College Notes
Church History
Lecture 14

Peter De Bruys / Arnold of Bresca / Henri the Deacon


A. Maybe beginning of Thyatira Era
1. Active in S. France in the beginning of the 12th century
2. There are indications of remnants from these eras still extant.
3. Rev 2:19 There to be a first work that would be eclipsed by a later work

B. First of Anti-Catholic movement.
1. Little known about family background.
2. Ecclesiastical priest.
3. Ministry lasted 20 years.
4. Burned at the stake in c.1125 - some say 1139
5. Followers called Petrobrusians
6. Successors - Henri and Arnold.

C. Reference book: Dictionary of Sects and Hereseys

D. Located in Southern France.

E. Peter the Venerable (historian) only present source of information on Peter de Bruys.
1. He wrote Contra Petrobrusans
2. In it he called Peter:

"That wretched little man" 

F. Catholic beliefs he was opposed to:
1. Chanting (popular method of Catholic worship).
2. Fasting (by Catholic definition, simply abstaining from red meats).
3. Perverted monks and priests were put into prison.

G. Five doctrines as documented by Peter the Venerable:
1. Baptized only mature adults with understanding.
2. Idle superstition to build churches.
3. Abhorrence for crucifixes.
     a. He is noted as saying:
"The cross should be hated as an instrument of torture"

        b. While burning crosses at the town of St. Gilles, near Nimes, he was himself cast into the flames by enraged onlookers

    4. Blood and body of Christ not Eucharist (doctrine of transubstantiation refuted).
5. Oblations, prayers, and good works of no use to the dead. Against purgatory.

H. Petrobrusians:
1. Not strong evidence that they kept the Sabbath.
2. Believed one had to live and practice right way of life not just perform the works.

 The Dictionary of Sects and Heresies says:

"The sect of the Petrobrusians, was the earliest of the anti-sacerdotal communities which the profound discontent inspired by the tyranny of Rome called into existence at the beginning of the twelfth century. They were the followers of an eloquent but ignorant heretic named Peter of Brueys. The date of his birth is unknown, nor are we better informed as to his family, life, or personal character. All the information which has reached us of this remarkable person is contained in a tract or epistle composed for the refutation of his doctrines, and addressed to certain Peter the Venerable.... Although the account of an enemy is always to be read with suspicion, the high and disinterested character of the Abbot of Clugny gives more than ordinary value to his narrative...(by) 1125...the author tells us, the heresy had been flourishing for twenty years. Like many others of the reformers, Peter de Brueys was an ecclesiastic; apparently one of the secular clergy, and it would seem the possessor of a benefice in some diocese in Southern France, a region where the degradation of the clergy had reached its lowest point of infamy.... His principal doctrines, which (with one exception, his repugnance to the Cross) were more ably extended by his more powerful successor, Henry the Deacon ...The capital charges upon which he is arraigned are: 1) He rejected infant baptism, alleging that no miraculous gifts were possible in that ceremony, which he declared to be wholly void when performed on the person of an irresponsible infant. 2) He denied that any special sanctity resided in consecrated buildings forbidding the erection of churches, and directing that such churches as did exist should be pulled down. 3) In particular he objected to the worship of the Cross, alleging that the accursed tree should be held in horror by all Christians as the instrument of the torture and death of the Redeemer. 4) He denied any sort of real presence in the Eucharist. Whether or not he retained the office of the communion as a memorial rite is unknown, but as his rejection of the Eucharist as such seems inevitable...5) He was bitterly opposed to prayers, oblations, alms, and other good deed done on behalf of the dead. Besides these five capital errors, which form the subject of the Clugniac Abbot's refutation, must be added a total prohibition of chanting and all use of sacred music. Puritanical as some of these tenets seem, de Brueys was no lover of asceticism. He inculcated marriage, even of priests, as a high religious usage, and would have abolished all the fasts of the Church. The deleterious effects of his teaching are thus summed up by the authority we have quoted: 'The people are re-baptised, churches profaned, altars overturned, crosses are burnt, meat eaten openly on the day of the Lord's Passion, priests scourged, monks cast into dungeons, and by terror or torture constrained to marry.... Strangely enough this popular heretic met his death at the hands of the people. Seized by a mob in an emeute caused by his preaching (but which some assume to have been organized by the ecclesiastical authorities) he was committed to the flames at ST. Gilles in the Arelatensian diocese. His career, which commenced about A.D. 1104, was thus terminated about A.D. 1225.


A. Background:
1. Started in France, Preached in Rome c.1145.
2. Hanged, burned and ashes thrown in Tiber River.
3. Very politically oriented - a political reformer.
B. His beliefs:
1. Believed root of evil to be the wealth of RCChurch
2. Used Bible as source of authority vs. tradition.
3. All his work occurred within the Roman church.
4. His followers went into hiding later became known as Waldensians and Lombards.

