Cardenal, Peire

Cardenal, Peire
(ca. 1180–ca. 1278)
   Peire Cardenal was the most important poet of the Albigensian period in southern France. He is best known for his moral SIRVENTES, many of which are bitter satires and attacks on the clergy and the French nobility.
   Tradition says that Peire was the child of a noble family from Puy-en-Velay, and that he was educated for a career in the church but chose instead to become a TROUBADOUR. His chief patrons were Raimon VI and Raimon VII, counts of Toulouse and leaders of the Provençal resistance to the invaders from the north during the Albigensian Crusade.
   Pope INNOCENT III had called for the Crusade against the Catharist heretics in the Languedoc region in 1209, a cause that was taken up enthusiastically by northern French nobility under the command of Simon de Montfort. Montfort destroyed the city of Béziers in 1209, and, with the support of the clergy, slaughtered the entire population. He defeated the combined armies of Peire’s patron Raimon VI and Pedro II of Aragon at Muret in 1213 and occupied Toulouse itself in 1215.When Raimon took back the city in 1217, Montfort laid siege to the city.
   Peire is said to have fled from Narbonne and later from Toulouse to escape Montfort’s armies. For awhile he was under the protection of Jacme I, king of Aragon, after Pedro fell at Muset. The crusade ended in Languedoc when Raimon VII surrendered in 1229, virtually ceding the entire region of Occitan to the French king. The Catharist heresy continued, however, for the rest of the century until the Inquisition ultimately succeeded in wiping it out. Peire was never a heretic, but was rather deeply devout. His song to Mary, the first such poem in Provençal, is a very orthodox praise of the Virgin. But he did clearly resent the war, the cruelty of the French nobility, and the venality of the clergy and monastic orders during and after the crusade. One of his poems begins:
   Buzzards and vultures
   do not smell out stinking flesh
   as fast as clerics and preachers
   smell out the rich.
   (Goldin 1973, 301, ll. 1–4)
   Later in the same poem, he declares:
   Frenchmen and clerics win praise
   for their felonies, because they succeed;
   usurers and traitors
   take the whole world that way,
   (Goldin 1973, 301, ll. 9–12)
   In his moral outrage and his righteous vituperation, Peire is a worthy heir to the troubadour tradition begun by MARCABRU. Tradition says he lived to be nearly 100 years old. Ninety-six of his songs are still extant.
   ■ Goldin, Frederick, ed. and trans. Lyrics of the Troubadours and Trouverès: An Anthology and a History. Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor, 1973.
   ■ Wilhelm, James J. Seven Troubadours: The Creators of Modern Verse. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1970.

Encyclopedia of medieval literature. 2013.

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