The Eleventh-Century World of Peter Damian

  • Patricia Ranft
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


In a letter to Duke Godfrey of Tuscany Peter Damian parenthetically comments that “scarcely five years before I was born, Otto III passed away,”1 thus placing his birth in 1007. His birth town was Ravenna, a northern Italian city with many ties to the ancient Roman Empire and the medieval Holy Roman Empire. The nerve center of Romagna and a strategic link on the Via Flaminia between northern and southern Italy, and an imperial capital in the latter days of the Roman Empire, its centrality in history and geography made it a logical target for Saxon emperors’ designs for Italy.2 Part of its allure was the presence of a growing intellectual community involved in legal studies. The possessions of Justinian’s law books and the existence of a law school gave Ravenna a prestige surpassed only by Pavia in the tenth and early eleventh centuries Italian legal studies. Its reputation as a key legal center survived for generations, for Odofred, a legal scholar from Bologna, reports that after the Norman sack of Rome in 1084, Roman jurists took refuge in Ravenna and re-established their studies there.3 While some historians have argued that a formal school of legal studies did not exist in tenth- or eleventh-century Ravenna,4 most disagree and argue that, to the contrary, Ravenna was an intellectually stimulating center whose influence on Western thought was, in historian J. Hyde’s terms, “out of all proportion to their numbers.”5


Legal Study Religious Perspective Role Monasticism Divine Omnipotence Imperial Capital 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Letter 67 in Peter Damian Letters, trans. Owen J. Blum† and Irven Resnick (Washington, DC: Catholic University Press, 1989–2005), 3: 78; and in PL 145, 825. Hereafter citations to ibid. will be in text. See Lester K. Little, “The Personal Development of Peter Damian,” in Order and Innovation in the Middle Ages, eds. William C. Jordan. B. McNab, and T. Ruiz (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1976), p. 321.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    See Percy Schramm, Kaiser, Rom u. Renovatio, 2 vols. (Darmstadt: H. Gentner, 1962). The Via Flaminia passed right by Fonte Avellana.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Harold Hazeltrine, “Roman and Canon Law in the Middle Ages,” Cambridge Medieval History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1964–66), 5:734.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    See Schramm, Kaiser, 1:278; and A. Gaudenzi, “Lo svolgimento parellelo del diritto longo-bardo e del diritto romano a Ravenna,” Memorie della R. Academia delle scienze dell’ Istituto di Bologna, Classe di scienze morali, ser. I, I: Sezione di sc. Guiridiche, fasc. 1–2 (1908), 37–93 and 117–164; J. K. Hyde, Society and Politics in Medieval Italy (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1973), pp. 34, 42, and 63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 6.
    See J. Joseph Ryan, Saint P. Damiani and His Canonical Sources (Toronto: Pontifical Institute, 1956).Google Scholar
  6. 7.
    McNulty , St. Peter Damian: Selected Writings on the Spiritual Life, trans. Patricia McNutley (London: Faber and Faber, 1959), p. 14.Google Scholar
  7. 10.
    André Wilmart, “Une letter de S. Pierre Damien à l’impératrice Agnés,” Revue bénédictine 44 (1932); 131, argues that Damian’s teaching career was insignificant. Little, “Personal Development,” p. 325, disagrees.Google Scholar
  8. 11.
    Noreen Hunt, Cluny under Saint Hugh, 1049–1109 (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1968), says it was William III;Google Scholar
  9. 12.
    See Ernst Sackur, Die Cluniacenser in ihrer kirchlichen und allge-meingeschichtlichen Wirksamkeit bis zur Mitte des elften Jahrhunderts, 2 vols. (Halle: Max Niemayer, 1892–1894),Google Scholar
  10. and Raffaello Morghan, “Monastic Reform and Cluniac Spirituality,” in Noreen Hunt, Cluniac Monasticism in the Central Middle Ages (London: Macmillan, 1971), pp. 11–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 13.
