chapter  4
26 Pages

Fraudulent Alms and Monstrous Election: Peter, Letter 29

The two principal letters discussed in the previous chapter, Peter’s letter 65 and Bernard’s ep. 147, are set within what appears to be a period of worsening relations between Cluniacs and Cistercians, marked at one end by disputes about tithes, and at the other by a disputed episcopal election in the diocese of Langres. As stated previously, letter 65, written in late 1137, offers no clear statement of its purpose. In consequence, the motivating causes for Peter’s covert reopening of the question of Cluniac-Cistercian relations at this point can only be conjectured. Bredero links his suggestion that the letter conceals an ‘oral altercation’ with Cistercian nonpayment of tithes, an issue which had become a bone of contention in the decade post 1130.1 Receiving tithes had formed one of the accusations against the Cluniacs in letter 28.2 Cluny itself possessed exemption from paying tithes, first granted in 931,3 and reconfirmed by subsequent papal privileges.4 This privilege, however, was apparently not automatically exercised.5 In 1132, the Cistercians had also been

1 Bredero, ‘Saint Bernard in his relations’, pp. 325-6; idem, Bernard of Clairvaux, pp. 232-3. 2 Ecclesiarum parrochialium primitiarum et decimarum possessiones quae ratio vobis contulit, cum haec omnia non ad monachos sed ad clericos canonica sanctione pertineant?, ‘What justification has conferred upon you the possession of the first-fruits and tithes of parish churches, when all these by canonic sanction pertain not to monks but to clerics?’ (Peter, letter 28, p. 56). Peter’s defence draws a satirical contrast between deserving monks and undeserving clerics: Qui namque iustius fidelium oblata suscipiunt, monachi qui assidue pro peccatis offerentium intercedunt, an clerici qui nunc ut videmus summo studio temporalia appetentes spiritualia et quae ad animarum salutem pertinent omnino postponunt?, ‘For who more justly receive the offerings of the faithful, the monks who assiduously intercede for the sins of the offerants, or the clerics who now, as we see, seeking the temporal with all their effort, completely neglect the spiritual and what pertains to the salvation of souls?’ (ibid., pp. 81-2). 3 Under Pope John XI = JL 3584 (P. Jaffé, Regesta pontificum Romanorum, 2nd ed., F. Kaltenbrunner, P. Ewald and S. Löwenfeld, 2 vols, Leipzig, 1885-88). 4 JL 3648; JL 3895. See G. Constable, ‘Cluniac tithes and the controversy between Gigny and Le Miroir’, Revue Bénédictine 70 (1960), 591-624, pp. 605-6, reprinted in G. Constable, Cluniac studies, Variorum Reprints, London, 1980; idem, Monastic tithes from their origins to the twelfth century, Cambridge Studies in Medieval Life and Thought 10, Cambridge, 1964. 5 So, at least, Peter claims in two letters on the subject to be discussed subsequently (Peter, letter 33 to Innocent, Letters, I, pp. 107-9; idem, letter 34 to Haimeric, the papal chancellor, ibid., pp. 109-13.) In the first of these he states that for more than two hundred years, Cluny has paid tithes indifferenter omnibus, ‘without differentiation to all’ (letter 33, p. 108). In the

attention to the increasing importance of tithes in the monastic economy, particularly that of Cluny.7 In consequence, conflict could, and did, arise between individual institutions in close proximity, where Cistercians acquired lands from which tithes were paid to the Cluniacs.8 The most serious of these, the dispute between the Cluniac priory of Gigny and the Cistercian abbey of Le Miroir, flared up in the course of the 1130s. It would culminate, as will be seen in a subsequent chapter, in an attack on the Cistercian institution in 1152, and the imposition of heavy damages on the Cluniacs.