Around 1147 the bishop of Chartres directed Geoffrey Grossus, a monk of Tiron Abbey, to write the life of its founder Bernard of Abbeville (ca. 1050-1116) in an effort to further his canonization. Although Geoffrey Grossus blithely borrowed from other writings on saints' lives to further his hagiographical purpose, he presented an erudite, action-filled, and sympathetic portrait of the ascetic founder of an increasingly prominent and wealthy congregation. Bernard was a reformed Benedictine monk, abbot of Saint-Cyprien of Poitiers, and claustral prior of its daughter abbey, Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe. Deposed at the instigation of Abbot Hugh of Cluny shortly after his installation in 1100, Bernard traveled to Rome to make a spirited defense of Saint-Cyprien's independence before the papal curia. He alternated cloistered life with unauthorized retreats with Vital of Savigny's hermit community, supporting himself by woodworking and ironwork, and offshore on the pirate-infested Chausey Island. On tours with Vital and Robert of Arbrissel, he risked his life preaching clerical celibacy in Normandy. In old age he founded Tiron Abbey in Perche near Chartres and became known as a healer and visionary. Although Bernard worked few miracles and was never canonized, he was venerated as a holy man who was deeply involved in many aspects of the religious reformation of the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Tiron expanded into a large congregation under royal patronage with abbeys and priories in modern France and the British Isles, where it preceded the Cistercians by a decade in Wales, Scotland, and on the Southampton Water. Tironian abbeys and priories survived until the English Reformation and the French Revolution. The first English translation of the ""Vita Bernardi"", this book makes accessible to medieval and religious historians one of the more interesting and lively stories of the twelfth century.
RUTH HARWOOD CLINE received her Ph.D. from Georgetown University, where she is a research associate in the department of history. She was formerly a career language officer of the U.S. Department of State.