    So says Lackner, Eleventh Century Background, p. 40; and Albert Hauck, Kirchengeschichte Deutschlands, 6 vols. (Leipzig: J. C. Hindrich’s sche Buchhandlung, 1887–1920), 3:344.Google Scholar
  12. 15.
    Colin Morris, The Discovery of the Individual 1050–1200 (London: SPCK, 1972), p. 145.Google Scholar
  13. 16.
    Ernst Troeltsch, The Social Teaching of the Christian Churches, 2 vols. (New York: Macmillan, 1931), 2: 1005–1006.Google Scholar
  14. 18.
    Loring M. Danforth, The Death Rituals of Rural Greece (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1982), p. 37.Google Scholar
  15. Maurice Bloch, “Death, Women and Power,” in Death and the Regeneration of Life, eds. Maurice Bloch and Jon Perry (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), p. 218, calls it a “challenge to the social order.”CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 19.
    See David Stannard, The Puritan Way of Death: A Study of Religion, Culture and Social Change (New York: Oxford University Press, 1977).Google Scholar
  17. 21.
    Manuela Carneiro da Cunha, “Eschatology among the Kraho,” in Mortality and Immortality: Antropology and Archeology of Death, eds. S. C. Humphreys and Helen King (London: Academic Press, 1981), p. 161.Google Scholar
  18. 22.
    See Joan Evans, Monastic Lfe at Cluny, 910–1157 (London: Oxford University Press, 1931), p. 23 andGoogle Scholar
  19. Peter Brown, The Cult of the Saints (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981), p. 31.Google Scholar
  20. 23.
    See Consuetudines Farfenses, 1:140, in B. Albers, Consuetudines monasticae (Stuttgart-Vienna, 1990), 1:113–134. See also Robert Heath, Crux Imperatorium Philosophia (Pittsburgh: Pickwick Press, 1976), p. 92.Google Scholar
  21. 24.
    It is worth pondering why Cluniacs chose personal laments rather than collective laments. At the least, it is part of a trend among Cluniacs to individualize the dead, if not the living. See K. Schmid and J. Wollasch, “Die Gemeinscraft der Lebenden und Verstorbenen in Zeugnissen des Mittelalters,” Frühmittelalterliche Studien 1 (1967), 365–405.Google Scholar
  22. 25.
    Cited in Barbara Rosenwein, “Feudal War and Monastic Peace: Cluniac Liturgy as Ritual Aggression,” Viator 2 (1971), 140.Google Scholar
  23. 26.
    Cited in H. E. J. Cowdrey, “Unions and Confraternity with Cluny,” Journal of Ecclesiastical History 16 (1965), 154.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 31.
    Clifford Geertz, Interpretation of Cultures (New York: Basic Books, 1973), p. 119, says life is marked by “a movement back and forth between the religious perspective and the commonsense perspective.” This pendulum swing is most difficult to maintain in the face of death. According to Levi-Strauss, this is the purpose of myth, “to provide a logical model capable of overcoming a contradiction.” See also Danforth, Death Rituals, p. 30.Google Scholar
  25. 33.
    Wolfhart Pannenberg, Theology and the Kingdom of God (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 1969), p. 59.Google Scholar
  26. 34.
    Karl Rahner makes this distinction: “to speak from the future to the present is apocalyptic.” Quoted in Edward Schillebeeckx, “Interpretation of Eschatology,” in The Problem of Eschatology, eds. Edward Schillebeeckx and B. Williams (New York: Concilium, 1969), p. 53.Google Scholar
  27. 35.
    John F. Wilson, Pulpit in Parliament (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1969), pp. 198–208.Google Scholar
  28. 37.
    Jean Leclercq, The Spirituality of the Middle Ages (London: Burnes & Oates, 1968), p. 168.Google Scholar
  29. Ray Petry, Christian Eschatology and Social Thought (New York: Abingdon Press, 1961), p. 126, believes Bernard’s thought is “not unlike the poetic fantasies of Peter Damian.” It is for this reason that I chose Bernard’s remarks to illustrate Cluniac eschatology even though he comes after Peter Damian.Google Scholar
  30. 38.
