Biography (Dictionary of World Biography: Middle Ages)
Article abstract: In the first half of the twelfth century, Bernard epitomized the monastic ideal and served as adviser and critic to kings, popes, bishops, abbots, and other leading figures in Western Europe.
Bernard was born in 1090 in Fontaines-les-Dijon, the son of Tescelin le Sor, a rich and valiant Burgundian knight. Aleth, his mother, was a dutiful wife; her saintly behavior had a considerable impact on her son. At an early age, Bernard was enrolled in a church school at Châtillon-sur-Seine, where he impressed everyone with his love of learning. He mastered the trivium and became somewhat familiar with the quadrivium. After his mother’s death, he was left with the difficult choice of a vocation in the secular world, perhaps that of a knight like his father, or in the Church, which had been his mother’s preference. Bernard was tall and attractive with a noble countenance, but he was too delicate and sensitive to become a warrior. Thus, he was destined from before birth, according to one account, to become a monk.
There followed a period of preparation. In a short time, Bernard’s charismatic personality influenced many others to eschew the secular world. Around 1113, Bernard and about thirty companions were admitted to the Cistercian monastery of Cîteaux, which was renowned for its austerities. Not only was this an important step in Bernard’s life, but it was also a significant...
(The entire section is 2017 words.)
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