Two of the common topics in this blog are medieval Church history and Carmelite spirituality. I was thus interested to see a short article by Claude Grimmer about a reference to Gerbert in the writing of a 17th century Discalced Carmelite friar. Grimmer's article appears in the anthology of writings Autour de Gerbert d'Aurillac: Le pape de l'an mil.
The 17th century Carmelite who attracted Grimmer's attention was Géraud Vigier, who was known in religion as Dominique de Jésus (Dominic of Jesus). Vigier was from Aurillac, and he taught theology in Paris. Vigier wrote several works on Church history. Among them was a book about three saints of Upper Auvergne, the region where Aurillac lies, written at the request of the bishop of Saint-Flour.
Vigier's reason for writing was to motivate the people of Auvergne to Catholic spiritual revival. While he also wanted to write history, his primary purpose was to have them see themselves "as Israelites after a long captivity," who would take "the trowel in hand to rebuild the house of God by the reform of the clergy and the introduction of the religious families."
In the course of writing, Vigier added 4 pages about Gerbert of Aurillac. His primary sources of information were a 17th century French edition of the letters of Gerbert and a 17th century biography of Gerbert written by a Polish Dominican. Vigier did not mention the legends of magic associated with Gerbert. Rather, he presented him as a pious and erudite scientist, tutor, and churchman. He attributed the legends of magic to the simple people of a barbarian era, who "believed that all who counted how many tiles were in a roof by the rules of arithmetic were magicians."
In writing hagiographically, Vigier assembled what he could to describe Gerbert as the first among the men of Auvergne. However, it was not until the 19th century that other scholars from Aurillac would take a new view of Gerbert and the reality that lay behind the magical legends.