Philip of Harveng on Silence

Philip of Harveng on Silence

Gehl, Paul F.

Essays in Medieval Studies, vol. 2 (1985)


I want to open, or reopen, the book today on an important but little-read figure in the history of twelfth-century spirituality, Philip of Harveng. Philip has been recognized as an important figure in the flowering of spiritualist writing among lay canons and as one of the saner and calmer participants in the mid-century controversy over the relative status of monastic and clerical vocations. Still, by 1146 even the mild-mannered Philip had so provoked the ire of St. Bernard of Clairvaux over a dispute concerning a fugitive monk that he was censured and exiled by the synod of Tournai. Unfortunately for our modern understanding of Philip, and clerical spirituality more generally, his works have almost always been read as if they were only a part of the controversy with Bernard or of the larger but still narrow question of monastic-clerical tensions. In fact, Philip was the one party to these disputes who repeatedly proved able to rise above them. He wrote calmly, copiously, and vigorously for over thirty years about spiritual themes of concern to his own order of Premonstratensian canons.

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