 From A History of the Christian Church, by Schaff, we read:

"During the pontificates of Innocent II., Eugene III., and Adrian IV. occurred the interesting episode of Arnold of Brescia, an unsuccessful ecclesiastical and political agitator, who protested against the secularization of the church, and tried to restore it to apostolic poverty and apostolic purity... He proclaimed the principle that the Church and the clergy, as well as the monks, should be without any temporal possessions, like Christ and the Apostles, and live from the tithes and the voluntary offerings of the people. Their calling is purely spiritual. All the things of this earth belong to the laity and the civil government. He practiced what he taught, and begged his daily bread from house to house. He was a monk of severe ascetic piety, enthusiastic temper, popular eloquence, well versed in the Scriptures, restless, radical, and fearless. He agreed with the Catholic orthodoxy, except on the doctrines of the Eucharist and infant baptism; but his views on these sacraments are not known. With this ecclesiastical scheme he combined a political one. He identified himself with the movement of the Romans to emancipate themselves from the papal authority, and to restore the ancient republic. By giving all earthly power to the laity, he secured the favor of the laity, but lost the influence of the clergy. It was the political complication which caused his ruin.... Arnold sought the welfare of the Church in her complete separation from the State and of the clerical office from secular entanglements.... The author of the HISTORIA PONTIFICALIS says that Arnold's doctrine agreed with the Gospel, but stood in crying contrast with the actual condition of things...(he) even went so far as to make poverty a condition of salvation for priests and monks.... Arnold stepped out of the ecclesiastical into the political sphere, and surrounded the new republic with the halo of religion. He preached in his monastic gown, on the ruins of the Capitol, to the patres conscripti, and advised them to rebuild the Capitol, and to restore the old order of senators and knights... Arnold was banished from Rome in 1154, and soon afterwards hanged by order of Emperor Frederick I.... His body was burnt and his ashes were thrown into the Tiber, in 1155. The Arnoldists continued for some time to defend the doctrines of their master, and were declared heretics by a council of Verona, 1184, after which they disappeared." p. 97-102


A. He was a Benedictine monk
B. Eloquent orator.
1. Some priests turned the pulpit over to him.
2. Powerful voice - converted many. 

The Dictionary of Sects and Heresies says:

"He was of imposing stature, wore a cropped beard and flowing hair, went barefooted in winters, with a frame so robust as to endure with ease the utmost rigours of the climate, and a voice so powerful that his adversaries compared it to the roar of a legion of devils." p. 183

C. Fought two main areas:
1. Fought Catholic church on its clergy not marrying.
2. Foe of the clergy's lifestyle in general. 

The Dictionary of Sects and Heresies says:

"Henry dwelt much on two points. Although a monk by education, and by profession and practice a rigid ascetic, he was emphatically the apostle of marriage and the uncompromising foe of the clergy." p. 183

D. Had universal Influence.
E. Some members of the church may have been present in his movement (not conclusive).
F. His death:
1. His death precedes Arnold a few years.
2. Died - 1149.

Schaff's History of the Christian Church says:

"Of Henry of Lausanne, Peter's successor, we know more. He was a Benedictine monk, endowed with an unusual gift of eloquence. His name is associated with Lausanne because, as Bernard tells us, he at one time lived there.... Henry won the people, but drew upon himself the hostility of the clergy whose vices he denounced. The bishop, on his return, expelled Henry from his diocese. The evangelist then went to Lausanne and from there to Southern France, joining in the spiritual crusade opened by Peter de Bruys. He practiced poverty and preached it to the laity. One of the results of his preaching was that women of loose morals repented and young men were persuaded to marry them. Cardinal Alberic, sent to stamp out the Henrician heresy, called to his aid St. Bernard, the bishop of Chartres and other prelates. Henry was seized and imprisoned. What his end was is not known.... Peter and Henry revived the Donatistic view that piety is essential to a legitimate priesthood. The word "Church" signifies the congregation of the faithful and consists in the unity of the assembled believers and not in the stones of the building. God may be worshipped as acceptably in the market place or a stable as in a consecrated edifice. They preached on the streets and in the open places. As for the cross, as well might a halter or a sword be adored? Peter is said to have cooked meat in the fire made by the crosses he piled up and burnt at St. Gilles, near the mouth of the Rhone. Song, they said, was fit for the tavern, but not for the worship of God. God is to be worshipped with the affections of the heart and cannot be moved by vocal notes or wooed by musical modulations.

"The doctrine of transubstantiation was distinctly renounced, and perhaps the Lord's Supper, on the ground that Christ gave up his body on the night of the betrayal once for all. Peter not only called upon the priests to marry, but according to Peter the Venerable, he forced unwilling monks to take wives.... Peter argued that for nearly five hundred years Europe had had no Christian not baptized in infancy, and hence according to the sectaries had no Christians at all.... The synod of Toulouse, 1119, in condemning as heretics those who rejected the Lord's Supper, infant baptism, and priestly ordination, condemned the Petrobrusians, though Peter de Bruys is not mentioned by name. Those who hung upon the preaching of Peter de Bruys and Henry of Lausanne were soon lost among the Cathari and other sects." p. 483-485

A. They are proclaimed as protestant before the reformation
B. They actually prepared the way for the greater work that was to come through Peter Waldo.

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