    Bernard of Cluny, “Sermon on the Parable of the Unjust Steward,” in The Source of Jerusalem the Golden, trans. H. Preble, ed. S. M. Jackson (Chicago, IL: 1910), 8f:194.Google Scholar
  31. 41.
    See Ernest H. Kantorowicz, “The Problem of Medieval World Unity,” in Selected Studies (Locust Valley, NY: 1965), pp. 76–81.Google Scholar
  32. 42.
    Carolyn Walker Bynum, “Did the Twelfth Century Discovery the Individual?” in idem, Jesus as Mother (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982), pp. 82–109.Google Scholar
  33. 43.
    See, for example, the excellent study by Charles T. Wood, “Celestine V, Boniface VIII and the Authority of Parliament,” Journal of Medieval History 8 (1982): 45–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. 44.
    See M. D. Chenu, Nature, Man and Society in the Twelfth Century, trans. Jerome Taylor and Lester K. Little (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1968)Google Scholar
  35. and Jean Leclercq, “Consciousness of Identification in Twelfth-Century Monasticism,” Cistercian Studies 14:2 (1974): 219–231.Google Scholar
  36. 46.
    See PL 144,953–1008; Petri Damiani Vita Beati Romualdi, ed. G. Tabacco, in Fonti per la Storia d’Italia, vol. 94 (Rome: Fonti per la storia d’Italia, 1957); and B. Hamilton, “S. Pierre Damien et les Mouvements Monastiques de son temps,” Studia Gregoriani 10 (1975): 175–202. See also A. M. Mundo, “Monastic Movements in the East Pyrenees,” in Hunt, Cluniac Monasticism, pp. 98–122.Google Scholar
  37. 48.
    Kurt Reindel, Petrus Damiani, Die Briefe des deutschen Kaiserzeit, 4 (1983), 3:291: “Illic enim humani cordis ager excolitur, unde seges illa colligitur, quae prumptuarii caelestis edibus infercitur.”Google Scholar
  38. 53.
    In J. M. Neale, Mediaeval Preachers and Mediaeval Preaching (London: Mozley, 1856), pp. 76–77 and Petry, Christian Eschatology, p. 350.Google Scholar
  39. 54.
    See Kenneth Conant, Carolingian and Romanesque Architecture, 800 to 1200, 4th ed. (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1978).Google Scholar
  40. 55.
    See Germain Morin, “Rainaud l’Ermite et Ives de Chartres: un episode de la crise du céobitisme au XIe-Xiie siècle,” Revue bénédictine 40 (1928): 99–115; Jean Leclercq, “Monastic Crisis of the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries,” in Hunt, Cluniac Monasticism, pp. 217–237;Google Scholar
  41. Norman Cantor, “Crisis of Western Monasticism, 1050–1130,” American Historical Review 66 (1960): 47–67;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Louis Lekai, “Motives and Ideals of Eleventh Century Monastic Renewal,” in The Cistercian Spirit: A Symposium, ed. M. Basil Pennington (Spencer, MA: Cistercian Publications, 1970).Google Scholar
  43. 59.
    Ibid., 1:234. He was also sent to St. Vincent’s monastery where he wrote the vita of Romuald, probably his first literary work. See Resnick , Divine Power and Possibility in St. Peter Damian’s “De Divia Omnipotentia” (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1992), p. 11.Google Scholar
  44. 60.
    David Knowles with Dimitri Obolensky, The Christian Centuries (New York: Paulist Press, 1983), 2:68.Google Scholar
  45. 61.
    H. E. J. Cowdrey, Pope Gregory VII 1073–1085 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998), pp. 21–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. 63.
    See Humbert de Silva Candida, Libri tres adversus simoniacos, ed. F. Thaner, MGH Libelli de lite, 1 (1891): 95–253.Google Scholar
  47. 64.
    See James P. Whitney, Hildebrantine Essays (Cambridge: The University Press, 1932), p. 127.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Patricia Ranft 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Patricia Ranft

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations