writings, and religious texts.
The Envy of Angels: Cathedral Schools and Social Ideals in Medieval Europe, 950-1200 By C. Stephen Jaeger University of Pennsylvania Press, 1994
Librarian's tip: Chap. 10 "Bernard of Clairvaux"
The Origins of the University: The Schools of Paris and Their Critics, 1100-1215 By Stephen C. Ferruolo Stanford University, 1985
Librarian's tip: "Bernard of Clairvaux's Attitude toward the Schools" begins on p. 54
Heresies of the High Middle Ages By Walter L. Wakefield; Austin P. Evans Columbia University Press, 1991
Librarian's tip: "Bernard of Clairvaux against Henry" begins on p. 122
Crusading Peace: Christendom, the Muslim World, and Western Political Order By Tomaž Mastnak University of California Press, 2002
Librarian's tip: "Sanctification of Crime: St. Bernard of Clairvaux" begins on p. 154
Philosophers and Religious Leaders By Christian D. Von Dehsen Oryx Press, 1999
Librarian's tip: "Bernard of Clairvaux, Saint: Defender of Christianity against Rationalism, 1090-1153" begins on p. 28
Biographical Dictionary of Christian Theologians By Patrick W. Carey; Joseph T. Lienhard Greenwood Press, 2000
Librarian's tip: "Bernard of Clairvaux" begins on p. 68
Encyclopedia of Christian Theology By Jean-Yves Lacoste Routledge, vol.1, 2005
Librarian's tip: "Bernard of Clairvaux" begins on p. 196
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