Mula Stefano

Medieval cistercian exempla between literature and history

Mula Stefano (2013) "Medieval cistercian exempla between literature and history ", Vestnik Pravoslavnogo Sviato-Tikhonovskogo gumanitarnogo universiteta. Seriia III : Filologiia, 2013, vol. 33, pp. 113-132 (in Russian).


Towards the end of the 12th and the beginning of the 13th century, Cistercian monks, in particular at Clairvaux and in its filiation, grouped their stories in large collections, such as Herbert of Torres’ Liber visionum et Miraculorum, or Caesarius of Heisterbach’s Dialogus miraculorum. This article aims at distinguishing Cistercian exempla from the later exempla employed in the Mendicant orders, by concentrating on 31 Exordium Magnum Cisterciense sive Narratio de Initio Cisterciensis Ordinis. Auctore Conrado VI, 10. S. 420. 124 С. Мула. Средневековые цистерцианские exepmpla: между филологией и историей their literary and historical value. After a brief discussion on terminology, and on how the word «exemplum» was used to refer to both to exemplary actions and to the narrative of said actions, a single, famous story is considered in all its many variants: the visit of the Virgin Mary and other saintly women to the Cistercian monks in harvest time. Small changes to the story show how that its interpretation was open, and it could be used to highlight different aspects of Cistercian life, from the particular Marian protection, to the role of the abbot of a monastery. Exempla, however, were also used by the same Cistercian monks as historical documents. Alberic of Trois-Fontaines, Cistercian monk and historian of the beginning of the 13th Century is a case in point, and his attitude towards exempla is presented thanks to an analysis of his works: the Clarevallense, the Adbreuiatio Fratris Caesarii (an unpublished collection of chronologically-ordered excerpts from the Dialogus miraculorum), and his main work, the Chronica. New editions and translations now allow a deeper understanding of the Cistercian exempla, which deserve the attention of both historians and literary scholars.


exempla, cistercian,Herbert of Clairvaux, miracle, vision, variants


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16. Mula S. 2010 “Twelfth- and Thirteenth-Century Cistercian Exempla Collections: Role, Diffusion, and Evolution”, in History Compass, vol. 8/8, pp. 903-912.
17. Mula S. 2010 “Herbert de Torres et l'autoreprdsentation de l'ordre cistercien dans les recueils d'exempla”, in Le Tonnerre des exemples. Exempla et mediation culturelle dans l'Occident, Rennes, 2010, pp. 187-199.

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Mula Stefano