Edited & Translated by
AT SOME POINT in January or early February of 1347, Petrarch briefly visited the remote Carthusian monastery of Montrieux, where, four years before, his beloved brother, Gherardo, had pledged himself to live in perpetuity as a renditus, one who took the same vows as a monk but who was not cloistered. In the day and night he spent at Montrieux, Petrarch spoke privately with Gherardo, had lively discussions with other residents, and attended religious services celebrated by the brothers with “angelic singing.” Unwilling to disturb the rigid discipline of the monastery longer, he reluctantly departed the next morning accompanied by the prior and the brothers to the limits of their property and he imagined them continuing to watch him until he disappeared from view.
Returning to the Vaucluse, still “mindful of that whole blessed sweetness which I drank in with you,” and troubled that in the course of the hasty visit he had not been able to say many things that he would like to have said, he decided “to express in writing what I was not able to do in person.”
The body of the work that was to become the De otio religioso was composed sometime during Lent or between February 11 and March 29 of that year. Not untypically, however, Petrarch continued to add to the text as late as 1356, and the finished treatise was probably not dispatched to Gherardo until 1357.
This first English translation by Susan S. Schearer faithfully and elegantly presents Petrarch’s exordium to the life of contemplation and offers the reader a fresh view into the spiritual world of fourteenth-century humanism.
Ronald G. Witt’s introduction places the work into its historical and intellectual context, discusses its structure and development, and examines Petrarch’s characteristic synthesis of Christian and classical sources.
First English translation.
Paperback, 194 pp.