Thursday, September 11, 2008

Walter Map on Bernard de Clairvaux

     Walter Map was born c1140 in Hereford County, England.  He was a Welshman by origin but a Norman aristocrat and a friend of Geraldus Cambriensus.  As an aristocrat, he was well placed to travel to high courts and was at the court of Henry II.  Indeed, it is Map who relates that when Henry met Eleanor of Aquitaine that they 'fixed each other with unchaste eyes' in spite of the presence of Eleanor's husband, the king of France, and in spite of rumors that Eleanor had a previous relationship with Henry's father. ( Go Eleanor!!)
     Walter Map's De Nugis Curialium or Courtier's Trifles is the only work confirmed to be his and contains an unusual selection of matters at court, some fables and stories about some extraordinary events.  He is one of the earliest recorders of tales of what eventually came to be called vampires. 
     One rather interesting story in his book is called "Concerning the Origins of the Cistercians".  It seems clear from reading different tales in his book that he does not like the Cistercians.  Hence the founders of this order, he states, were four malcontents from England on the run from a strict Abbot who stumbled onto a good plot of land after their money ran out from partying in France.
     Then he discusses Bernard de Clairvaux, the most famous Cistercian, canonized for his many miracles and piety.  While Map was in Canterbury visiting with the Archbishop Thomas Beckett, two abbots came to see Beckett from Bernard seeking Beckett's support in condemning Peter Abelard and Arnold Brescia.   It is not clear if John of Salisbury was present at this meeting  but he was Beckett's secretary and a pupil and admirer of Abelard. 
     When Map describes Bernard as waxing bright among his followers like Lucifer (the morning star, known to us as the planet Venus) "shineth among the stars of the night",  you wonder if that was not an unfortunate choice of words.  But when the conversation turns to Bernard's many miracles and they start discussing some of his many failures, it becomes clear that Map does not like Bernard either.  I have warm and fuzzy feelings about Map already. 
     The failure that amuses me the most is when Bernard was going to exorcise a man said to be possessed by the devil and asked that the man be released from his chains.  The man immediately began pelting Bernard with rocks with all his might and, when Bernard tried to run away, the man chased him through the streets of Montpellier.  John Planeta, who was the one telling this story, said the 'miracle' was worth remembering because the "sick man was kind and gentle to all, and dangerous to the hypocrite only".  Indeed.
     Map also states that the reasons that the Cistercians were after Arnold Brescia was because he was going around Rome denouncing the clergy there but especially the Pope for their wealth and dining off plates of gold and silver.  Pope Eugenius was a Cistercian and friend of Bernard's; and, as one hand washes the other, Eugenius condemned Abelard and Bernard condemned Arnold.  So, everyone was happy except those who were condemned to death.  Abelard recanted to avoid execution but Arnold's mouth was stopped only when they hanged him.

Beatles Song of the Week

Cum elephanta et arma in silva densa tigrim quaerere venit,
Praecavere semper eam matrem tulit,
Totus Americanus, caput cuspidium, filius Saxonarum est.
Omnes liberi canunt, 
Altum in silva ubi tigris validissimus est,
?????? et elephantae aliquem incautum exceperant,
Itaque Centurio Mirabilis inter oculos coniecit,
Omnes liberi canunt,
Liberi eum rogaverunt si interficere peccatum non est,
"Non quando ferocitiorem viditur," mater interpellavit.
Si aspectus interficiant, nos pro eo fuisset.
Omnes liberi canunt. 


Anonymous said...

When Map describes Bernard as waxing bright among his followers like Lucifer (the morning star, known to us as the planet Venus) "shineth among the stars of the night", you wonder if that was not an unfortunate choice of words.

Hmm, I don't know about unfortunate. Sounds like Map knew exactly what he was doing.

Bernard's uncle Andre de Montbard was one of the founders of the Knights Templar. One of Bernard's patrons was the Count of Champagne, who gave him the lands of Clairvaux and was also one of the patrons of the Templars. (Bernard is the one who drafted the Order's charter.) Champagne later forsook his wife, lands, and castles to join the Order.


The Red Witch said...

Map clearly chose Lucifer on purpose.
Walter Map also does have a story on the origins of the Templars but he only talked about Hugh de Payen, In the story Hugh is standing by a cistern fighting any and all Muslim comers. Sounds so very Arthurian.
Bernard told his sister in law that if she did not allow her husband, his brother, to abandon her and their children and join his order that she would surely die for that 'sin'. He just was not a nice guy.

Anonymous said...

Bernard de Clairvaux sounds like a right bundle of laughs. Poor Arnold (although denouncing the Pope is a seriously-risky activity).