Bernard of Clairvaux (1090–1153)

  • The Song of Songs and the love of God

    Bernard was the founder and first abbot of the monastery of Clairvaux near Troyes in France. Thanks to him, the Cistercian Order and with it a movement towards poverty, austerity and simplicity spread rapidly across Europe.

    Bernard's work as a wordly and ecclesiastical diplomat and his call for the Second Crusade made him a highly influential but also controversial protagonist in medieval church history. As a mystic he played an outstanding role for he was able to link mystical experience with theological explanations.

    Bernard developed his cycle of sermons about the Song of Songs as an instruction of love for the monks of his monastery. In it he describes the relationship between God and the human soul. The model for this was the loving couple from the Old Testament, the passion and longing of woman and man.

    Bernard did not accept the idea of man becoming one with God, but believed that through love man is in God and God in man. As a symbol of Bernard's love of Christ representations were created in art and book illustration which show the crucified Christ detaching his arms from the Cross to embrace Bernard who kneels before him.