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The Lost Love Letters of Heloise and Abelard: Perceptions of Dialogue in Twelfth-Century France

The Lost Love Letters of Heloise and Abelard: Perceptions of Dialogue in Twelfth-Century France

by Constant Mew
This new edition offers fascinating insights into one of the most celebrated love affairs of the Middle Ages. A new chapter charts the debate about the letters and offers fresh evidence to attribute them to Abelard and Heloise. The complete Latin text is reproduced with an annotated translation by Chiavaroli and Mews.


This new edition offers fascinating insights into one of the most celebrated love affairs of the Middle Ages. A new chapter charts the debate about the letters and offers fresh evidence to attribute them to Abelard and Heloise. The complete Latin text is reproduced with an annotated translation by Chiavaroli and Mews.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Reviews of the first edition:

'This book stands as a treasure trove of new information about Heloise, and Abelard too. . . This excellent edition allows us modern readers to interpret these medieval Latin letters for ourselves, and even to reconstruct the correspondence of Abelard and Heloise.' - Michael Clanchy in The Times Literary Supplement

'A thorough, sympathetic appraisal of the [letters] . . . By restoring this magnificent literary dialogue to its rightful place in Latin letters, Mews has performed a signal service not only for scholars of Abelard and Heloise, but for all who love literature.' -The Medieval Review

'Important for Medievalists, feminists, and those captivated by the Heloise and Abelard myth; highly recommended.' - Library Journal

...a detailed and readable account...an asset to collections supporting studies of French literature and early French history and theology.
Library Journal
The illicit love affair between Abelard and Heloise was one of the most talked-about relationships in the Middle Ages. While the letters they wrote after both had become monastics have been well-publicized, these early love letters had not previously been identified as theirs. Mews (history and director of the Ctr. for Studies in Religion, Monash Univ., Australia) carefully sets forth the reasons for his identification of these letters with the famous couple. For Mews, these letters reveal a conflict of values between Heloise and Abelard that reflects monastic debates on the nature of love itself. Mews discusses Heloise's influence on Abelard through her respect for non-Christian classical authors, her concern for practicality in monastic rules, and her idea of love as involving friendship and equality. Important for Medievalists, feminists, and those captivated by the Heloise and Abelard myth; highly recommended.--Carolyn M. Craft, Longwood Coll., Farmville, VA Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
This is a paperbound reprint of a 1999 book about which Book News wrote: Examines a collection of Latin love letters preserved in a 15th- century manuscript of Clairvaux, edited by Ewald K<:o>nsgen in 1974 under the title . Argues that this collection records 113 love letters exchanged by Heloise and Abelard at the time of their love affair. Provides an in-depth analysis of the debate concerning the authenticity of the letters, and looks at how the relationship between Heloise and Abelard has been perceived over the centuries. The complete Latin text as edited by K<:o>nsgen is presented side-by-side with an annotated translation. The author teaches in the school of historical and gender studies at Monash University, Australia, where he is also director of the Center for Studies in Religion and Theology. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

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Palgrave Macmillan US
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The New Middle Ages Series
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5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.30(d)
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1 Virginity, Theology, and Pedagogy in the Speculum virginum

This chapter introduces the Speculum virginum as an original synthesis of teaching about women's religious life, composed in Germany in the first half of the twelfth century. It considers the evidence of a twelfth-century library catalogue of Hirsau, that it was written by a monk of Hirsau, known as Peregrinus, subsequently identified by Johannes Trithemius in the late fifteenth century as Conrad of Hirsau. The Speculum virginum was one of a number of pedagogically innovative writings by a prolific author, who delighted in creating fictional dialogues to provide instruction about the purpose of the religious life. The Speculum virginum puts forward the image of Theodora as a female disciple of Peregrinus, who instructs her in the meaning of true virginity and the correct relationship between flesh and spirit within the religious life. It provides a theology of the religious life for women that would be very influential in the Latin West until the eve of the Reformation.

The literature of spiritual formation tends to be neglected in surveys of medieval culture. Such writing is often assumed to be essentially pietistic and devoid of the intellectual rigor associated with treatises addressed to young men in the schools. Yet the Speculum virginum, an extended dialogue about the spiritual life for religious women, demands to be heard. Why was it that a treatise composed during the same decade that Heloise asked Peter Abelard for guidance about the religious life should be so widely studied between the mid-twelfth century and the very eve of the Reformation?

Some insight into the reasons for the long-term success ofthe Speculum may be found in the comments that Heloise made to Abelard at the outset of her third letter. She asked him for an account of the origins of the religious life for women as well as for a Rule specifically addressed to women, "which we perceive not to have been done by the Fathers."1 No major treatise had emerged within ecclesiastical tradition as a definitive exposition of the principles of religious life for women comparable to the Rule of St. Benedict. The growing participation of women in religious life during the late eleventh and twelfth centuries created a demand for literature of edification that addressed their situation. While numerous small treatises were addressed to religious women in this period, the Speculum virginum stands apart not just in size but in theological sophistication. This is the work of a monastic teacher eager to provide his peers with instruction that they could usefully employ in their preaching to communities of religious women.

The Author of the Speculum virginum

We know little for certain about the author of the Speculum. Our most detailed account is supplied by Johannes Trithemius (1460-1517). In his Annales Hirsaugienses, written between 1509 and 1514, Trithemius supplied a slightly more detailed account than he had given in his early writings:

Also in these times there shone at the abbey of Hirsau the monk Conrad, who, hiding his name out of humility, calls himself Peregrinus [Pilgrim] in his writings. Formerly a listener and disciple of blessed William, he was a most learned man in every discipline and no less venerable in the observance of religion. He wrote many distinguished works under the name of Peregrinus, of which the following survive: a distinguished work which he titled Mirror of Virgins, eight books; a great volume on the Gospels for the cycle of the year; about the life of the spirit and the fruit of death, one book; and another which is titled Matricularius, one book; Didascalon, one book; On Music and the Difference of the Tones, one book; On the Praises of St. Benedict in heroic verse, one book. He also composed elegantly various homilies and several letters, which it would be excessively prolix and tedious to mention individually. For many years he was in charge of the schools in this abbey; he also educated several important and very learned disciples. He eventually died in his eightieth year and is buried as a servant of Christ with his predecessors in the main church.2

In 1492, the first time Trithemius mentioned the Speculum virginum, he identified its author simply as Peregrinus, "subtle in genius and truly eloquent in speech, concise, and very beautiful in words, but so full and brilliant in his opinions that he does not seem to be inferior to any of the ancients."3 By 1494, for reasons that he does not explain, Trithemius was asserting that this author's true name was Conrad.4 In the passage of the Annales quoted above, he added a few details that he had not mentioned earlier, such as that Conrad had once run the school at Hirsau and was buried as an octogenarian in the main church.

What are we to make of these claims, given Trithemius' reputation for idealizing the monastic past?5 Trithemius was an assiduous scholar and note-taker who came across many manuscript books that have since disappeared. He had a particular devotion to Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179), whose writings he helped make more widely known.6 Encouraged to write the history of Hirsau by the abbot of Bursfeld, formerly the abbot of Hirsau, Trithemius looked at Conrad of Hirsau as embodying a fusion of monastic erudition and piety such as he wished to see restored in his own day.7

In the London (Eberbach) manuscript of the Speculum virginum, a prefatory letter is introduced simply with the rubric "C., last of the poor of Christ, to the holy virgins N. and N.: may you follow the joy of blessed eternity."8 The name Peregrinus or Pilgrim reflects the author's attachment to the idea that we are all pilgrims in this world, longing for an eternal home: "All the saints of Christ coming either before or after the advent of Christ were always pilgrims and poor, and did not allow the path to be embraced in love as a homeland, as a stable resting place or as the glory of the world."9 That he is a monk is evident from his frequent allusions to the monastic life. He also refers regularly to "the common life" [vita communis], a major theme of the Rule of St. Augustine, which emphasized that the apostles held all things in common.10 At the end of part eight, Peregrinus reveals his Benedictine roots when he describes the path of humility as like climbing a dangerous ladder: "Do you not have a form of this kind of ladder passed on by our holy shepherd Benedict, whose Rule you strive to observe? For he says that the sides of this ladder constitute a form of heavenly discipline, providing steps for our body and soul."11

