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In this intimate portrait of one of the most consequential men of the Middle Ages, Brian Patrick McGuire delves into the life of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux to offer a refreshing interpretation that finds within this grand historical figure a deeply spiritual human being who longed for the reflective quietude of the monastery even as he helped shape the destiny of a church and a continent. Heresy and crusade, politics and papacies, theology and disputation shaped this astonishing man's life, and McGuire presents it all in a deeply informed and clear-eyed biography.
Following Bernard from his birth in 1090 in Burgundy to his death in 1153 at the abbey he had founded four decades earlier, McGuire reveals a life teeming with both momentous events and spiritual contemplation, from his central roles in the first great medieval reformation of the Church and the Second Crusade, which he came to regret, to the crafting of his books, sermons, and letters. We see what brought Bernard to monastic life, how he founded Clairvaux Abbey, established a network of Cistercian monasteries across Europe, and intervened on behalf of his brethren monks and abbots, as well as in heresy trials, affairs of state, and the papal schism of 1130.
By reevaluating Bernard's life and legacy through his own words and those of the people closest to him, this intimate account reveals how this often challenging saint saw himself and conveyed his convictions to those around him. Above all, McGuire depicts Saint Bernard of Clairvaux in a new light, as a man guided by Christian revelation and open to the achievements of the human spirit.