Who is Seven Responses? - Arnulf de Leuven

Who is Seven Responses?

Arnulf de Leuven (c. 1200-1250), poet/abbot

It may seem strange that the most prominent author of Seven Responses is a Cistercian monk of the 13th century.  But the famed Medieval poem, Salve mundi salutare, also known as Rythmica Oratio, which is now attributed to him, serves as the main source material for Buxtehude's Membra Jesu nostri - and 7R composers Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen, Hans Thomalla, and Caroline Shaw all relied on this text as source material.

Very little is known of Arnulf de Leuven; he spent ten years as the abbot at the abbey of Villers-la-Ville (Belgium). Eventually, he left the monastery to seek a life of study and asceticism, but died soon after. The records of the monastery were destroyed by French Revolutionaries, leaving us only to know Arnulf was an avid poet and scholar.  We do know that he collected the first annals of the abbey (1146-1240) and also wrote the Excerptum Speculi Caritatis, a verse adaptation of Raymond of Peñafort's Summa Causum. Much of his work is accredited to his 12th-century predecessor, Bernard of Clairvaux, as they are consistent with Bernard's theological philosophies. Although the true source of the Rythmica Oratio is still a mystery, most scholars agree that the most likely writer was Arnulf, not Bernard. 

What a wonderful thing: Medieval words from a mysterious, devoted, and passionate monk, finding their way into our lives in new ways.