Peire Cardenal

Peire Cardenal from a 13th-century Lombard chansonnier.

Peire Cardenal (or Cardinal)[1] (c. 1180 – c. 1278)[2] was a troubadour (fl. 1204–1272) known for his satirical sirventes and his dislike of the clergy. Ninety-six pieces of his remain, a number rarely matched by other poets of the age.[3]

Peire Cardenal was born in Le Puy-en-Velay,[4] apparently of a noble family;[5] the family name Cardenal appears in many documents of the region in the 13th and 14th centuries.[3] He was educated as a canon, which education directed him to vernacular lyric poetry and he abandoned his career in the church for "the vanity of this world", according to his vida.[6] Peire began his career at the court of Raymond VI of Toulousefrom whom he sought patronageand a document of 1204 refers to a Petrus Cardinalis as a scribe of Raymond's chancery.[3] At Raymond's court, however, he appears to have been known as Peire del Puoi or Puei (French: Pierre du Puy). Around 1238 he wrote a partimen beginning Peire del Puei, li trobador with Aimeric de Pegulhan.

Peire subsequently travelled widely, visiting the courts of Auvergne, Les Baux, Foix, Rodez, and Vienne.[3] He may have even ventured into Spain and met Alfonso X of Castile, and James I of Aragon, although he never mentions the latter by name in his poems.[3] During his travels he was accompanied by a suite of jongleurs, some of whom receive mention by name in his poetry.[3]

Among the other troubadours Peire encountered in his travels were Aimeric de Belenoi and Raimon de Miraval.[3] He may have met Daude de Pradas and Guiraut Riquier at Rodez.[7] Peire was influenced by Cadenet, whom he honoured in one of his pieces. He was possibly influenced by Bernart de Venzac.

In his early days he was a vehement opponent of the French, the clergy and the Albigensian Crusade. In Li clerc si fan pastor he condemned the "possession" of the laity by the clergy, for so long as the clergy order it, the laity will "draw their swords towards heaven and get into the saddle." This poem was written probably around 1245, after the First Council of Lyon, where the clergy took action against the Emperor Frederick II, but not against the Saracens.[8] In Atressi cum per fargar Peire suggests that the clergy "protect their own swinish flesh from every blade", but they do not care how many knights die in battle.[8] Peire was not an opponent of Christianity or even the Crusades. In Totz lo mons es vestitiz et abrazatz he urged Philip III of France, who had recently succeeded his father, Louis IX, who died in 1270 on the failed Eighth Crusade, to go to the aid of Edward Longshanks, then on the Ninth Crusade in Syria.[9]

By the end of his life he appears reconciled to the new modus vivendi in southern France.[3] He died at an advanced age (allegedly one hundred years old) possibly either in Montpellier or Nimes, but this is only a supposition, based on where the biographer and compiler Miquel de la Tor was active.[3]

Three of Peire's songs have surviving melodies, but two (for a canso and a sirventes) were composed by others: Guiraut de Bornelh and Raimon Jordan respectively.[10] Like many of his contemporary troubadours, Peire merely composed contrafacta. The third, for Un sirventesc novel vuelh comensar, may be Peire's own work.[3] It is similar to the borrowed melody of Guiraut de Bornelh, mostly syllabic with melismas at phrasal ends.[7] The meagre number of surviving tunes (attributable to him) relative to his output of poetry is surprising considering his vida states that "he invented poetry about many beautiful subjects with beautiful tunes."[11]


  • Aubrey, Elizabeth. The Music of the Troubadours. Indiana University Press, 1996. ISBN 0-253-21389-4.
  • Egan, Margarita, ed. and trans. The Vidas of the Troubadours. New York: Garland, 1984. ISBN 0-8240-9437-9.
  • Lavaud, R. (1957). Poésies complètes du troubadour Peire Cardenal. Toulouse: Bibliothèque méridionale, 2e série, 34.
  • Boutiere, J. and Schutz, A.-H., Biographies des troubadours. Paris, 1954.
  • Throop, Palmer A. "Criticism of Papal Crusade Policy in Old French and Provençal." Speculum, 13:4 (Oct., 1938), pp. 379412.

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  1. His name is spelled Pèire in modern Occitan.
  2. The estimated dates of his life come from Lavaud.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Aubrey, 234.
  4. Called Puy Nostra Domna in his vida.
  5. His vida calls him the "son of a knight and a lady" (Egan, 74).
  6. Egan, 74. The author of Peire's vida is known: Miquel de la Tor.
  7. 1 2 Aubrey, 2334.
  8. 1 2 Throop, 4012.
  9. Throop, 409.
  10. This is not unusual for thirteenth-century sirventes. The poems with borrowed melodies are Ar mi posc eu lauzar d'amor and Ricx hom que greu ditz vertat e leu men respectively. Guiraut's poem is No posc sofrir qu'a la dolor and Jordan's is Vas vos soplei, domna, premieramen.
  11. Egan, 74, emphasis added.
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