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On the Genesis and Formation of the Corpus Cluniacense

From the book The Latin Qur’an, 1143–1500

  • Anthony John Lappin


An attentive reading of the various manuscript representations of Peter the Venerable’s Letter 111 (to Bernard of Clairvaux) allows us to deduce at least some information about the genesis and transmission of the Alchoran latinus and its related texts. I suggest that the texts were sent to Bernard piecemeal, and had an initial circulation from the Cistercians, and were only later edited into a corpus by the Cluniacs shortly before, and perhaps as a preparation for, Peter’s writing of his Contra Sarracenos; the manuscript evidence points to two Cluniac recensions: the repeatedly faulty Paris, Bibliotheque de l’Arsenal ms. 1162, and an archetype to the early surviving copies, which probably made its way to England with Peter and whose text was subsequently - after the second council of Lyon (1274) - returned in various exemplars to the continent. Further, Peter’s motivation in sponsoring the work of translation, and the choice of texts to be translated, is linked closely to developments in Cluniac relations with the Cistercians, and in particular as a defence against the consistently aggressive behaviour of Bernard of Clairvaux. I prefer to designate the relatively eclectic gathering of Arabic texts translated under the aegis of Peter the Venerable between 1142-43 as the Corpus Cluniacense rather than the competing terms Corpus Islamolatinum or Collectio Toletana - Corpus Toletanum, for the primary reason that, as this paper will argue, the collection was assembled at Cluny over possibly a longer period than has hitherto been imagined; it was not distributed from there (and, indeed, may never have been formally published), but one of its enduring characteristics was the connexion with Peter the Venerable, and therefore Cluny.

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