The name of Peregrinus is mentioned at the end of a twelfth-century list of ecclesiastical authors copied at Hirsau "with the greatest labor and maximum expense in the time of the aforementioned father William (1069-1091) and his successors, Bruno (1105-21), Volmar (1121-1157) and Manegold (1157-1165), without doubt an incomparable treasure: Josephus, Origen, Tertullian, Cyprian, Hilary, Augustine, Jerome, Orosius, John Chrysostom, Athanasius, Cassian, Cassiodorus, Isidore, Bede, Alcuin, Raban Maur, Haimo, Anselm of Canterbury, Peter Damian, Hermann, Bernold, William of Hirsau, a certain monk of Hirsau, known as Peregrinus."12 The three authors mentioned immediately before Peregrinus were all distinguished German monastic figures of the eleventh century: Hermann of Reichenau (1013-1054), Bernold of Constance (d. 1100), and William of Hirsau (1026-1291). A second list follows, perhaps appended subsequently, in which various other texts are mentioned without attention to chronological order. Quite independently of Trithemius, Peter Wagner, abbot of Thierhaupten, reported ca. 1484: "Peregrinus, a monk of Hirsau, a man of outstanding genius, wrote many things, but what they are specially, I did not discover."13

Peregrinus' reputation at Hirsau is also confirmed by Johannes Parsimonius, its second evangelical abbot, who transcribed many manuscripts and inscriptions that have otherwise since disappeared.14 Peregrinus was apparently one of the many teachers depicted on the wall of its summer refectory, constructed around 1500. Parsimonius records that various sayings attributed to Peregrinus, including two from the Speculum virginum, were inscribed on beams in the dormitory, alongside other quotations from the Fathers of the Church.15 Parsimonius also attributes more works to Peregrinus than Trithemius.16 Besides an eight-book version of the Speculum virginum, both mention A Dialogue about Contempt or Love of the World,17 a treatise On the Fruits of the Flesh and of the Spirit,18 an Introduction to the Authors,19 a treatise on music and the tones, a cycle of homilies for the liturgical year, and a poetic life of St. Benedict in duple meter. Parsimonius attributes to this author an extended discussion of the Old and New Testaments, presented as a debate [Altercatio] between Paul and Gamaliel.20 He also mentions certain other writings that have not so far been identified: books about St. Augustine, St. Paulinus, and St. Nicholas; commentaries on the Psalms, on Kings, and on the Gospels; a treatise On the Grades of Humility; epigrams on the Psalms and the Prophets; and songs about Job.21 The Speculum virginum was only part of the output of a very prolific author.

In the 1960s Robert Bultot was able to confirm through detailed textual analysis that Trithemius was correct in identifying that one author wrote these different treatises.22 He established that in two manuscripts from Eberbach and Cologne, the Dialogue about Contempt or Love of the World is followed by a number of texts by the same author, notably On the Fruits of the Flesh and the Spirit (wrongly printed among the works of Hugh of St-Victor) and a small text that accompanies an illustration of both the flesh, depicted as female, and the spirit, depicted as male, rising to God.23 This passage, largely identical to a passage near the beginning of part eight of the Speculum (SV 8.8-25), also occurs within a visual narrative of the Gospels copied ca. 1175 in Regensburg.24 There then follow two sizable and still-unstudied compositions, an Address to God and About Inquiry of the Truth, or Sententie morales.25 While these treatises address a male audience, the Speculum reshapes these themes into a dialogue between a man and a woman.26 Throughout all this literature runs the theme that the true monastic life is fully consistent with reasoned reflection on both Scripture and the world. Harmony rather than discord should prevail between flesh and spirit. In the dialogue between a monk and the secular cleric, the monk counters the cleric's justification for loving the world with an explanation that the world is not bad in itself but always has to be subordinated to the spirit.

The attitudes taught by Peregrinus in these writings are consistent with what we know about the monastic and intellectual concerns encouraged by William of Hirsau. A monk of St. Emmeram, Regensburg, William was celebrated both for his learning and for his zeal for reform, and was fond of literary dialogue as a way of developing an argument.27 In his treatise on music, William criticized the theories of both Boethius and Guido of Arrezo for not appreciating the authority of ancient Greek theorists.28 He presents these in the form of discussion with Otloh of St. Emmeram (ca. 1010-1070), who himself was much concerned about the correct use of pagan learning, but never became a public figure.29 As abbot of Hirsau from 1069 to 1091 William reformed monastic life at many other houses throughout Germany. Ulrich of Zell praised William for eliminating the practice of parents offering their children to the monastic life simply because they were crippled or deformed in some way, rather than because of any conscious choice on the children's part. William's biographer singled out the importance he attached to poverty and simplicity in the monastic life and his unwillingness to accept any of the traditional gestures of submission accorded the abbot of a great monastery.30 Although William drew on a number of the observances of Cluny, he did not emulate its practice of having a single abbot exercise authority over subordinate daughter houses. Zweifalten, St. George, Petershausen as well as all other abbeys founded or reformed from Hirsau during the late eleventh and early twelfth centuries were constitutionally independent. They could adapt the liturgy of Hirsau each in their own way. 31 William attached great importance to building up libraries within all the monasteries that he founded or reformed.32 In houses influenced by the Hirsau reform, the study of pagan authors came to occupy a central role in the monastic educational curriculum. The intellectual culture of Hirsau, however, simply extended patterns of education that William had absorbed at St. Emmeram in the mid-eleventh century, as theorized by Otloh. In his treatise on the instruction of both clerics and lay people, Otloh had developed the theme that it was important to develop imagery from nature if the unlettered were to be instructed in religious truth. The Speculum virginum continues this tradition.33

The concern of the Speculum with the pastoral care of women echoes the enthusiasm of William of Hirsau for the notion that women were as able as men to follow a strict life of detachment from the world.34 As Urban Küsters has shown, it was a distinct feature of many of the houses influenced by William's reforms that women lived in communities physically adjacent to those of men.35 At Zwiefalten, for example, founded from Hirsau in 1089, a separate community of women existed with its own magistra only a few hundred meters from the men's community. By 1138 the abbey housed some 70 monks, 130 lay brothers and 62 nuns (one of whom, Mathilda de Nifen is reported as having copied many of its manuscripts).36 At the abbey of Disibodenberg, Jutta (1092-1136) and Hildegard (1098-1179) lived in an enclosure in close proximity to monks, installed by the archbishop of Mainz sometime before 1108. While the Rule of Benedict never concerned itself with the situation of female recluses living alongside monks, many houses influenced by the Hirsau reforms considered that such a practice actually enhanced the reputation of the community.

The literary and thematic concerns of the Speculum virginum so closely reflect those encouraged by William of Hirsau that it seems difficult to doubt the testimony of both the Hirsau library catalogue and of Trithemius that its author was a monk of Hirsau. It is quite possible that he could once have been a student of William of Hirsau and that he lived from about 1080 to 1150. This monastic author belonged to the same generation as Peter Abelard (1079-1142). In many ways, "Peregrinus" was responding to concerns similar to those raised by Heloise. He shared Abelard's belief that the true religious life was fully consistent with the demands of reason and should be available to women as much as to men. Whether his real name was Conrad, as Trithemius surmised, cannot be established with certainty. It cannot be doubted, however, that he was a significant monastic writer who synthesized many new ideas about both virginity and theology in the form of dialogue between himself and Theodora. In his own way, he was helping establish a new tradition of spiritual writing, one that addressed both women and men.

The Argument of the Speculum virginum

The Speculum virginum emphasizes throughout that the virgin must always aim at the cultivation of humility and charity. This is fundamentally the same ethical path as Benedict urges on monks in his Rule. However, where the Benedictine Rule is written with only men in mind, the Speculum offers the image of a questioning but attentive woman as a model for other virgins of Christ to emulate in learning about their vocation. The Speculum presents traditional teaching about the cultivation of humility and the ultimate goal of union with God through the form of lively dialogue and vivid illustration. In a prefatory letter, attached after the work was completed, the author describes the Speculum as a sign of "mutual love . . . so that you may advance in the grace of the eternal spouse and that you may mourn less about our absence." The letter concludes with a suggestion that the dialogue provides a substitute for being present in person: "In the mirror that I have sent you consider the expression of your hearts; consider that if you cannot understand everything which is written, not a small part of learning is to listen to and love one who does understand" (SV Epist. 103-4).

The Speculum may initially have been written for a monastic pastor to read aloud to religious women rather than to be read silently by women religious. Monks could also draw benefit from its teaching by identifying themselves as virgins of Christ. All known manuscripts of the Latin text come from male religious communities.37 They also all reproduce an identical series of Nota signs in the margin (helpfully reproduced in the critical edition) that assist the reader to identify the most significant parts of the argument. The Speculum engages in explaining the meaning of a life consecrated to virginity with the didactic clarity of a teacher firmly persuaded of the role of questioning dialogue as a way of arriving at greater understanding.

The theme raised at the outset of the Speculum virginum, that inspired words can constitute a mirror through which individuals can learn truths about themselves, is deeply rooted in Christian tradition. Gregory the Great makes a similar comment about the purificatory function of the basin forged by Moses from the mirrors of women and used by Aaron and his sons for ritual ablution (Exod. 38.8, 40.29).38 While Augustine himself had written a Speculum for the moral edification of the faithful,39 the Speculum virginum gives much greater attention to providing a reasoned explanation of how virgins of Christ can come to self-understanding.

