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D-Day 1944 Reminiscence

  I'll be seeing you

 

Most folks over sixty-five years of age remember where they were and what they were doing when they heard that President Kennedy had been assassinated, and many of us yet older codgers recall their first reactions to the news from Pearl Harbor and, a bit later on, from D-Day.

 

Early on the morning of June 6, 1944, I was in a car heading east on a brand-new turnpike, having spent the night in a tourist home in Bedford, Pennsylvania. My brother, who had just turned 17 the week before, was driving and my mother was sitting beside him on the front seat. I, who would be 15 in two months, had the backseat to myself.  We were driving to Philadelphia after having spent two years in Mobile and New Orleans, where my father, an Army physician, had been stationed. Now he was overseas in Bari, Italy, and my mother had decided to get back North and leave the South behind. Both parents had “C” ration cards that made our long trip possible.

 

Mother was 45-years-old and, after night school at the U. of Alabama, had spent a year as a safety engineer working for Higgins, a company which made landing craft as well as the famous PT boats. She would soon be using her skills at the Philadelphia Navy Yard until the war ended. My brother was able to finish a year of college before joining the Navy, and my oldest brother would become an Army doctor after he finished a residency in psychiatry. At war’s end, I was the only family member not engaged in the war.

On that lovely morning in the Alleghenies, we were listening to music on the radio. “Long ago and Far Away” was a new hit, but “I’ll Be Seeing You” was leading the hit parade, and when it came on, all three of us burst into lusty song as we sped by banks of mountain laurels in bloom.

I’ll be seeing you

In all those old familiar places

That this heart of mine embraces

All day…

In mid-verse, the music rudely stopped, and a broadcaster came on, telling us that in confirmation of earlier reports from German sources, the Allies had indeed landed in France and that the long awaited second front was in the offing. The commentator pointed out the time difference of some 6 hours and that despite heavy fighting, the beachhead now seemed to be secure. It was heady news, and we hung on every word.

 

We had seen film footage of the deadly amphibious assault on Tarawa in the Pacific, where one out of four marines were killed or wounded. If the Japanese could inflict such costly losses, how much worse would it be facing the vaunted Wehrmacht?

“Those poor kids,” my mother sobbed, “many won’t be seeing anyone any more, let alone the old familiar places."

“Maybe it’s just another Dieppe.” my brother said, “maybe it’s another dry run, where they won’t get beyond the beach.” He was referring to the 1942 commando raid-in-force that ended with the Allies –mostly Canadians—losing 60% of their men, a shocking disaster that sent a warning about the invulnerability of German defenses. “If they could throw us back two years ago, just think how much stronger they are today,” he went on.

"Yes, and maybe this is just a feint, “I piped in. “Isn’t that exactly what Churchill said the other day?”

 

But as we weighed the possibilities, the radio crackled, and the Supreme Allied Commander, General Eisenhower, came on the air and verified that this was indeed the much anticipated invasion and the first step in an Allied Crusade to defeat Hitler. Ike gave a real Knute Rockne pep-talk. We spent the rest of the trip listening to nonstop radio bulletins that convinced us that D-Day was a success after all and that the Allies now had a firm foothold in Europe.

Yet, with all the hope the landings promised, we were deeply apprehensive about the lives such an undertaking would cost. We knew high school friends s who had been killed in training flights. We knew others who had been lost at sea. We knew young couples who possibly would never see each other again. Thousands of  families paid a high price for the carnage of D-Day.

 

At the end of the war, the totality of personal tragedy was immense. War, no matter how just the cause may seem, is a meat grinder that pulverizes the hopes and dreams of its participants in and out of uniform.

Every anniversary of D-Day wrenches my heart as I reflect on the misery it caused in families all over the country. And still today I hear the strains that bring a lump to my throat because it describes what for many would never come true:

I’ll be seeing you

In every lovely summer’s day,

In everything that’s light and gay,

I’ll always think of you that way,

I’ll find you in the morning sun,

And when the night is new,

I’ll be looking at the moon,

But I’ll be seeing you.

