By M. E. Mullett
Past and Present, Vol.118:1 (1998)
Introduction: The student of the medieval west has no difficulty when asked about concepts of friendship. He or she can go direct to a great mass of friendship writing in letters, sermons and prayers and, in particular, to works on friendship which have been described by a recent critic as “the systematic treatises on Christian friendship which the Fathers despite the richness and fluency of references to the subject had failed to provide”. Ailred of Rievaulx revised his De spirituali amicitia between 1164 and 1167, and Peter of Blois wrote his De Christiana amicitia in the 1190s. By then the floodgates were open; it has rightly been said that friendship was fashionable in the twelfth-century west. These treatises are inspired by a slow assimilation of the writings of Cicero, St. Augustine and Cassian on friendship and present a Christian friendship conceived in the cloister but available to all.