The author's driving argument throughout the work is that the goal of the virgin of Christ is not the preservation of physical virginity but progress in humility and true purity. "For what use is the flower of chastity, if the fruit of action is lacking in purity of the body? . . . Therefore the beauty of virginity is a kind of flower from the integrity of the body, but the flower is not prevented from flowering when the virgin shows the beautiful flower by good actions in divine praise" (1.289-97). Traditional exhortations to virginity, from the patristic period to the early twelfth century, tended to focus on the purity of the angelic life and the absolute importance of spurning the life of the world.40 In this perspective, the preservation of physical virginity was essential to any attempt to regain the life of the angels. The Speculum differs subtly from these traditional exhortations in developing a theology that emphasizes how the life of the flesh has to be regulated by that of the spirit. Just as the Dialogue about Contempt or Love of the World teaches that true contempt for the world is based on understanding of the world, so the Speculum virginum teaches that true rejection of the world is a spiritual rather than a physical process. Aware of the dangers presented by excessive intimacy between men and women, the author emphasizes that the real threat to the religious life comes not from sexual pollution but from pride and complacency.

Part one of the Speculum argues that the true virginal life is a flower that has to bring forth fruit. It opens with a visual representation of the so-called "tree of Jesse," an image that explains how from the stock of Boaz and David came the Virgin, "like the branches of a terebinth" (Eccli. 24.22) from whom flowered her Son and thence the sevenfold gifts of the spirit (figure 1).41 Peregrinus explains to Theodora the process of metaphor as a whole: Speaking of such verses as "Mountains of Israel, extend your branches and flower and bring forth fruit" (Eccli. 24.22), he explains:

They create for a rational creature analogies drawn from non-rational and non-feeling things, so that we are least excited to progress by what is lesser, for which examples from what is elevated do not suffice. The nature of things has been offered as an example to humanity, as if to be used. For the donkey of the master has become the mistress [magistra] of one whose eyes have been so clouded by the shadow of blindness that he does not see what is evident to cattle. The flowering creature is witness of the perfect creator; while you hasten to him seeking your beginning, you imitate his order in the manner of a creature in its normal course. (1.371-79)

Peregrinus' point is that the true religious life is not about rejecting nature but about understanding nature as a guide [ductrix] to the invisible things of God (1.386).

Peregrinus explains the vocation of the virgin in the most rational terms possible. His assumption that the state of being a virgin is inherently superior to that of being married or a widow is itself very traditional in patristic writing. However, by having Theodora ask questions about the religious life, or about the meaning of difficult passages in Scripture, the author searches for arguments based on reason rather than authority, in exactly the same way as St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109) had sought to transform discussions of theology. Theodora's role is to offer Peregrinus a foil by which he can explain that the reader should not dally on the literal meaning of the flowers of Scripture at the expense of understanding their deeper mystical sense (1.505-8).

The author is as much concerned with enjoining purity of mind on those monks involved with ministering to women as on the women themselves: "For he feeds captured eyes on mud who is pleased more by beauty of body than of soul. What detestable madness! How many leaders, daughter, are there in the midst of the maiden tambourine players who do not promote them in discipline, but weaken them because, forgetful of the care of souls, they see nothing with their eyes open because of their physical desires" (1.566-69). Their problem lies not in the material world but in their incapacity to live according to reason. Theodora is given the phrase "God saw all that he made and they were truly good" (1.658-59) in order to allow Peregrinus to reflect that "the beauty of the world attests the Maker of everything in the nature of things by virtue of truth" (1.673-75). There is an echo here of the thought of Hugh of St-Victor (d. 1141) in the author's claim that the twin fulcrum of all things lies in the nature of all things as established by God [conditio rerum] and human redemption (1.685-95). The inspiration here, however, is perhaps more likely to be Gregory the Great than Hugh.42 As if aware of a counterargument that emphasizes the universality of sin, the author has Theodora exclaim: "But I cannot wonder why the same prophet assigns cohabitation of a young man with a virgin to that most delightful and peaceful city, saying, 'The young man will dwell with the virgin and your sons shall dwell in you' [Isa. 62.5] when in this world such living together gives rise to no small danger, if the fear and love of Christ do not intervene. It is a mad thought to suspect anything of this kind in that kingdom, where the flower of uncorrupted nature is quite immutable and does not wish or can have such corruption" (1.766-74). Peregrinus then argues that in the heavenly Jerusalem there is no stain whatsoever in men and women living together in a pure conscience. He wants to push Theodora to greater understanding: "With open eyes, you see nothing. I sometimes want you to be a goat, not a mole. By nature, sight makes one animal sharp, whereas the darkness of the natural earth confuses the other" (1.797-99). The true meaning of this dwelling together of young men and women he explains as the union of Christ and the Church. This union of male and female is not just the goal of history but the original state of humanity as described in Genesis. To explain that the true virginal life is about growth in virtue, he concludes part one with an image of the virtues as flowers, nurtured by the four rivers, or four Gospels, that flow through Paradise.43

Having laid out general principles in the first part, the author devotes part two to defending the value of strict enclosure, the goal of which is to stop mental distraction. Theodora puts forward scriptural injunctions about "going out" that might seem to contradict the principle of enclosure in order for Peregrinus to show how sensuality always has to be subject to rationality in the human person. To explain his point, he tells a story of how a young cleric attached to a monastery became so eager to see and speak to one of the virgins that he crept into her bed when they were at prayer, only to be struck dead. Peregrinus goes on to explain that the sinful cleric was not permanently damned for his behavior. The nun in question engaged in so much prayer on his behalf with the other nuns (who had previously praised God for his being struck down) that a pious woman eventually saw in a vision that he had been freed from purgatory. Another example Peregrinus offers is that of Susanna, lusted after by the elders who watched her (2.347-71). The moral that Peregrinus drives home is that the goal of true virginity is interior virtue: "Do not glory, daughter because you carry the name of virgin, but rejoice truly44 in this, that you have offered yourself for him, as a virgin in the reward of virginity. For it is praiseworthy not to be a virgin, but to have made a vow of purity of both flesh and spirit to him, who is both son of a virgin and spouse of virgins" (2.442-44). He advises avoiding excessive conversation with men (a practice Theodora observes is widespread), because it can disturb the hearts of those who talk (2.465-71).

As Morgan Powell demonstrates in the fifth chapter of this volume, the beginning of part three, introduced by Psalm 44.11-12, "Listen, daughter . . ." was the original beginning of the Speculum. Peregrinus reflects on the dignity of a virgin's calling and explains that what follows is a mirror by which virgins of Christ can consider, by reasoning and example, who they will be in the future. He then launches into an exhortation to remember always the presence of Christ and to love everyone in Christ. External decoration is as nothing, compared to this inner goal: "There may be among the virgins of Christ a virgin subtle and splendid in beauty, art, and genius, regular in prayer, but deceived by empty glory or lightness of behavior, distracted by various lusts, curious about everything with a vain mind, a spoiled lover of pleasures, surely you will not pronounce her to be of virginal integrity and a follower of the lamb? . . . Believe, virgin of the Lord, that one who looks within considers not only the integrity of the chaste body, but the virtue and intention of the heart. A penitent and humble widow pleases God more than an insolent and proud virgin" (3.226-31, 234-38).45 Peregrinus is particularly opposed to those virgins who publicly commit themselves to chastity but have actually spurned the love and fear of God (3.343-49). He castigates those "who have the name of holiness" and live in houses next to monasteries, but who "secretly prostitute themselves and by this the whole Church is scandalized" (3.351-58). Every passage in Scripture that relates to false beauty is used to contrast the proud virgin with the true bride of Christ.

Part four is about pride and humility. It begins with two contrasting visual images, one showing how vices all emanate from pride, the other how virtues all spring from love, in turn the fruit of humility (figures 2 and 3). The author includes a detailed analysis of both the virtues and vices, drawing on a separate treatise, On the Fruits of the Flesh and of the Spirit (not written as a dialogue), to show how women have to confront the same moral questions as men.46 Identical passages occur in his Dialogue about Contempt or Love of the World, except that references to monks are replaced by those to virgins. While the issues of behavior with which he is concerned are not particularly gender specific, he does seek out images of strong women in Scripture and classical antiquity who can serve as role models in the pursuit of virtue. Drawing largely from Orosius, he reminds Theodora of a range of powerful women who overcame male tyrants: Jahel conquering the king of the Madianites; Judith being victorious over Holophernes; Semiramis of Babylon; Thamar, queen of the Scyths; the Amazons; and the queens Marpesia and Lamphetus, who ruled their kingdoms with great discipline (4.103-609; figure 4). Theodora encourages him to give these and other examples to demonstrate the capacity of the virgin of Christ, assuming devotion to be a virile quality: "You proceed in a most pleasing course to us, adding by words and examples strength of a virile spirit to women's hearts" (4.610-11). As in part three, Peregrinus warns that if the most brilliant, noble, and learned virgin does not have true humility, she cannot be pleasing to Christ (4.752-58). Humility in turn is simply the basis for the charity, "the flower and fruit of eternity" (4.832), that she needs to show to all people.

