Few Western thinkers have been more influential and less known than Peter Damian (1007-1072). After centuries of neglect and misinterpretation, the man who emerges from Patricia Ranft's exhaustive investigation of his writings will surprise many. Immoderate in rhetoric yet moderate in teachings, Peter Damian is a man for the ages.
Damian began his career in the schools of northern Italy but soon joined a community of hermits at Fonte Avellana. His genius was too brilliant to hide, however, and he was called forth from solitude to fill the roles of religious reformer, theologian, adviser, cardinal, preacher, spiritual director, and papal legate. These roles brought him in contact with the pressing issues of mid-eleventh-century Italy. Fortunately, he recorded much of what he did and thought. In many areas he broke with accepted practices, abandoned old methods, and offered innovative approaches to problems. The previously unrecognized social theology at the core of his thought contributed much to the culture developed during this crucial period of Western history.
In the first comprehensive work based wholly on critical editions of Damian's writings, Ranft explores all 180 letters of Damian and his vita of Romuald. She highlights Damian's ideas across a range of topics--stewardship, social responsibilities, community, class, gender, ethics, ecology, justice, sexuality, avarice, authority, individualism, clerical behavior, and labor--and shows how his ideas influenced the shape of Western culture.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:Patricia Ranft, professor emeritus of history at Central Michigan University, is the author of seven books and numerous articles on Christianity. Her latest book is How the Doctrine of the Incarnation Shaped Western Culture.