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August 16, 2020

Troubadourables

From the eleventh through the thirteenth century, the Midi of what is now Southern France was renowned for its troubadours who produced poems and songs about love and the joys of living that drew much of their inspiration and techniques from the rich Moorish culture on the other side of the Pyrenees. The Midi became the cradle of Western European secular literature and music and gave rise to similar movements in the West. In his Divine Comedy, Dante celebrated and quoted its poetry. He even considered writing his opus in the lenga d’oc instead of Italian.

   The first known troubadour was Duke Guilhem IX of Aquitaine, whose poetry had a jesting, Rabelaisian flavor that anticipated Boccaccio and Chaucer by some two hundred years and Rabelais himself by some three hundred years.

       As bidden by the established Church, the Albigensian Crusade put an end to the troubadours and their patrons’ courts by changing their passion and desire into spirituality and allegory Nevertheless, the basis of our modern culture in the West is the very same individual choice the troubadours celebrated 800 years ago. They passed along "the idea that nature is good and love is an end in itself, not something to be denied or escaped from, not a trap, not an object of shame, but a source of joy.”

   So, when you read – in Wikipedia, for instance – that the theme of troubadour poetry is “courtly love,” just grin and peruse some of the troubadour songs sung by characters in my novelss or available on line in translations by A.S. Kline. You’ll find that the desire of the troubadour (or trobaritz) far surpasses the moderation required by courtly love.  We are talking about passion, not psalmody.

    A millennium ago, Duke Guilhem joked about sexual prowess in his poems. To characterize his themes as courtly love is like resetting A Streetcar Named Desire from the New Orleans French Quarter to a nunnery.

 

 

Aust 16, 2020

The Myth of Courtly Love in Troubadour Verse

The notion that troubadours worshiped unattain-able women with a hopeless, unrequited love is gospel for many twentieth century literary critics as well as historians. But what if this entire belief system is the brainchild of Gaston Paris, a chauvin-istic philologist from northern France? What if he coined the term “courtly love” to describe his own far-fetched concept of the troubadours’ fin’amor poetry, rejecting its obviously earthy qualities? As an avatar of a notably nationalistic period of French history (the late 19th century), Paris's fatuously stated, “literature, like the French language, belongs to northern France.”

   In their heavily annotated volume  “Love and its Critics (2012),” Michael Bryson and Arpi Movsesian trace the history of love through poetry as it met the challenges of laws and customs drawn from time and place. It also tells how critics viewed this liter-ature and how they often tried to stifle these challenges. The authors argue that :

    "the poetry they explore celebrates and reinvents 

    the love the troubadour poets of the eleventh and

    twelfth centuries called fin’amor: love as an end in

    itself, mutual and freely chosen even in the face of     social, religious, or political retribution….Along- 

    side this tradition has grown a critical movement

    [claiming] that passionate love poetry is not what 

    it  seems, and should be properly understood as

    worship of God, subordination to Empire, or an

    entanglement with the structures of language

    itself – in short, the very things it resists.

    "The poems by the troubadours, even the myths

    that surround them, belie any notion that the love

    of which they write is a decorous matter of rules

    and codes, of obedience demanded and given.

   Their poems are filled with desire, frustration, joy,

   despair, and the tantalizing possibility of freedom

   of choice, of life lived, not spent in mechanical

   compliance with the expectations of others. These

   are poems of rebellion, not obedience, of chaos, not

   conformity."

If you have any doubt that “courtly love” is a lot of

malarkey, please read the poems yourself and

decide.

Small Title

Troubadours and the Ladies They Loved

 

 

Did worship of the Virgin Mary influence the troubadours’ courtly love theme? For the Church Fathers, Mary was a “new Eve” who obeyed God, whereas the Genesis Eve had not. Many commentators credit Mary-worship for the unrequited nature of the pining poets’ love. Others say, no, it was the other way around; that the medieval Church deliberately exploited the cult of Mary to contrast her virginity with its own portrayal of rampant nymphomania among the female population. It is a chicken-and-the-egg argument, but suffice to say, there is a parallel between Marianism and unrequited, " courtly" love.

   There remains the fact that the object of a troubadour’s love – whether courtly or sensual -- is a married woman in most cases. At the time, marriages of most high-born ladies were the result of political or economic schemring. Some historians believe that Occitann noble women tended to marry old “sugar daddies.” As a result of such marriages, adultery might have been as common among married women as it was among married men, thereby constituting another manifestation of the independence of women in the Midi.

