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Peter of Bruys


An itinerant priest in Daupiné and Languedoc; d. 1126 (according to Borst), or c. 113233 (according to Manselli). Documentation of Peter of Bruys' career and ideas is provided by peter the venerable, who addressed his tract against the petrobrusians to the bishops of Embrun, Gap, and Die, as well as to the archbishop of Arles. Peter was also condemned as a subverter of the Church by abelard and tanchelm of Flanders. For 20 years Peter spread his teaching in southern France, including Gascony, until he was seized and burned by the faithful at SaintGilles in Languedoc for desecration of the cross.

Peter's ideology is just one example of the variety of religious fermentation that occured in many parts of France during the first third of the 12th century, but whereas other itinerant preachers, such as Bl. Robert of Arbrissel, St. bernard of tiron, and vitalis of savigny, urged reform along apostolic lines within the ecclesiastical fabric, Peter moved from attacks on clerical delinquency and worldliness to bitter criticism of hierarchy and Sacraments, demonstrating the difference between legitimate, extraordinary preachers and a mere gyrovagus. He spurned as imposters regular and secular clergy alike. Accepting only the Gospels, Peter cast doubt on other portions of the Bible. He rejected infant Baptism and discounted the Mass and transubstantiation, affirming that each individual is to be saved by his own faith.

Peter disapproved of all ceremonies and outward forms, even the erection of churches. He held that one may pray as effectively in tavern or church, in market place or temple, and may commune with God before a stable as well as before an altar; that crosses are to be broken and burned because, as the instrument of the Passion, they are not worthy of veneration; and that sacrifices, prayers, alms, and good works of the living are not efficacious for the dead. Peter rejected art and ridiculed hymns, since what pleases God is the pious sentiments of the soul, not outbursts of the human voice or musical instruments. Upon Peter's death his followers were dispersed or joined the heretical monk, henry of lausanne.

Bibliography: Sources. peter the venerable, Epistola sive tractatus adversus Petrobrusianos haereticos, Patrologia Latina, ed. j. p. migne (Paris 187890) 189:719850. p. abelard, Introductio ad theologiam 2:4, Patrologia Latina 178:1056. Literature. s. m. deutsch, j. j. herzog and a. hauck, eds., Realencyklopädie für protestantische Theologie (Leipzig 18961913) 15:219221. f. vernet, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al. (Paris 190350) 2.1:115156. r. manselli, Studi sulle eresie del secolo xii (Studi storici 5; Rome 1953) 2543. e. vacandard, Vie de Saint Bernard (4th ed. Paris 1910). a. borst, Die Katharer (Stuttgart 1953) 8384.

[e. w. mcdonnell]

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