Peter the Eater

Peter Comestor, a priest from Troyes, was a great scholar and became chancellor of the chapter at Notre Dame in Paris, and head of the cathedral theology school.

“Comestor” (“Eater, Devourer”) was his nickname, but it didn’t refer to food. He devoured books. He was also said to be one of the three most cultured men in France.

It was a great time to be a voracious reader, and pretty much all books came to Paris (or Salerno, or Venice). You could study the books in the cathedral, church, and monastery libraries, borrow and copy books that people brought with them, or buy nice new handwritten copies from the bookshops. And if you had a memory as well trained as scholars did, back then, you could keep all the good parts stored in your brain’s pigeonholes and bring them out when needed, particularly for teaching or preaching.

He also wrote the Historia Scholastica, which basically was used as a textbook for university students to keep their Biblical chronology of the OT and NT straight, and gave them some basic background info (in case they didn’t already know it). Since it was a textbook, there are lots of copies in manuscript and early printed form, and lots of translations and abridged Cliff Notes versions.🙂

Later in life, Peter the Eater moved to an abbey, became a canon there, and pretty much stayed in. He died somewhere around AD 1178.

His epitaph said:
“I was Peter (now rock’s my keeper) and called the Eater;
Now I’m Eaten. I taught when living, nor have stopped teaching
When dead and ashes; so he who looks at me here may say,
That ‘We’re what he was; and what he is now, we’ll be someday.'”

“Petrus eram quem petra tegit, dictusque Comestor,
nunc Comedor. Vivus docui, nec cesso docere,
Mortuus, ut dicat qui me videt incineratum,
Quod sumus iste fuit, erimus, quandoque quod hic est.”

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