   Some women, such as the Countess of Dia, were themselves poets (troubaritzes) and described their own yearning for the perfect knight. (Yes, it’s a pun.)

   Was there evidence of misogyny in the troubadours writing? Definitely. Women were raped, and noble rouess seduced shepherdesses and discarded them without a backward glance. A few troubadours even followed the Church in disparaging women, but not the majority. In one popular song, a shepherdess even puts a horny knight in his place.

   Along with songs about requited and unrequited love, troubadours linked the changing of the seasons with love and lust; described the Crusades from opposing sides; debated politics and religion. They wrote satire as well as bawdy, obscene and scatological songs. Many are funny, like the women pilgrims whose ship is being blown across the sea to the Holy Land by a generous, talented and extremely flatulent farter.

   In my second novel, The Fiery Furnace, young lovers sing troubadour songs to each other, and two teen-age cousins vie to see who can come up with the most obscene ditttie. 

    The very first troubadour, Duke Guillaume IX of Aquitaine, produced love songs as well as bawdy ditties, thus setting a pace with broad possibilities for those who followed.

 

   Like their Moorish antecedents, troubadour songs are rhymed and some — the trobars clus — have intricate rhyme schemes and themes. Many still have their musical notation, so they can be played or sung. In short, they represent the beginning of modern European literature and non-liturgical music and provided a springboard for the Renaissance. Chaucer, Dante, and Mallory all admired their content and technical prowess.

   In brief, troubadour literature celebrates both the ethereal sublimity and healthy lustiness of womanhood and only occasionally gives way to the misogyny that was being preached from the pulpit when the troubadours were composing their lyrics. At least, one gathers, the people who listened to those lyrics, or sang them, or danced to them were enjoying themselves and celebrating life instead of being preoccupied with the death and damnation dinned into their ears, day in and day out.

   In my novel The Apostles of Satan, wedding guests dance to an estampie. Hear it live;

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NdSJYgjMIfQ&list=PL1B8C57AC8896BF5E,

It’s got a beat that sets your feet a-tapping. For more on troubadours, go to 

http://www.languedoc-france.info/1904_troubadours.htm and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Troubadour

Here’s another recording of 12th and 13th century troubadours. https://www.youtube.com

watch?v=ijqNBpOU5Vs

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WvgjoIuaxp8

Womanhood  Sung By Troubadours

During the 13th century in most of Christ-endom, it was taken for granted that women were inferior to men and that the sex drive of a woman was as uncontrollable as it was inexhaust-ible. Hence the legendary necessity for chastity belts and hence the jokes about them, like the one below.

Before leaving Camelot on a quest for the Grail, King Arthur entrusts his best friend, Lancelot, with a key to Queen Guinevere’s chastity belt for safe-keeping. Arthur knows that Lancelot is the most trust-worthy knight in the realm.

   Then the king mounts his charger and leads the other knights of the Round Table out of the gate and onto the winding path toward destiny.

   When Arthur and his entourage reach a rise in the road, he looks longingly back at Camelot, glittering in the sunset, and spies a horseman galloping at top speed toward him. When the dust-caked rider reins up beside him, Arthur sees it is Lancelot, waving something in his fist.

     “Wrong key!” cries Lancelot.

Apparently, the Visigoths who settled in Romanized Gaul did not share the Church’s scorn of women. In fact, women in the Midi, the main locale for my trilogy, Ordeal by Fire— espec-ially high-born women — were treated with great respect. Such women were more outspoken and independent than elsewhere.

    This is reflected in the songs and poems of the troubadours, who were influenced by the society of their day and, in turn, influenced it. Suckled and cradled in the Midi, the trouba-dours provide us with a link to the Provençak women of the 12th and 13th centuries as well as to their husbands and lovers.

    The classic concept of the troubadours’ out-pouring is ‘courtly love,” or fins amor as it was called in the lenga d’oc. The love-sick poet wooed, or rather, worshipped a high-born married woman, and the purity of his unre-quited love acted to ennoble his character, heighten his spirituality and virtually provide him with salvation. Woman was perched on a pedestal that her lover could never reach. The virgin Galahad in the Arthurian legend is a good example of a medieval Mr. Clean.

