Bernard of Clairvaux

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Trees and stones will teach you what you cannot learn from masters.

St. Bernard of Clairvaux (10901153-08-21), abbot of Clairvaux, was a highly influential French churchman and theologian. He was one of the founders of the Cistercian, or Bernardine, monastic order.


  • Our King Jesus is accused of treachery. It is said of Him by the Muslims that He is not God, but that He falsely pretended to be something He was not.
  • Non est jam dicere, "Ut populus, sic sacerdos"; quia nec si populus, ut sacerdos.
    • One cannot now say, the priest is as the people, for the truth is that the people are not so bad as the priest.
    • In Conversione S. Pauli, Sermon 1, sect. 3; translation by James Spedding, in The Works of Francis Bacon (1860) vol. 12, p. 134.
    • Ut populus, sic sacerdos is a quotation from Isaiah 24:2.
  • Qui se sibi magistrum constituit, stulto se discipulum subdit.
    • He that will teach himself in school, becomes a scholar to a fool.
    • Epistola LXXXVII, sect. 7; translation from Notes and Queries, 3rd series, vol. 11, p. 192.
  • Experto crede: aliquid amplius invenies in silvis, quam in libris. Ligna et lapides docebunt te, quod a magistris audire non possis.
    • Believe me, you will find more lessons in the woods than in books. Trees and stones will teach you what you cannot learn from masters.
    • Epistola CVI, sect. 2; translation from Edward Churton The Early English Church ([1840] 1841) p. 324.
  • Vulgo dicitur: Quod non videt oculus, cor non dolet.
    • [It is commonly said:] What the eye doesn't see, the heart doesn't grieve.
    • In Festo Omnium Sanctorum, Sermo 5, sect. 5; translation from Scottish Notes and Queries, 1st series, vol. 7, p. 59.
  • Qui me amat, amat et canem meam.
    • Who loves me, loves my dog.
    • In Festo Sancti Michaelis, Sermo 1, sect. 3; translation from Richard Chevenix Trench, Archbishop of Dublin On the Lessons in Proverbs ([1853] 1856) p. 148.
    • Bernard quotes this as being a proverb in common use.
  • Ego addo et de pertinacia Græcorum, qui nobiscum sunt, et nobiscum non sunt, juncti fide, pace divisi, quanquam et in fide ipsa claudicaverint a semitis rectis.
    • I, for one, shall speak about those obstinate Greeks, who are with us and against us, united in faith and divided in peace, though in truth their faith may stray from the straight path.
    • De Consideratione (1149-1152), lib. III (1152), c. I; Book of Considerations, part III, ch. I.
    • "Greeks" refers to the (Eastern) Orthodox Church.


  • Inter faeces et urinam nascimur, from quid de nobis, fratres, qui inter faeces et urinam nascimur...
    • "We are born between (or amid) feces and urine," from "...and who among us, brothers, who are born between (amid) feces and urine..."
    • The probable source is a homily. [2]


  • It is difficult now to look back across the centuries and appreciate the tremendous impact of his personality on all who knew him. The fire of his eloquence has been quenched in the written words that survive. As a theologian and a controversialist he now appears rigid and a little crude and unkind. But from the day in 1115 when, at the age of twenty-five, he was appointed Abbot of Clairvaux, till his death nearly forty years later he was the dominant influence in the religious and political life of western Europe.
    • Steven Runciman The History of the Crusades ([1951-4] 1971) vol. 2, p. 252.

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