This leads Peregrinus in part five to present Mary, "leader of the virgins" [princeps virginum] as a focus of devotion. Extending the high Mariology in the treatise of Paschasius Radbertus about Mary's Assumption, always circulated as a letter of Jerome, Peregrinus describes her as the wisdom of God existing before creation. He sees her as a figure who can be discerned throughout history, whether as the garden of Paradise, the ark of Noah, the tabernacle of the Old Testament, or the vessel of the Incarnation (5.33-161). He even goes so far as to describe Mary as "reconciler of the world" [reconciliatrix mundi: 5.369-70], an expression not used by any of the Fathers, but consistent with the high status accorded Mary in reformed monasticism at the time.47 Mary embodied the wisdom by which all creation was ordered, through which one could learn about God (5.199-234). She was the supreme achievement of the Creator (5.472-73). Peregrinus identifies Mary as one of the wheels of the four-wheeled chariot [quadriga] led not just by Mary and Christ but also by John the Baptist and John the Evangelist. Traditionally the four wheels (or horses) of the quadriga of Aminadab (Song of Songs 6.11) were interpreted either as the four evangelists or sometimes as the four virtues. Mary was now put on a par with these three other figures.

Peregrinus' goal in promoting the example of Mary is to exhort virgins of Christ to remain true to their vocation and not be seduced by those who wish to pollute body and soul (5.634-63). He has Theodora put a question that is not dissimilar to the point that Heloise was putting to Abelard in her letter of complaint about the way the religious life was being interpreted: "Since scripture says that all things are pure to the pure (Tit. 1.5), I wonder whether these or any things created for man are forbidden to the saints. For although the apostle says 'Do not get drunk on wine, in which is debauchery,' I do not think that it is of the nature of wine to be a vice of this kind, but to be harmful when someone drinks to excess" (5.664-68). This is an opinion with which Peregrinus, like Abelard, agrees. Abstinence is wise only because people cannot control themselves. The goal of union with Christ is perfect love [caritas]: "Do you see that the perfection of love is the purification of sinners, the love of the inner light arisen in Christ?" (5.861-63) Peregrinus also reminds Theodora of the example of Agnes, Lucia, Cecilia, Agatha, and of the 11,000 virgins to spur her on to the essential virtues of chastity, charity, and humility. One cannot exist without the others: "Chastity without charity is a lamp without oil. Take away the oil and you have extinguished the lamp" (5.1004-6)48 His complaints are directed as much against those charged with looking after religious women as with the women themselves. "Woe is me, how many monasteries of virgins in our times seem to be tottering in this disease in that judges and priests of a former time are shown to be represented, by whose perverse sense of lust, holy virgins are deluded and deserve from them eternal shame and punishment, from whose example they ought to hope for the grace and glory of light" (5.1057-62). A long sermon is included here excoriating male pastors who follow the flesh more than the spirit (5.1049-1183). Peregrinus always seeks to resolve these situations by dwelling on interior disposition. Theodora suggests in conclusion that "among men and women exercising the practice of piety in equal profession, knowledge of divine presence is necessary, without which the rule of all discipline and regular life collapses" (5.1239-42). The wise virgin needs to watch out for false shepherds (5.1285-87).

This leads Peregrinus to reflect on the familiar theme of the wise and the foolish virgins. The difference between them lies in their intention (6.119): "virginity of the flesh is of no use without integrity of the mind (6.176-77) . . . For humility is the mother of charity, which is signified through the oil; charity is the glory or reward of holy humility" (6.183-84). He singles out the continuous vigilance needed to discern between good and evil, virtue and vice, spirit and flesh (6.802-4) and to warn against those who display the appearance of holiness but are far removed from it in their minds (6.808-10, 823-25). Christ had been shown to dwell as much in married women and in widows as in virgins.

Peregrinus is aware that this seems to conflict with traditional patristic teaching about the hundredfold reward for virgins, compared to the thirtyfold reward for the married and the sixtyfold reward for widows.49 Part seven of the Speculum is devoted to justifying this doctrine by arguments drawn from reason and pagan antiquity. Peregrinus dwells on the familiar theme of the trials of the married state and the freedom brought by virginity, but, like Abelard in his writing for Heloise, justifies his argument by pagan examples. Theodora asks: "Talk in this way, I beg, about the marriages of the gentiles, so that we may be stirred to caution by examples taken from them" (7.243-45). He similarly has no difficulty in finding examples of virtuous widows from Scripture and antiquity [in ethnicismo] to get Theodora to agree that widowhood is preferable to a second marriage (7.532-34). He supports traditional monastic teaching by appealing to precedents from pagan antiquity. Peregrinus similarly defends virginity by quoting from the examples from pagan antiquity supplied by Jerome and Orosius (7.705-98). When Theodora asks by why rewards should be different for virgins, widows and married folk, the only argument that Peregrinus can come up with is that varying effort demands varying reward. Her position is the voice of reason: "I weigh up the difference in merits and rewards of these three grades, but no virtue is to be conceded to them in deserving the fruit of reward unless the spirit dominates the flesh in everyone. For it seems to me that the flesh is the cause of victory among the good, just as it is of struggle" (7.858-64). Peregrinus defends the traditional ranking of virgins as above married people and widows, but explains that spiritual reward always is earned by the life of the spirit rather than by position in society.

In part eight, Peregrinus continues the debate in terms of a comparison with what he sees as the crucial distinction, between the flesh [caro] and the spirit or breath [spiritus] that gives true life to that flesh. As earlier in the Speculum, the author expands on ideas that he had raised in his discussion of the virtues and the vices, On the Fruits of the Flesh and the Spirit.50 Whether addressing women or men, the author's concern is to define the right relationship between the flesh and the spirit. Traditional monastic writing followed the Pauline emphasis, often picked up by Augustine, that flesh and spirit were always in conflict (Gal. 5.17). In the Speculum, Theodora hints at the argument that Peregrinus seeks to present, that flesh and spirit are not contrasting principles but both essential to creation: "As I see it, these steps that you put forward, namely something good and something better, flesh and spirit, if they follow their paths in right order, they lead indubitably to their beginning [principium], namely that best step, which is God himself. For if, as you say, the spirit is subject to reason, the flesh to spirit, the complete person [totus homo] is subject to the Creator" (8.100-105). Although the image (figure 5) that accompanies this discussion is often titled "the struggle of flesh and spirit," it in fact illustrates how reason and wisdom, both linked to the arms of Christ, assist both flesh and spirit, separated by free will, to rise to the top of the ladder to greet Christ. While at the ladder's base is the "vain deceiver," above this is the figure of the Law, bearing the command "thou shall not lust" [non concupisces]. Characteristic of the gendered structure of this thought, flesh, described as a good thing [caro: bonum], is presented as female, while spirit, something better [spiritus: melius] is depicted as male.51 In classical Augustinian theology, the perfect union of flesh and spirit is considered as unique to the person of Christ, and only through grace is humanity able to overcome this conflict. It was extended by Bernard of Clairvaux in his reflection on how the individual soul is able to be healed through being visited by the Word of God. Peregrinus is much less interested than Bernard in the psychology of the individual soul or in notions of original sin. Instead he develops the theme that the true religious restrains herself to recover the perfect harmony of flesh and spirit of humanity in its original form. In some respects, his thinking is similar to that of Hugh of St-Victor. Peregrinus gives much less attention than Hugh, however, to the role of sacraments as vehicles of grace through which the soul is able to return to completeness. His approach is a more consciously ascetic one, putting weight on the need for the individual to subordinate worldly impulses through reason and awareness of truth: "Reason rules in vain over vice, or spirit over the flesh if that soul by which the body is animated is not subdued to truth. Therefore knowledge of truth is the matter or task of the soul who advances to God through faith and love, away from worldly relations" (8.250-52).

Rather than valuing the role of ecclesiastical structures and rituals, Peregrinus prefers to emphasize that the true religious is only a pilgrim in this world (8.426-87). As earlier in the Speculum, he complains about those who do not understand their calling: "Daughter, there are many virgins who have changed their habit to seek Christ, they submit their necks to monastic rules, but they do not consider much by what order or principle turning to the religious life should proclaim a beginning to conversion. . . . Many virgins or widows, when they reach the haven of monastic peace, measure the promising beginnings of their religious life by the peace of the life they have found; by this they have attained not so much the shore of great peace, but shipwreck and the judgment of death" (8.595-98). The analogy that Peregrinus prefers is that of growth in the natural world:

Peregrinus: . . . Flowers are the beginnings of conversion, fruits are the exercise of effort and perseverance. Do you not know from what any things generated in the soil take their strength?

Theodora: Mildness of the air, fruitfulness of the soil, now shows, now sun, now heat, now cold.

Peregrinus: Thus the converted human being takes growth by the peace or effort of righteousness, and turns all things struggling against the holy will to a reward by virtue of patience. (8.628-35)

His message to the virgin of Christ is that she should not take any comfort from her status. The essence of the virginal life is "chastity of spirit and body, [and] strength of patience in observance of the evangelical law, through which one arrives at the glory of divine love" (8.719-21). True virginity is thus interior rather than external (8.725-26). Only at the end of this discussion, does Peregrinus introduce an image known to anyone familiar with the Rule of Benedict, that of the ladder of humility. Having introduced this image at the beginning of part eight, Peregrinus now reminds Theodora that she had read about a virgin who glimpsed this ladder in a vision in the deeds of the martyrs. By alluding to Perpetua's vision of a ladder that climbed to heaven, he provides a female authority figure for an image more widely known as the ladder of humility described by St. Benedict, "whose Rule you strive to follow" (8.756-62).52

Part nine begins with a more dramatic visual image of the ever-present dangers that beset the virgin soul as she rises to God, assisted by reason and wisdom. Although it shows personified figures, probably reason and wisdom, resisting the devil, a male figure who bears two swords has climbed the ladder and is threatening the virgin soul even as she is about to greet Christ. In the accompanying text, Peregrinus expounds more fully the meaning of this notion that the bride of Christ is never at rest but continuously has to fight off dangerous temptations that beset her. These temptations are not sexual. Rather they concern worldly glory and complacency with the external structures of the religious life: "If you follow a naked Christ with voluntary poverty, why do you delight in fine foods, and extravagant clothes as if renouncing the world was about mixing delightful poultices in the cloister? Neither the mother of the Lord went out to battle in this way with Thecla and the other martyrs, nor did the Amazons fight the virile sex in this way, with their shields thrown away" (9.194-99).53 The warnings that he gives could be given just as much to monks as to virgins. Peregrinus emphasizes not religious experience but the complacency of many religious: "Listen, daughter, many men wish to be wise, but they do not know how that wisdom ought to be sought. For they seek outside themselves what is rather within themselves" (9.487-89).

The final temptation is raised by Theodora: "But I ask what is to be said about those who, raising their brow about lineage, exceed the limit of grace among other sisters, distinguishing their condition and through this detracting from common nature by private self-glorification?" (9.499-502) This question allows Peregrinus to distinguish between false and true nobility: "The greatest nobility of man is a noble spirit, one who cultivates virtues and is an enemy of vice. . . . True nobility is therefore to be measured more in the spirit than in the glory of parents" (9.510-11. 523-25). Theodora makes a revealing observation not unlike one made by Hildegard in Scivias in relation to boys offered to the religious life: "How many adult women we see in monasteries repenting of their sacred vow, shown to have been proclaimed by parental concern or monastic discipline at a tender age. They wish wrongly in vain for what they cannot have, because they serve God with an ungrateful mind; what fruit for their effort will they have, I ask?"54 In such cases the widow is clearly to be preferred to the virgin (9.678-79). "Human conscience is the place of damnation or reward" (9.681-82). Peregrinus advises recalling the presence of God to rise above all distraction (9.950-51) and urges Theodora: "If you want to have peace, take care to not to denigrate anyone, not to condemn, not to judge" (9.1089-90). He concludes by taking her through various steps of the way of life of a virgin, all of which focus on interiority: purity of mind and body, rejection of external luxury, inclining the heart to love of Christ, reflecting with Mary on the Word of God, and then continuing in perseverance without complacency (9.1168-1206). At length he comes to Theodora's question about the virgin who has fallen from her state: "But what shall I say about fallen virgins? What I read, what I feel, I do not dare proclaim. But I shall speak. Fixed remedies have been determined for all criminal sins, that is murder, theft, adultery and others of this kind, but for veiled virgins, committed to Christ by the pontifical ring, brides of the Lord kept in the protection of the angels, nothing is defined by the holy fathers about satisfaction" (9.1236-42). Peregrinus insists that one should not despair about a fallen virgin. "Let her rise in virile fashion, further let her stand strongly, let her beat faithfully at the source of life, and let her be as vigilant about obtaining pardon as she was negligent beforehand about her ruin" (9.1247-49). This leads him to dwell on the working of grace, which is greater than any sinner.

In the original eight-book version, equivalent to SV 3.1-10.397, the Speculum concluded with an extended prayer in which Peregrinus gives thanks to God for revealing himself in such a wonderful way through creation. In the enlarged version, this prayer begins part ten. Although not a formal theological discussion, the prayer articulates a theme that had underpinned the Speculum as a whole, that it is through inquiry into truth that the mind is excited to inner things. By moving from external images, the mind can move to interior understanding (10.93-99). Much of the prayer's text is identical to the Allocutio ad Deum, on which it may be based.55

In parts eleven and twelve, Peregrinus lifts the discussion to a new level by exploring the meaning of the seven pillars of wisdom. The final image (figure 6) of the house of wisdom, shows how the gifts of the spirit flow from Christ, in turn generated from the Virgin and the stock of Jesse. It connects to the image presented at the opening of the Speculum (figure 1). He also returns to his imagery of flowers and fruit as images of the virtues, sketched out in part one. All things have their principium in this sevenfold spirit, through which the mind is raised toward God (11.152-74). Peregrinus is defining the nature of knowledge as much as offering exhortation: "Wisdom is the intellectual knowledge of eternal things, learning indeed is rational knowledge of temporal things. The former belongs to contemplating divine things in God, the latter to disposing human things for God; what is to be preferred to this, is to be entrusted to your judgment" (11.432-36). Peregrinus reflects on theological discussion taking place outside the cloister but is wary of its depth: "How many Christian philosophers dispute about heavenly things, how true and how subtle is what they understand by their own learning about good things to come, yet they do not learn by their studies to taste for themselves what they know" (11.438-47). He is concerned that rational enquiry should be pursued at the expense of a personal experience of divine wisdom. Theodora is given the wise word, when she is asked whether she thinks sinful eloquence is to be preferred to holy simplicity: "On the contrary, it is not to be equaled, because I approve the silence of the simple soul more that the noise of eloquence in pompous words" (11.525-26). Peregrinus then asks her if she has been into a church, "illuminated by the beauty of glass" to make her realise that nothing beautiful could ever be seen without light (11.656-69). The analogy provides an excellent synthesis of his fundamentally very simple yet consistent pedagogical technique and theological vision. While Hugh of St-Victor structures his teaching around the notion of sacrament, Peregrinus accords particular value to our recognition of the manifold gifts of the spirit. Visual examples such as about the glass in a church come naturally to his aid. Theodora puts it simply: "Your opinion is most true, that whatever good the soul possesses, it holds by the approach of divine light, which shines" (11.675-76). Only at this point in the Speculum does Peregrinus discuss the nature of the unity of the human and divine in Christ (11.797-829). He reflects on his major theme, the gifts of the spirit (11.830-1013). In part twelve, he relates these to the petitions voiced in the Lord's Prayer. Christ is thus presented not as the object of devotion but as the medium through which the Christian soul seeks to be filled by the Holy Spirit.

The Speculum virginum concludes with a bridal song [Epithalamium] of the virgins of Christ, a hymn of praise that celebrates the goal of religious life in terms of the union of the beloved with her beloved, the bride and the bridegroom of the Song of Songs. It celebrates the rich flowers in that garden of Paradise in ways that recall the allegorization that Peregrinus had provided in part one of the Speculum. By being written to be sung as alternate verses, by one side of the choir to another, the community ritually reenacts the final union in Paradise. The first letter of each verse of the bridal song spells out an antiphon celebrating both the Father by whose grace the Mother stands as a rose for all time and the virginal Bride, whom God has kept hidden since the beginning of time. The role of the true virgins of Christ is to prepare themselves for this perfect union, by cultivating humility, patience, and, above all, love.


The obscurity in which Peregrinus cloaks his identity is significant. He was not someone who wanted to play a major role in ecclesiastical politics or to promote new structures of religious life. He was a moralist, with an intensely personal vision of the world. As someone committed to returning to the values of an idealized early Church, he shared much in common with Hugh of St-Victor and Bernard. In presenting his arguments in the form of questioning dialogue, he was like St. Anselm. At the same time, his vision of religious life was markedly different from theirs. He was not particularly interested in doctrinal debate or in applying Aristotelian logic to theological questions. Because he wanted to present what he understood to be the true teaching of St. Benedict to women committed to the life of virginity, he did not need to spend time on issues with which they were not particularly concerned. He wanted to share with these women the same values that he wanted to convey to his monks, in other treatises. Like Abelard, he saw women who devoted themselves to religion as capable of achieving a degree of moral integrity denied those who immersed themselves in worldly politics.

The continuing popularity of the Speculum in the later Middle Ages undoubtedly has much to do with its focus on the need for simplicity of life. It proclaimed that women could imitate the values of the early Church by retreating from the world. In the later Middle Ages, the brothers and sisters of the common life found inspiration in an earlier wave of piety that had transformed the fortunes of so many monastic houses in the late eleventh and early twelfth century. The reform of monastic life promoted by William of Hirsau was one of the many movements in religious life in this period that influenced a new way of thinking about religious life, as important in its day as pietism in the eighteenth century. The large number of women's monastic communities established or reformed in this period provoked new reflection on what values both women and men in such communities ought to pursue. The Speculum virginum was a composition, combining literary dialogue, visual art, and music in a way that responded creatively to this new situation.

Even if Peregrinus was a indeed a monk of Hirsau, as the Hirsau library catalogue reports, Hirsau did not remain at the forefront of reform after the mid-twelfth century. The reforming zeal that animated the monks of Hirsau during the time of William of Hirsau and his successor, Abbot Gebhard, inevitably changed with the advent of Henry V in 1105 and official approval for movements of monastic reform. In 1105, when Bruno, a canon of noble birth and matricularius of the cathedral of Speyer, came to replace Gebhard (elected bishop of Speyer), there was no universal agreement about the choice.56 Under Bruno's successor, Volmar, consecrated in 1121 at the abbey of St Alban in Mainz by Archbishop Adalbert, Hirsau increased its wealth, but lost a number of its monks to communities where the observance was more strict, such as the Cistercians. Sometime between 1130 and 1143 Abbot Volmar obtained papal support for insisting that such monks should return to their mother abbey.57 Some monks of Hirsau approached Hildegard with complaints about their abbot in 1153/54, prompting her to exchange letters with Abbot Manegold after his election in 1156. The abbey was entering a period of slow decline that would not be arrested until a moment of renewed monastic vigor in the fifteenth century.58 Trithemius' research into the writings of Peregrinus or Conrad of Hirsau was part of a broader narrative about a monastic community that had known both greatness and decline.

Peregrinus' comments in part nine of the Speculum virginum about the difference between true and false nobility had a particular relevance at a time when the role of noble birth in recruitment to religious life was under much debate. At Hirsau itself, Abbot Volmar's tendency to align himself closely with local nobility was disliked by those monks who emphasized the importance of poverty and humility. By the mid-twelfth century, the impetus for reform was shifting away to reformed Augustinian houses such as Andernach and Frankenthal and to the Cistercians, as at Eberbach. At Andernach, Tenxwind's criticism (ca. 1150) of what she considered elitist policies being pursued by Hildegard of Bingen reflects a wider reaction against reforming values that she felt were being betrayed by Benedictines who identified too closely with the existing social order. By the thirteenth century, mendicant friars and Cistercian monks were taking the lead in being involved in ministering to communities of religious women.59 The values of interiority and austerity promoted in the Speculum virginum exercised a particular appeal within a Cistercian milieu.

The Speculum virginum presents an ideal of austere simplicity for the virgin of Christ living within the confines of the cloister. The treatise offers far more, however, than just an extended exhortation to sexual purity and rejection of the world. It employs innovative pedagogical techniques to develop a theology of the religious life, centered on imitation of the Virgin as Bride of Christ and a vision of the fundamental harmony between flesh and spirit, the material and the spiritual. Rather than dwelling on the divide between flesh and spirit, Peregrinus explains how the flesh needs to be subject to the spirit. The image of the woman who devoted herself to inner purity provided him with an ideal model of Christian behavior. The visual images that provide the framework for the Speculum virginum help the person who views the treatise to understand this message. When Hildegard of Bingen developed her own, particularly original way of explaining the relationship between the physical and the spiritual in terms of the viridity [viriditas] underpinning creation, she may have been reacting against the more structured way of thinking presented in the Speculum.60 In his own way, Peregrinus was providing an authoritative model from a male perspective of how a teacher should instruct religious women in the path of virtue and understanding. It was a model that enjoyed enduring influence within many religious communities throughout Europe from the mid-twelfth century to the eve of the Reformation.


1. J. T. Muckle, ed. "The Letter of Heloise on Religious Life and Abelard's First Reply," Mediaeval Studies 17 (1950): 242; The Letters of Abelard and Heloise, trans. B. Radice, (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1974), p. 159.
2. Johannes Trithemius, Annales Hirsaugienses, Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek Clm 703, fol. 190: "Claruit his quoque temporibus [i.e. the abbacy of Volmar, 1121-1157] in hirsaugiensi cenobio Conradus monachus qui nomen suum ex humilitate occultans peregrinum in suis se lucubrationibus nuncupat. Beati Wilhelmi quondam auditor atque discipulus, vir in omni sciencia scripturarum doctissimus et non minus religionis observantia venerandus: qui sub nomine peregrini scripsit multa preclara opuscula: de quibus extant subiecta. Ad theodoram sanctimonialem opus insigne quod prenotavit speculum virginum li. viii. In evangelia per circulum anni volumen magnum. De vita spiritus et fructu mortis li i. Et alius qui prenotatur matricularius li i. Didascalon li i. De musica et differentia tonorum li. i. De laudibus sancti Benedicti carmine heroico li. i. Sermones quoque varios omelias simul et epistolas plures eleganter composuit: quorum mentionem facere singulatim nimis prolixum foret ac tediosum. Multis annis monachorum scolis in hoc cenobio prefuit: et plures discipulos insignes atque doctissimos educavit. Obiit tandem octogenarius cum patribus suis in maiori cenobio ut servus Christi sepultus."
3. Trithemius, Catalogus illustrium virorum Germaniae [Mainz, 1495], ed. Marquard Freher, Opera Historica (Frankfurt, 1601; reprinted Frankfurt: Minerva, 1966), 1: 136-37: "ingenio subtilis et eloquio valde disertus, brevis et pulcherrimus, sed copiosus et nitidus in sententiis, adeo, nulli priscorum videatur inferior." For full discussion of the passage in Trithemius, De illustribus viris ordinis sancti Benedicti [1492], first printed in Cologne 1575 but not included in Freher's edition of the Opera Historica (1966), see Constant J. Mews, "Monastic Educational Culture Revisited: The Witness of Zwiefalten and the Hirsau reform," in Medieval Monastic Education, ed. George Ferzoco and Carolyne Muessig (London: Leicester University Press, 2000), pp. 182-97.
4. Trithemius, De scriptoribus ecclesiasticis [Basel, 1494], Opera Historica, ed. Freher, 1: 276; although Trithemius repeats the claim that SV had eight books, he provides the incipit of the twelve-book version, "Collaturo tecum. . . ." See also Chronicon Hirsaugiense [1495-1503; Basel, 1559], ed. Freher, 2: 90-91.
5. On Trithemius, see Klaus Arnold, Johannes Trithemius (1462-1516), 2nd ed. (Wurzburg: Ferdinand Schöningh, 1991), and Noel Brann, The Abbot Trithemius (1462-1516): The Renaissance of Monastic Humanism (Leiden: Brill, 1981). On his so-called forgeries see Nikolaus Staubach, "Auf der Suche nach der verlorenen Zeit: Die historiographischen Fiktionen des Johannes Trithemius im Lichte seines wissenschaftlichen Selbstverständnisses," in Fälschungen im Mittelalter. Internationaler Kongress der Monumenta Germaniae Historica München, 16-19 September 1986, ed. Horst Fuhrmann (Hannover: Hiersemann, 1986), 5 vols., 1: 263-307.
6. Michael Embach, "Trithemius als Propagator Hildegards," in Hildegard von Bingen in ihrem historischen Umfeld. Internationaler wissenschaflicher Kongress zum 900 jährigen Jubiläum 13-19 September 1998, Bingen am Rhein, ed. Alfred Haverkamp (Mainz: Philipp von Zabern, 2000), pp. 561-98.
7. On Trithemius' close connection to the abbot of Hirsau, see Arnold, Johannes Trithemius, p. 46 and Brann, The Abbot Trithemius, pp. 82-83, 107-111.
8. SV Epist. 1-2: "Ultimus Christi pauperum C. virginibus sacris N. N. Gaudium assequi beatae perennitatis." Not all MSS carry this rubric, Seyfarth, p. 40*.
9. SV 8.475-77; cf. 1 Cor. 5.6-8; SV 6.855-56; 8.273-76; 8.437-46.
10. The vita communis is referred to in SV 2.63, 125-29, 177; 8.595, 611, 716; 9.22, 497, 634, 659. On the vita communis, see SV 3.54; 4.421-25; 8.165, 223.
11. SV 8.759; Benedict, Regula 7.6-9, La Règle de S. Benoît, ed. Adalbert de Vogüé, SChr 181 (Paris: Cerf, 1972).
12. Gottfried Lessing edited this catalogue within "Des Klosters Hirschau. Gebäude, übrige Gemälde, Bibliothek und älteste Schriftsteller," in Werke, ed. Albert von Schirnding, 8 vols. (Munich: Carl Hanser, 1974), 6: 491-507, especially 498-99, reprinted by Gustavus Becker, Catalogi Bibliothecarum Antiqui (Bonn: M. Cohen, 1885), p. 219. The catalogue is found in the Wolfenbüttel but not in the Tübingen copy of Parsimonius' notebook (see n. 14 below). On the library of Hirsau, see Felix Heinzer, "Buchkultur und Bibliotheksgeschichte Hirsaus," in Hirsau St Peter und Paul 1091-1991, ed. K. Schreiner, Forschungen und Berichte der Archäologie des Mittelalters in Baden-Württemberg, Band 10/2 (Stuttgart: Konrad Theiss, 1991), pp. 259-96.
13. Bernards, p. 15, and more fully in his dissertation, Die Handschriftliche Überlieferung, p. 429 (Introduction, n. 10 above), quoting from Wagner's Congestum monachorum illustrium: "Peregrinus, monachus Hirsaugiensis, vir praecellentis ingenii, scripsit multa, sed que sint specialiter, non inveni." Whether completed in 1484 (according to Bernards) or in 1493, as claimed by Arnold, p. 117 n. 20 (n. 5 above), Wagner was writing without knowledge of Trithemius.
14. On Parsimonius, see Waldemar Kramer, Johannes Parsimonius. Leben und Wirken des zweiten evangelischen Abtes von Hirsau (1525-1588) (Frankfurt: Waldemar Kramer, 1980). His notebook is now Wolfenbüttel, Herzog August Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel Cod. 134.1 Extravagantes, fols. 2-194v. A sixteenth-century copy is held at Tübingen, Universitätsbibliothek Mh 164. I am indebted to Felix Heinzer of the Württembergische Landesbibliothek, Stuttgart, for pointing out that Parsimonius copied out an important history of Hirsau on fols. 2-4 of the Tübingen copy, "transcribed from a certain Hirsau manuscript," that confirms otherwise unsubstantiated claims made by Trithemius about the early history of the abbey.
15. Tübingen, Mh 164, fol. 40. Two are from the Speculum virginum (9.492 and 418-20); there was also an unidentified quotation: "Peregrinus. Iam Dei regnum possidere incipit, cui in amore aeternorum praesens gloria vilescit." His image was on the wall nearest the kitchen, according to a note in the margin of fol. 31.
16. Lessing, ed.Werke 6: 505.
17. Robert Bultot, ed.Dialogus de mundi contemptu vel amore, attribué à Conrad d'Hirsau. Extraits de l'Allocutio ad deum et du De veritatis inquisitione. Textes inédits, Analecta Mediaevalia Namurcensia 19 (Louvain: Editions Nauwelaerts, 1966).
18. Parsimonius conflates two works distinguished by Trithemius, the Matricularius or Dialogus de mundi contemptu vel amore (inc. "Cum manifestum sit") and De vita spiritus et fructu carnis or De fructibus carnis et spiritus (inc. "Cum omnis divine pagine sermo id intendat"), erroneously printed among the works of Hugh of St-Victor in PL 176: 997-1010.
19. R. B. C. Huygens, ed., Accessus ad Auctores. Bernard'Utrecht. Conrad d'Hirsau, Dialogus super Auctores (Leiden: Brill, 1970), pp. 71-131.
20. Seyfarth, p. 39*; see Altercatio Synogogae et Ecclesiae, printed anonymously in Index Bibliorum, ed. D. Chuonrado Pelopus (Cologne: Novasianus 1537). See Robert Bultot, "L'auteur de l'Altercatio Synagogae et Ecclesiae Conrad de Hirsau?" RTAM 32 (1965), 263-76. It had been attributed to Conrad in 1511 by a monk of Hirsau called Johannes Rapolt (Stuttgart, Landesbibliothek IV, 27, fol. 1) who says that he found it in the manuscript entitled matricularius, suggesting that this manuscript also contained Conrad's Dialogus de mundi contemptu vel amore.
21. In his De scriptoribus (n. 4 above), Trithemius gives the incipit of these treatises: De musica et tonis: "Musica est secundum cuiusdam"; Homiliae in evangelios per cyclum anni: "Quia in litera veteris testamenti"; De laudibus S. Benedicti, metrice, lib. 1: "Luce velut solem."
22. Bultot, nn. 17 and 20 above and n. 26 below.
23. Oxford, Bodleian Library, Laud Misc. 377, fol. 83v, copied at Eberbach ca. 1200 and Cologne, Historisches Archiv GB 4o 206, from the first half of the fifteenth century (from the brothers of the Holy Cross). See Bultot, Dialogus, 31-33 (n. 17 above). This folio of the Eberbach MS is illustrated alongside that of the Eberbach SV by Nigel Palmer, Zisterzienser und ihre Bücher. Die mittelalterliche Bibliotheksgeschichte von Kloster Eberbach im Rheingau (Regensburg: Schnell und Steiner, 1998), pp. 78-79. In the Cologne copy, the flesh is personified as male rather than as female. This image in the K copy of SV is reproduced in plate 11 of Seyfarth's edition.
24. Cheryl Goggin reproduces this page of the De laudibus crucis (Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Clm 14159, f. 6) in her dissertation, "The Illuminations of the Clairvaux Speculum virginum" (Troyes, Bibliothèque municipale, MS 252) (Ph.D. diss., Indiana University; Ann Arbor, MI: University Microfilms International, 1982), fig. 247. Goggin argues (pp. 117-37) that a copy of SV related to that of Clairvaux influenced the Regensburg illuminations. See also Greenhill, Die Stellung, p. 25 n. 5 (Introduction, n. 13 above) with references to the earlier discussions of A. Boeckler, Die Regensburg-Prüfeninger Buchmalerei des 12. und 13. Jahrhunderts (Munich: A. Reusch, 1924), pp. 33-46. It is possible that the De laudibus might be another composition by Peregrinus. Prüfening had been reformed by Hirsau in the early twelfth century.
25. Bultot edited only extracts from the Allocutio ad Deum de diversis beneficiis homini impensis and the De veritatis inquisitione from Oxford, Bodleian Library, Laud Misc. 377 fols. 44v-55v and 55v-115v as an annex to his edition of the Dialogus, pp. 79-90 (n. 17 above).
26. Bernards identifed textual parallels between the Speculum virginum and a number of the texts edited or discussed by Bultot, "Um den Zusammenhang zwischen 'Speculum virginum', 'Dialogus de mundi contemptu vel amore' und verwandten Schriften," RTAM 34 (1967): 84-130. Bernards decided that the generally more succinct version found in the Dialogus, the Allocutio, and the Sententie morales was culled from SV rather than the other way around. His evidence is, however, very slender; the opposite solution is perhaps more likely for the Dialogus and Allocutio. The Sententie morales, on the other hand, shares numerous parallels with SV on which it could be based. Further study is needed.
27. Willehelmi abbatis Hirsaugiensis, MGH SS 12 (1856): 209-25. His treatises De Musica and De arte astronomica are edited in PL 150. See also William of Hirsau, Musica, ed. Denis Harbison, Corpus Scriptorum de Musica 23 (Rome: American Institute of Musicology, 1975).
28. Musica 15, 18, ed. Harbison, 41, 48.
29. Robert Bultot emphasizes the originality of William's conception of nature in "'Quadrivium,' 'Natura' et 'Ingenium naturale' chez Guillaume d'Hirsau (d. 1091)," Rivista di filosofia neo-scolastica 70 (1978): 11-27. His argument (n. 2) that Othlohus is not Otloh relies on outdated assumptions that Otloh was hostile to the liberal arts. Otloh employs musical metaphors extensively in his Dialogus de tribus quaestionibus 41-45, PL 146: 117A-123D.
30. Vita Willehelmi abbatis Hirsaugiensis 22, MGH SS 12: 219.
31. On their constitutional structure, see Hermann Jacobs, Die Hirsauer. Ihre Ausbreitung und Rechtsstellung im Zeitalter des Investiturstreites (Cologne-Graz: Böhlau, 1961). On their freedom to develop liturgical patterns originally formulated at Hirsau, see Felix Heinzer, "Hildegard und ihr liturgisches Umfeld," in the proceedings of the musicological conference held at Bingen, September 18-20, 1998, ed. Wulf Arlt (forthcoming).
32. Heinzer, "Buchkultur und Bibliotheksgeschichte Hirsaus," in Hirsau. St Peter und Paul, pp. 259-96, esp. pp. 270-71 (n. 12 above).
33. Liber ad admonitione clericorum et laicorum, PL 146: 243C-262C. See, for example, Otloh's comments (257AB) on the capacity of the heavens (through the sun, moon, and stars) and the earth (through various pleasant flowers and grace, trees and fruits, the beauty of precious stones) to provide instruction about God
34. Comments made by Otloh about the capacity of a worldly woman to become pleasing to God as well as about a monk who was worried what other monks might think about seeing them together as brother and sister suggest that such concerns predate the Hirsau reform. Dialogus de tribus quaestionibus 49, PL 146: 130C-131A; see too Liber de tentationibus suis, PL 146: 47D-49A.
35. Küsters, Der verschlossene Garten. Volkssprachliche Hohelied-Auslegung und monastiche Lebensform im 12. Jahrhundert, Studia Humaniora 2 (Düsseldorf: Droste, 1985), pp. 71-88, and "Formen und Modelle religiöser Frauengemeinschaften im Umkreis der Hirsauer Reform des 11. und 12. Jahrhunderts," in Hirsau. St. Peter und Paul, pp. 195-220 (n. 12 above),
36. Berthold, Chronicon MGH SS 10: 160; Necrologium Zwifaltense, in Necrologia Germaniae. 1. Dioceses Augustensis, Constantiensis, Curiensis, ed. Baumann (1983): 244, 253.
37. Hermann speaks of women who will either hear or read his treatise, Opusculum de conversione sua 12, ed. Gerlinde Niemeyer, MGH Quellen zur Geistesgeschichte des Mittelalters 4 (Weimar: Böhlau, 1963), p. 108: "O vos ergo devote et sancte mulieres, quecumque ista legeritis vel lecta audieritis. . . ." An extract from SV is also contained in this manuscript (Rome, Biblioteca Vaticana, Vat. Lat. 504), copied in the second half of the twelfth century, perhaps from Dünnwald, a Premonstratensian community near Cologne; Seyfarth, p. 89*, and Mews, "Hildegard of Bingen, the Speculum virginum and Religious Reform," in Hildegard von Bingen, ed. Haverkamp, p. 244, n. 23 (n. 6 above). On the oral presentation of SV, see Powell, chapter 5 in this volume.
38. Gregory the Great, XL Homiliarum in Evangelia libri duo 1.17.10, PL 76: 1143D-1144A.
39. Augustine, Speculum, ed. F. Weihrich, CSEL 12 (1887): 3-285.
40. This is the case with Letter 42, addressed to Adelidis, abbess of Barking by Osbert of Clare, The Letters of Osbert of Clare, Prior of Westminster, ed. E. W. Williamson (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1929), pp. 153-79. A fascinating illustration of how the women of Barking transmuted these exempla is given in translations by Jocelyn Wogan-Browne and Glyn S. Burgess, Virgin Lives and Holy Deaths: Two Exemplary Biographies for Anglo-Norman Women (London: J. M. Dent, 1996).
41. For a detailed survey of this image, see Margot Fassler, "Mary's Nativity, Fulbert of Chartres, and the Stirps Jesse: Liturgical Innovation circa 1000 and Its Afterlife," Speculum 75 (2000): 389-434.
42. The antithesis between conditio and reparatio is closer to Gregory than to Hugh of St-Victor (who prefers the term restauratio); cf. Gregory, Moralia in Job 35.17, CCSL 143B (1985): 1785; In librum primum Regum 4.26, CCSL 144 (1963): 309.
43. Part one may originally have continued after this image with what is now SV 2.1-62, as an original explicit is included here in the margin of L.
44. The word valde (truly) is added in the margin of L for emphasis, apparently after K was copied; some other MSS misread where the additional would should go (2.443).
45. Cf. Augustine, Enn. In Psalmos 75.16, CCSL 39 ( 1956): 1049: "melior virgo humilis, quam maritata humilis; sed melior maritata humilis, quam virgo superba."
46. On the De fructibus carnis et spiritus (n. 18 above) as the source of SV 4.98-273, I follow the arguments of Greenhill (n. 24 above) rather than of Bernards. A possible source is Gregory, Moralia in Job 31.45, ed. Marc Adriaen, CCSL 143B (1985): 1610-12. See also Adolf Katzenellenbogen, Allegories of the Virtues and Vices in Mediaeval Art, Studies of the Warburg Institute 10 (London, 1939).
47. Ortlieb of Zwiefalten describes how William of Hirsau had monks enter "the temple of the Queen of heaven" singing Ave maris stella, Chronicon, MGH SS 10 (1852): 78-79; William's disciple Theoger had the new church dedicated to Mary decorated with many pictures, Vita Theogeri abbatis S. Georgii et episcopi Mettensis 13, MGH SS 12 (1856): 453.
48. St. Bernard quotes the same passage in Letter 42, de moribus et officio episcoporum 9, d. Leclercq, SBO 7: 108.
49. Jerome, Comm. in Matthaeum 2, ed. D. Hurst and M. Adriaen, CCSL 77 (1969): 106; Letters 49.3, 123.8, ed. Hilberg, CSEL 54: 354; 56: 82; Paschasius Radbertus, Expositio in Matthaeo 7, ed. B. Paulus, CCCM 56A (1984): 703.
50. There are at least two recensions of the De fructibus (n. 18 above). That found in the Leipzig, Universitätsbibliothek MS 148, and Salzburg MS, Studienbibliothek V.1.H 162, is distinct from that found in Oxford, Bodleian Library, Laud Misc. 377, and Cologne, GB 4o 206, also closer to SV in part four. The Salzburg MS carries the name Hhunradus on fol. 81v, but it is not clear whether this indicates the author or an owner; see Ernst von Frisch, "Über die Salzburger Handschrift von Hugo von St. Victors Opusculum de Fructu Carnis et Spiritus," in Festschrift für Georg Ledinger, ed. Albert Hartmann (Munich: H. Schmidt, 1930), pp. 67-71. Bernards identifies nineteen manuscripts of the work, Die handschrifliche Überlieferung, pp. 437-38 (Introduction, n. 10 above). I am grateful to Jutta Seyfarth for allowing me to study her transcription of the Salzburg MS. More research is needed to resolve these questions.
51. The image is plate 11 in Seyfarth's edition. In the belly of flesh is the inscription vis illius [its force], two words left out of Seyfarth's transcription of the rubrics on p. 136*. I am grateful to Barbara Newman for discussion of this image.
52. Regula Benedicti 7.6-9. This image was also reported as having been seen in a vision by the chronicler of Petershausen; see Mews, "Hildegard, Visions and Religious Reform in Twelfth-century Germany," forthcoming in Rainer Berndt, ed., Im Angesicht Gottes (Introduction, n. 25 above).
53. Amazons are also singled out for praise in SV 4.581-85. The source could be Orosius, Historiarum 1.15, ed. Marie Pierre Arnaud-Lindet (Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1990-91).
54. SV 9.634-38; cf. Hildegard, Scivias 2.5.43-45, ed. Führkötter and A. Carlevaris, CCCM 43 (1978): 211-14.
55. Bernards noted numerous parallel passages between this part of SV and the Allocutio in "'Speculum virginum' und verwandte Schriften," 91-95 (n. 26 above).
56. Historia Hirsaugiensis, MGH SS 14: 258.
57. Württembergisches Urkundenbuch, 4 vols. (Stuttgart, 1883; repr. Aalen, 1974), 4: 348, no. 49.
58. Hildegard, Letters 119-36; The Letters of Hildegard of Bingen, trans. Joseph L. Baird and Radd K. Ehrman (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 2: 64-77. See Lieven van Acker and Hermann Josef Pretsch, "Der Briefwechsel des Benediktinerklosters S. Peter und Paul in Hirsau mit Hildegard von Bingen. Ein Interpretationsversuch zu seiner kritischen Edition," in Hirsau. St. Peter und Paul, ed. Schreiner (n. 12 above), 2: 157-72.
59. John Freed, "Urban Development and the 'Cura Monialium' in Thirteenth-Century Germany," Viator 3 (1972): 311-27. On female communities founded by Eberbach in the late twelfth and thirteenth centuries, see Palmer, Zisterzienser und ihre Bücher, pp. 19-21 (n. 23 above).
60. Mews, "Hildegard of Bingen, the Speculum virginum and Religious Reform," in Hildegard von Bingen in ihrem historischen Umfeld, ed. Haverkamp, pp. 237-67 (n. 6 above).

—From The Lost Love Letters of Heloise and Abelard : Perceptions of Dialogue in Twelfth-Century France by Constant J. Mews. (c) 2001, Palgrave USA used by permission

Meet the Author

Constant Mews teaches in the Department of History at Monash University in Australia, where he is also Director of the Centre for Studies in Religion.

Neville Chiavaroli, a classicist and Italian translator, is a doctoral student in the Department of History at Monash University.

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