Pierre of Virey, a book-lover abbot

Pierre Guillaume was born in Virey, near Chalon-sur-Saône, at an uncertain date, probably arround 1425. As a professed monk of Maizières, near Beaune, he was sent to Paris to make his theological studies at St Bernard’s high school. Biblical holder of a high school diploma in 1451-1453, then holder of a high school sententious diploma in 1453-1455, Pierre de Virey became an abbot of Chaalis in 1458. He graduated in 1460, and then he became master in theology on November the 10th of the same year. Throughout his life he remained in contact with St Bernard’s High School and the university circles.

He was a real book-lover abbot as he took a particular care in constituting and enriching regularly his personnal library. He realized for the abbot of Cîteaux the inventory of the possessions of the abbey Notre-Dame-la-Royale at Maubuisson in May 1463. This inventory granted the books a particular attention, which we can find ten years later in the catalogue of Clairvaux.

After the death of Philippe de Fontaines on September the 10th, 1471, Pierre de Virey was elected as abbot of Clairvaux, a monastery where he spent the rest of his life.
From the first months of his abbatiat he ordered an inventory of the volumes and books of Clairvaux. This task was certainly given to the scholar Jean de Voivre. It was finished in May 1472. Pierre de Virey was also concerned about the state of the documents and he restored his manuscripts with embossed tawny and soft leather bindings or on pieces of wood, or, more simply, in parchment.
Considering the increase of the collections where the first printed documents were found, in 1495 Pierre decided to have a new building constructed which was finished in 1502. Printing activities did not end the activity of the scriptorium of Clairvaux; the copy of manuscripts continued with a less steady, but regular rhythm up to the beginning of the XVIth century. The abbot watched over it.

Throughout his abbatiat, Pierre de Virey continued to order manuscripts and to accumulate volumes.

There is also a less glorious part of his activity, as he entered into conflict with the abbot of Citeaux. He wrote lampoons, some of them were considered as slanderous by the general chapter of the order in 1485.
In 1496, he did not go to Rome leaving the abbot’s position vacant; on September the 23rd, the pope appointed Jean Foucault as abbot of Clairvaux.

In the peace of the convent, Pierre de Virey returned to his books. In February 1504, he inaugurated the new library of the monastery whose care was given to the Brother Mathurin Cangey.
He died on September the 21st, 1506. It is doubtless that he was an abbot enemy of "Cîteaux", but great friend of books.