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New book peeks into mind of a monk

Notes depict passage of time through miracles, violence
Tuesday, June 25, 2013

st-martial-18th-engLife in a monastery is shrouded in mystery and silence as so few have the opportunity to peek behind the doors. Dr. Andrew Lewis, professor of history at Missouri State University, recently published a new book, “The Chronicle and Historical Notes of Bernard Itier,” which reveals the perspective of a monk viewing the world as it appeared from inside his monastery circa 1200.

Bernard Itier, head librarian of the monastery of Saint-Martial at Limoges, made notations in the margins of books in the collection. Most notably was his chronicle of the history of the world from creation until his own time.

“The thing that first struck me about Bernard Itier’s chronicle was the appearance of the manuscript, which was a mass of jottings and notes in different pens inks and scripts,” noted Lewis. “It was clear that Bernard did not simply sit down and compose his text in orderly fashion; instead, he wrote at odd moments when he had time in his otherwise busy schedule.  From differences in the pen, ink and script that he used, one can identify the sequence of composition of his notes and, from that, often his method of work.”

Instead of focusing on the major historical events of the time, Lewis noted that Itier wrote about the religious affairs in his abbey, local events and miracles.

“Supernatural elements, such as the intervention of God or the saints, were relatively common,” said Lewis. “Death, either from crimes against individuals or from the higher incidence of mortality in battle or from famine or disease, was part of the pattern of life.”

Lewis’ book serves as the only complete text of Itier’s chronicle. The book description can be found online at Oxford University Press: http://ukcatalogue.oup.com/product/9780199546435.do#.UcS4b_nqkes.


College of Humanities and Public Affairs
The College of Humanities and Public Affairs offers 16 undergraduate, eight graduate and six certificate programs. Departments in the college include criminology and criminal justice, defense and strategic studies, economics, history, military science, philosophy, political science, religious studies, sociology and anthropology. The department of defense and strategic studies is housed in the Washington, D.C. area. The college helps students understand social, political and legal structures, ethical principles, religious systems, and economic institutions and practices within a global, historical, and contemporary context.

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