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Reviewed by:
  • The Lives of Monastic Reformers, 1: Robert of La Chaise-Dieu and Stephen of Obazine
  • Constance H. Berman
The Lives of Monastic Reformers, 1: Robert of La Chaise-Dieu and Stephen of Obazine. Introduced and translated by Hugh Feiss, O.S.B.; Maureen M. O'Brien; and Ronald Pepin. [Cistercian Studies Series, No. 222.] (Collegeville, MN: Cistercian Publications. Distrib. by Liturgical Press. 2010. Pp. xvi, 255. $32.95 paperback. ISBN 978-0-879-07322-0.)

For those who teach the history of twelfth-century monasticism, the arrival of this translation of the lives of two reformers from that age is a happy occasion. This volume has two lives of Robert of La Chaise-Dieu (d. 1067), who oversaw the creation of a congregation of new Benedictine houses from the mother-abbey of La Chaise-Dieu in the Auvergne. The first is by Marbod of Rennes (1035-1123) and the second by a monk of Robert's own abbey, Bernard of La Chaise Dieu, written c. 1160. The third life, of the hermit and monastic founder Stephen of Obazine, is composed in three books. The first of these was written about 1166, and the second and third [End Page 766] books were composed about 1180. These were all by an unnamed author who became a monk at Obazine after Stephen's death, but had met Stephen before Obazine's foundation.1

In terms of elucidating the lives of monastic reformers of the twelfth century, this volume bears comparison to recent publications of the two lives of Robert of Arbrissel (d. 1116) by Baudri of Dol (or Bourgeuil (c. 1118) and that by a Robert's chaplain Andreas of Fontevrault (c. 1120).2 Not only did Stephen of Obazine cross paths with Robert of Arbrissel in western France, but another companion was Blessed Bernard of Tiron, whose life as written by Geoffrey Grossus c. 1147 has recently been published in English translation.3 As these Lives become more available, it should be possible not only to compare them to one another but also to the great exemplars on which they are based: the lives of such heroes as St. Benedict of Nursia or St. Martin of Tours. As our bookshelves of saints' Lives expand, we can move as well in the direction of standard presentation, including manuscript tradition, date of composition, and possibly the library context within which such lives were composed. Even undergraduates might then be able to correlate the relationships with earlier lives, making it possible that incorporating saints' Lives into our courses would include more than asking which miracles might be scientifically explained or what the tangential details of them may tell us about medieval life more generally.

Constance H. Berman
University of Iowa


1. See the Latin edition and French translation by Michel Aubrun, Vie de Saint Étienne d'Obazine (Clermont-Ferrand, 1970), which establishes several possible manuscript traditions and provides the only modern Latin edition. Corrections to that Latin text by editors of the volume under review do not appear to have consulted the manuscripts or be based on the conventions of medieval as opposed to classical Latin.

2. Robert of Arbrissel. A Medieval Religious Life. ed. Bruce L. Venarde (Washington, DC, 2003).

3. Geoffrey Grossus. The Life of Blessed Bernard of Tiron, ed. Ruth Harwood Cline (Washington, DC, 2009).



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