   However, right from the start, most troub-adours sang a quite different tune. The longing, the worship, the ennobling of the lover became stylized steps in his seduction of the married woman. The elaborate, high-flown courtship had a voluptu-ous, not a spiritual, goal. It was similar to Lancelot lusting for Guinevere, the wife of his best friend and sovereign. Indeed, the very first troubadour, William, Duke of Aquitaine, bragged about his sexual prowess and filled his verses with sexual innuendo.

   The idea of either putting women on pedestals or making them seem normal was utterly contrary to the teaching of the Church, whose leaders hated sex and troubadours, even though some churchmen came from the troubadour ranks. The Church found the blatant sexuality expressed in most troubadour works to be particularly offensive because it was lauded, not condemned. Moreover, the chaste women of courtly love contradicted the Church’s view of women as strident hussies and harlots constantly on the make.

  For these reasons, women speaking the lenga d’oc back then much preferred listening to a troubadour’s love song (or humming it to herself) than being harangued by a priest’s warnings about eternal damnation.

Adam’s Rib Is No Laughing Matter

In the introduction to my first novel, The Apostles of Satan, I stress that 13th  cent-ury women who lived in The Midi were generally far more independent than their Northern counter-parts: Provençal women enjoyed a relatively higher social status than women in other regions -- perhaps a vestige of their Visigoth origins -- and therefore had an affinity for anyone advo-cating equality between sexes.

  In The Apostles of Satan, the character Micaela embodies that self-reliant ideal as do the other women who play major roles in the trilogy. In my third novel (The Magdalene Mal-ediction), a young woman -- Miranda -- steals the show.

   In contrast, equality of the sexes was out of the question in the medieval Church. Accord-ing to its leaders, men were primarily spirit, then flesh, which they purportedly brought under control. Being purely flesh, however, women could seldom govern their carnal desires, so the Church said. Thus, men were born to dominate women, who would other-wise run wild. It was thanks to men that civil-ization got off the ground! But let the early Church fathers speak for themselves.

Tertullian (155 – 240 AD), who developed the idea of the Trinity, said this to women: “The curse God pronounced on your sex still weighs on the world.…You are the devil’s gateway.... You are the first that deserted the divine laws. All too easily, you destroyed Adam, the image of God. Because you deserved death,…the son of God who had to die.”

   Shame on women, not only for engineering human mortality, but for killing Jesus as well! It’s all their fault! Wouldn’t Tertullian have been a barrel of fun at a Planned Parenthood meeting?

Saint Augustine (354-430 AD) believed that:

“…only man is the image and glory of God. Since the believing woman cannot lay aside

her sex, she is restored to God only when there is no sex, that is, in spirit.”

   "In other words, woman had "to deny her flesh; abstain from sex; better still, never have sex; best of all, never even think about it." Ach, Du Lieber Augustine! Sounds like Adam isn’t going to get lucky tonight, or tomorrow night, either!

Saint Jerome (347 – 420 AD): “…woman is the root of all evil.” Jerry extolled virginity and even pooh-poohed marriage, as you see below.

 “In Eden, Eve was a virgin. [People should] understand that virginity is a natural state, but that marriage comes after the Fall. Woman must shed the gender of her body completely, cease being a woman, and strive to achieve a masculine spirit. She is as different from man as body is from soul. But if she wishes to serve Christ more than the world, then she will cease to be a woman and will be called a man.”.

   If women became men? Was good old Jerry advocating extinct-ion of the species, or merely anticipating Lady Macbeth? The holy misogyn-ist went on to say: “She who does not believe is a woman and should be designated by the name of her bodily sex, whereas she who believes progresses to complete manhood, to the measure of the adulthood of Christ. She then does without worldly name, gender of body, youthful seductiveness, and garrulous-ness of age.”

There you have it. The poor gal not only bec-omes a man, like Lois Lane changing into Superman, but in her dotage, she quits prattl-ing! What an earth-shaking achievement! 

Adam’s Rib Unleashed

According to the early Church, once Eve gave Adam a bite of the apple, women became so lascivious that, given the opportunity, not even nuns could resist seducing unwary male passersby. And if cloistered nuns could not be controlled, how could one expect ord-inary women to be chaste?

    Boy, I get the jitters just thinking about walking down a dark street and seeing a nun coming toward me out of the shadows.

     So, unpack the chastity belts, guys, beause Mom, Sis and Wifey must be restrained and locked up tight, for the medieval Church stated that men’s sacred duty is to control the women around them. Be they confessors, fathers, brothers, husbands, or other male kin, men must keep women from going bonkers because female sexuality is in over-drive. If a guy isn’t careful, he might get bonked!

   Is there any woman who isn’t eternally grateful for this selfless male dedication to keep her on the straight and narrow?  How many women haven’t heard men pleading -- nay, whimpering -- over and over, not to have sex with them on the first date? Or, sitting on a man’s lap, heard him say, “if you get down, we can catch a vespers service on the other side of town.” Doesn’t everyone agree that men are always trying to curb women’s sexual appetites, when all too often they are simply overwhelmed by hungry women?

   So, guys, listen to Augie and Jerry if you value your chastity. And gals, let hubby lash you to a kitchen chair with duct tape to prevent you from roaming the streets and accosting all those gentle men.

Adam’s Rib? Nudge-Nudge,

Wink-Wink!

Below are the words of an 11th century bishop named Manold. He starts off describ-ing a hussy from the Old Testament, and ends with the image of a female sex monster preying on innocent men, whose minds are – forsooth -- utterly innocent of lusty notions:

“And behold, there met him a woman with the attire of a harlot, and subtle of heart …. With her much fair speech, she caused him to yield, with the flattering of her lips she forced him.”

Poor guy, she made him to do it, no matter how he struggled to hold her off. He didn’t have a chance. But wait, the bishop isn’t finished;

“It is called heresy from a woman who possesses the figure of heresy [is he saying she’s curvaceous?] and who entices with crafty persuasions. As it is said in Solomon, ‘Stolen waters are sweet;’ that is, the words of the heretic are more persuasive to the simple idiot than Church dogma.”

How do you like that? The simple idiot prefers having sex to having a sermon! Can you believe it? Hold oo, the Bishop has more to say:

“…the forepart of [the monster] being a lion, the rear part the tail of a dragon, and the area between nothing but raging fire. This image suits the nature of a harlot, as she seizes the prey which passes before the lion’s jaws, simulating a noble and nubile countenance; by her false appearance, in which there is nothing of substance or weight, but only trivial, reasonless and fervent lust, she burns up her captives by the flames of love; and her nether parts are filled full of lethal poison. In fact, death and dam-nation are the end of sensual passion.” [Blogger’s emphasis.]

Gosh all mighty, that’s really scary! Espec-ially that in-between area. If you’re a guy and feeling horny tonight, I suggest that you take a couple of downers and conk out in-stead of seeking any meretricious services. You don’t want to fool around with poison-ous nether-parts, particularly if they lead to death and damnation!

Beware: Feminism Is Heresy!

 

Alain de Lille (1128-1202 AD) was a Cistercian monk who wrote a treatise on heresy that warns the faithful how a heretic, just like a harlot, can sweet-talk you right into Hell’s fire:

“… man’s seduction may be physical or intellectual. Whores are connected with heresy as well as with carnal lust: in-deed, fornication and heresy -- the allure of superficial beauty, whether of body or word -- are almost synonymous in much exegesis. The whore seduces with sweet words and the beauty of her body as the heretic seduces with attrac-tive doctrines.” [As opposed to unallur-ing, boring, orthodox doctrines?]

Slip on the hair shirt, Alain baby; it’ll itch like crazy, but it will distract you from hear-ing any sweet talk, and it’ll do you good  when you’re dead as a door nail and out of reach of temptation.  

   Finally, dear reader, if you are still inter-ested in sex despite the dire warnings desc-ribed above, let the man who was the Pope in my first novel talk you out of it:

Innocent III, (1160 – 1216 AD)

“The extreme shame of lust not only makes the mind effeminate [those evil women again!] but weakens the body; not only stains the soul but fouls the person …. Always, hot desire and selfish-ness precede lust, stench and filth ac-company it, sorrow and repentance fol-low it. The lips of the strange woman drip as honeycomb, and her mouth is smoother than oil; but her end is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword.”

A little personal hygiene on his part and a bidet might have helped Pope Innocent III retract part of this condemnation of sexuality. Also, today’s neuroscientists might question “feminizing the mind” and “weak-ening the body.” As for sorrow and repent-ance, one or both partners to that lusty act might feel that way when their enjoyment is not up to par, but not because of the act itself.

    In brief, kiddo, compared to what they might have encountered in the 13th century, women have come a long way! Still a way to go before they get full equality. Still a way to go before male authorities quit trying to control their bodies. Too bad that it took so long to get here and that there’s still work to be done.

   However, repentance should not be women’s worry. Let the men pay for the sins of their fathers.

St. Bernard, A Pillar of the Church

Born and raised in a noble family near Dijon in Burgundy (now France), Bernard (1090- 1153) had a literary schooling up to the death of his pious mother. After that, he felt the need for the more solitary, spiritual life of a monk. Consequently, at age 21, he persuaded his four brothers and twenty-five friends to accompany him and join a nearby abbey at Cîteaux, where, as you can imagine, the thirty acolytes were greeted with open arms. 

   The Cistercian Order was a rigidly ascetic take-off on the Benedictine Order whose monastic discipline had become lax over the years.  In contrast to other monastic orders, every Cistercian monk was expected to per-form physical labor in its fields. Impressed by Bernard’s devotion, diligence, and ideal-ism, the abbot chose him to found a daugh-ter abbey on the border of Burgundy and Champagne at Clairvaux, in 1115.

   For ten years, Bernard had a hard time making ends meet while immersing himself in theological studies. Eventually, his abbey prospered and soon spawned a dozen other abbeys. Among Cistercian abbots, Bernard became hot stuff. However,

Bernard’s penchant for physical austerities [may have caused the] anemia, gastritis, migraine, hypertension, and an atrophied sense of taste that plagued his life.  [Yet,] as Bernard’s health worsened, his spirituality deepened. *

   For the sake of his health, Bernard aban-doned his administrative duties and began to write. He had a gift for language and poet-ic genius.

His quest combine[d] a mystical life of absorption in God with [day-to-day] responsibilities as a guardian of church life. *

In 1135, the archbishop of Arles arrested a charismatic preacher, Henri of Lausanne, on suspicion of heresy. Henri had attracted huge crowds from France, Aquitaine and Provence and persuaded them to ignore the sacraments of the Church, its dogma, and its clergy. According to the Church, not only was he preaching heresy, he was threatening its revenues. 

    He was taken before a papal council at Pisa where Bernard offered him a cell in Clair-vaux if he recanted. Henri turned down the  invitation but agreed to tone down his rhet-oric. . However, the local clergy begged the Holy See for help, and in 1145, Pope Eugenius III tasked Alberic, the cardinal-bishop of Ostia (Rome’s port), to handle the problem.    

    Alberic lost no time in asking Bernard’s help and that of the bishop of Chartres.  Ber-nard accepted the challenge, but when the three tried to enter Toulouse, they were turned away.  The people had made up their minds and didn’t want to hear the other side of the story.

   Infuriated by this rebuff, Bernard decided to preach to the faithful in the small towns in northern Languedoc. He picked Verfeil, a village not far from the city of Albi. (To be continued.)

* John Richard Meyer: Bernard of Clairvaux, Encyclopedia Britannica, 2022

St. Bernard: Pillar or Battering Ram?

(Continued from previous blog)

Upon reaching Verfeil, a village outside of Abli, the three prelates assumed that if [Bernard] could extinguish heretical deprav-ity at Verfeil, which had been especially in-fected, then ‘he would find it easier to preach elsewhere.’1

This was a reasonable assumption if ‘heret-ical depravity’ did exist in Verfeil and other places. However, if heresy did not exist in Verfeil or elsewhere, then it was clearly a waste of time. Even worse, if Bernard took civic leaders to task (as he did) for a ‘crime’ they did not commit, then he was making a gigantic error that would lead to massive loss of life, property and even the language spoken in what is now southern France. To return to the narrative,

The abbot started to preach in the tiny village church against the [good men and women] of Verfeil. The [good folk], not wishing to hear themselves con-demned, walked out of the church, followed by the rest of the village. The holy man went after them and began to preach the word of God in the public square. The [good folk], whose houses framed the square, quickly escaped behind closed doors, while everyone else stood around and listened to the abbot. Inside the houses a crescendo of banging doors began reverberating through the square, so much so, that no one could hear the Cistercian. The abbot, angry and upset, [hurried out of the village], glancing back only to curse, ‘Verfeil, may God punish you. ”1

   In the years left to him, Bernard helped condemn Gilbert de La Porrée, Bishop of Potiers of heresy, as he had done with Peter Abelard. The bishop was “a scholarly dial-ectician who held that Christ’s divine nature was only a human concept.”2

   Bernard greatly feared that logic would sound the death knell of the Roman Church.

 Bernard finally claimed a victory over Abelard, not because of skill or cogency in argument but because of his homilet-ical denunciation and his favored posit-ion with the bishops and the papacy.2

A major figure in church councils, [Ber-nard] exhorted Pope Eugenius to stress [the papal] role as spiritual leader of the church over [the papal] role as leader of a great temporal power.2

Such a belief agrees with the perception of the Catholic Church back then. Bernard wass

indeed the champion of orthodoxy in his time and his influence is still felt to-day. By bludgeoning logicians like Abelard and Guillaume of Poitiers (or the good folk of Verfeil) with undue charges of heresy, Ber-nard was not acting in the best interest of the universality of the Church, either then, or in retrospect.

 

1.Mark Gregor Pegg A Most Holy War, The Albigensian Crusade and the Battle

For Christendom, Oxford Unniversity, 2008

2.John Richard Meyer: Bernard of Clairvaux, Encyclopedia Britannica, 2022

A Man Before His Time

Peter Abelard (1079–1142) was perhaps the first “renaissance man” centuries before the Renaissance actually began.

[He]was the pre-eminent philosopher and theologian of the twelfth century [and] was also famous as a poet and a musician… He is, arguably, the greatest logician of the Middle Ages and is equal-ly famous as the first great nominalist philosopher. He championed the use of reason in matters of faith (he was the first to use ‘theology’ in its modern sense), and his systematic treatment of religious doctrines are as remarkable for their philosophical penetration and subtlety as they are for their audacity. *

Abelard is known to many as the steadfast lover of Héloise, who was his brightest stud-ent and bore a child with him. Her uncle, who had his own designs on her, had Abel-ard brutally castrated. Abelard became a monk again, and Héloise joined a convent. Their twenty years of correspondence is

legendary.

[Abelard’s] quick wit, sharp tongue, per-fect memory, and boundless arrogance made him unbeatable in debate—he was said by supporter and detractor alike never to have lost an argument—and the force of his personality impressed itself vividly on all with whom he came into contact. His conflict with Bernard of Clairvaux over reason and religion made him the hero of the Enlightenment…. *

In 1140, Bernard of Clairvaux found heresy in Abelard’s theological reasoning. Abelard tried to arrange a public debate with him, but Bernard refused, saying matters of faith should not be debated. Behind Abelard’s back, Bernard set up an ecclesiastic inquiry into Abelard’s writings on suspicion of heresy. Facing a kangaroo court, Abelard vowed to present his case to the pope. As expected, the council found Abelard guilty of heresy, and the pope confirmed its decision, sentencing Abelard to silence, a punishment worse than death for the penitent.

       Acting in Abelard’s defense, Peter the Venerable, Abbot of Cluny, pleaded with the pope to lift the sentence, and the pope com-plied.  In spite of this act of papal clemency, Abelard’s health turned for the worse and he died in his 63rd year.Throughout his life, Abelard was a son of the Church, spending most of his time as a monk. Except for the brief love affair with Héloise, he always observed his vows of chastity.

Abelard’s students were active as kings, philosophers, poets, politicians, theolog-ians, and monks; they include three popes and several heads of state. *

The medieval church suppressed most of Abelard’s writings, yet, his impact on twelfth century theology and philosophy was tremendous and may have helped bring about the Renaissance after all.

 

*Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2004

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Listening to Troubadours 4

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