Letters of Ascent: Spiritual Direction in the Letters of Bernard of Clairvaux

By Michael C. Voigts

A study of the letters of the 12th-century Cistercian abbot Bernard of Clairvaux, revealing his use of the epistolatory form for spiritual guidance.

ISBN: 9780227174418


St Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) is best known by many today for his mystical approach to spirituality and his eloquent sermons on the Song of Songs. In his letters, however, a different Bernard emerges – one who had fled the world for the cloister yet possessed a soaring vision for the Church on earth. By examining select letters and placing them in the larger context of the people and the world around him, we discover a man who loved the Church – but who realized that the Church is comprised of individuals who did not share his ideals and agendas. In Letters of Ascent, we travel to medieval Europe and view society through the eyes of one of history’s most passionate ecclesiastical reformers.

Additional information

Dimensions 229 × 153 mm
Pages 188

Trade Information JPOD

About the Author

Michael C. Voigts is an Affiliate Professor of Spiritual Formation at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky, and an ordained minister in The United Methodist Church. He holds a PhD from Brunel University/London School of Theology in the area of Historical Theology.



1. Bernard of Clairvaux in the Twelfth-Century World
2. Bernard and the Direction of Souls
3. An Introduction to the Letters of Bernard
4. The Letters of Bernard to Monks
5. The Letters of Bernard to Abbots
6. The Letters of Bernard to Bishops
7. The Letters of Bernard to Popes
8. The Letters of Bernard to Laity
9. Bernard’s Letters as a Methodology for Twelfth-Century Ecclesiastical Reform

Abbreviations for the Works of Bernard of Clairvaux


Endorsements and Reviews

Bernard’s letters are a rich mine of spiritual wisdom. Voigts capably expounds this wisdom in a way that will be of interest to Bernard scholars and to those concerned with spiritual direction. Definitely to be recommended.
Tony Lane, London School of Theology

At a time when classic Christian formation is contributing to the renewal of the church, Voigts has written a book that helps restore the ministry of spiritual direction, historically practiced often through letters. And there’s no better guide from the past than Bernard of Clairvaux to shed good light on our pathway today. Read this book as if the letters are for you. They are!
Steve Harper, Asbury Theological Seminary, Florida-Dunnam Campus

This book should be of interest to practical theologians, systematic theologians as well as Christians who want a glimpse into medieval monastic life.
J. Gaius Song, in The Expository Times, Vol 127, No 10