Guiot de Provins, La Bible

La Bible

La Bible
Alternative Title
La Bible Guiot
Dou siecle puant et orible m’estuet commencier une Bible
Author Name
Guiot de Provins
Time and Place
Approximate Dating
1204-1209 (Orr 1915, xxxiii-xxxv)
Dating Authority
Orr 1915, xxxiii-xxxv
Associated Place
Associated Region
Old French
Source Type
Didactic, Satirical, Poetry
Text Genre (Extent)
Epic poetry (Relevant Passage)
Text Length (Words)
Long (> 5000 words) (14500)
Discursive Context
Thematic Context
Diversity of Religious Lifeforms
Type of criticism
Satire, Complaint
Debated groups
Clerics, Cluniacs, Cistercians, Carthusians, Grandmontensians, Premonstratensians, Regular Canons, Templars, Knights Hospitaller, Female Communities, Black Monks, Benedictines, Benedictines (Female)
Description of Work
La Bible oder La Bible Guiot is an Old French verse satire of about 2700 lines, written by the poet and trobador Guiot de Provins (b. c. 1150, † c. 1208/9), probably of knightly status, who traveled extensively in Europe and the Eastern Mediterrean, probably participating in the Third and Fourth crusades. Guiot left some Old French poetry which appears to date to the 1180s, and then wrote La Bible and another poem after entering the abbey of Cluny as a monk after c. 1204. The text is one of the earlier examples of vernacular estates satire and contains a biting, often harsh critique of the various estates of the church and of secular society. It is especially bitter on the Roman curia, but also discusses all the other ecclesiastical and lay groups, including various religious orders, which take up most of the poem at c. 1500 lines.,In his 1915 edition, Orr established the terminus a quo and ad quem as 1204 and 1209 and tentatively dates to 1206 (Orr 1915, xxxiii-xxxv). Given Guiot’s profession at Cluny, the poem must have been written there or at least in France. ,,The poem states that it wants to ‘reprehend’ its audience because of the bad state of the world (‘lou siecle reprendre, ll.13) After a lengthy exhortation and censure of secular princes, the poem deals with the ecclesiastical estates from ll. 554. The specific groups addressed are the pope and cardinals (ll. ), archbishops and bishops (ll. ) , secular clerics (ll. 925ff), black monks and abbots (ll. 1043ff.), white monks or Cistercians (ll. 1187ff.), Cartusians (ll. 1327ff), Grandmontensians (ll. 1451ff), Premonstratensians (ll. 1579), black or Regular Canons of St. Augustine (ll. 1612ff.), Templars (ll. 1695), Hospitallers (ll. 1789), converses of St. Anthony (ll. 1936), and the female converses and nuns (ll. 2091-2270). The rest of the verses address the scholars, among them theologians (ll. 2271), jurists (ll. 2401), physicians or medics (ll. 2523-2686). All of the groups are charged with specific faults and typical sins, though Guiot often also lauds aspects of their lifeforms. ,One of the most interesting passages is an autobiographical narrative detailing Guiot’s life among the Cluniac or black monks and his brief stint in the Cistercian order, which he soon left again. Guiot acknowledges this conflict as an influence on his views, but nevertheless formulates a lengthy attack on the Cistercians. Their order is definitely described in harsher terms than other religious orders.,The list of groups presented in La Bible, and most especially the discussion of religious orders, is clearly related to earlier and roughly contemporary material discussing the new religious orders, such as the relevant excursus in John of Salisbury’s Policraticus, Nigel of Longchamp’s Speculum Stultorum, or Walter Map’s De Nugis Curialium. The poem also has similarities to Latin estates satires with similar contents, such as Frequenter cogitans de factis hominum and De diversis ordinibus hominum.,,The manuscript tradition has been studied by Orr 1915 as the editor providing the latest critical edition. He only names two surviving manuscripts (Paris, Bibl. nat., ms. Français 25405 [A] and 25437 [B]), along with five manuscripts which have been lost or are only known due to mentions in other manuscripts. Of those, two can be identified (Cambridge, Pembroke College, 229 and Torino, Biblioteca Nazionale Universitaria, L. V. 32 (partially burnt in 1904)). Arlima ( lists a total of 8 manuscripts, including the manuscripts of Paris, Cambridge and Torino mentioned by Orr, alongside four more manuscripts in the BNF. It has to be noted though, that of these four manuscripts, only one (Arsenal, 3123) includes a complete copy of the poem, but it is an 18th century copy of ms. 25405. The other three, one of which dates from the eighteenth century as well, only seem to include certain excerpts of the poem. The manuscript tradition thus bears further scrutiny, but there is also no more recent modern study which reviews the manuscript tradition.,Translations include a full German translation by Wolfaert 1861.,Research on La Bible has largely been interested in the whole text as a satire or estates satire or in the identity of Guiot de Provins, as his identification with the ‘Kyot’ mentioned by Wolfram von Eschenbach is debated. Orr 1915, xx-xxxviii reviews the older literature. [The passage on the laybrothers of St. Anthony is discussed in Breitenstein 2023].
Total number of Ms and early prints
Number of Ms within 100 years
Paris, Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal, Ms-3123
Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Moreau 1715-1719
Torino, Biblioteca Nazionale Universitaria, MS. L. V. 32
Paris, Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal, Ms-5201 réserve
Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Français 25437
Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, NAF 13521
Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Français 25405
Early prints
Transmission History Authority
Editions and Research
Latest Critical Edition
Orr 1915
Other Editions
“Orr 1915, 10-93; Baudler 1902; Meyer 1890; Wolfaert 1861; Méon 1808 (Reprint 1976)”
Key Research
Orr 1915,Dyggve 1938,Batany 1964,Batany 1969,Mühlethaler 1993
Wolfaert 1861 (German)

Cite As

Sita Steckel and Nils Foege, “La Bible”, in: Diversitas Religionum – Criticisms of Religious Orders in Medieval Europe: A Digital Repertory of Works and Manuscripts. 

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