The Eleventh-Century World of Peter Damian

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 
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    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
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© Patricia Ranft 2006

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