Bernard of Clairvaux: Between Cult and History summarizes Bredero's lifelong study of Bernard, the Cistercian monk who was arguably the most influential ecclesiastical figure of the twelfth century and who remains one of the church's most venerated saints.
Adriaan H. Bredero first began reading Bernard of Clairvaux in 1944 as a young university student forced into hiding by the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. Over the past sixty years, Bredero's academic interest in Bernard has branched out to cover topics as diverse as the historical value of the vita prima, Bernard's part in the conflict between Cîteaux and Cluny, and the image of St. Bernard as it has been developed by hagiographers and scholars through the ages.
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“In spite of the stubborn prejudice of classical scholars against Christian and medieval Latin, Bernard has maintained his fame as author through the centuries. Even today Bernard is read because of the religious-mystical content of his works as well as for his creative and literary use of language.” (Page 2)
“Historians tend to confirm their own culture because their views tend to fit within that culture and are in fact part of it. For that reason, modern historiography cannot conform to a medieval understanding of reality, in spite of its awareness of that particular worldview. A modern historian cannot adopt the medieval approach to reality and then present it as still valid in our time. Any attempt to do so leads to an anachronistic approach that ignores the fact that cult and history, which were intertwined at the time, are separate concepts in our day. This is a very essential difference between medieval and modern historiography. Mixing cult and history results in a portrayal that many fail to understand and cannot accept as credible.” (Pages 18–19)
“Bernard of Clairvaux with the rapid growth of the Cistercians, who were founding monasteries almost everywhere at the time. I was permitted to spend a year (1962/63) in France and Italy visiting universities, libraries, and archives for this research. This enabled me to meet others who were studying Bernard. My research did not bear too many tangible results, but it did provide me with a clearer picture of Bernard as a historic individual. It also led to a lecture, published as a small book in 1966: Bernard von Clairvaux im Widerstreit der Historie (translated as ‘Saint Bernard and the Historians,’ in Saint Bernard of Clairvaux , 27–62).” (Page xi)
Adriaan Bredero has accomplished a rare feat in presenting current research on a key figure of the twelfth century, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, for a broader public.
—Uta-Renate Blumenthal, Catholic University of America
Bredero has produced a book that summarizes his lifelong preoccupation with the greatest saint of the twelfth century … The problem that intrigues Bredero … is the tension between Bernard the powerful churchman, resented by many contemporaries and by many interpreters still today, and Bernard the monk, master communicator of the most intimate spiritual experiences, beloved by numerous contemporaries, by John Calvin, and by many readers still today… A magisterial overview.
—John Van Engen, Church History
Adriaan H. Bredero is Professor Emeritus of medieval history at the Free University in Amsterdam.