bishop, monk, and cardinal. Born at Ravenna of a large and comparatively poor family, Peter lost both his parents in childhood and was oppressed by one brother but adopted by another who was archpriest of Ravenna, and gave him the best education he could provide. This comprised grammar, rhetoric, and law, studied at Faenza and Parma; afterwards he became a teacher at Ravenna. Already he lived an austere life, and he decided to become a monk. This he accomplished in 1035 when he joined the Camaldolese Benedictine monastery of Fonte Avellana reformed by Romuald. This was a community of hermits who lived two in a cell, following a very austere regime of fasting, abstinence, and vigils, which for Peter resulted in a temporary breakdown of health. His studies now consisted of Scripture and patristic theology, which he pursued with the same zeal and thoroughness which he had previously devoted to secular studies. Some of the time devoted to manual labour was spent in transcribing manuscripts; liturgical and private prayer with sacred reading were the other occupations of the monks. Some of them lived in complete solitude. In 1043 he was elected abbot of this poor and small community. Insisting on solitude and charity with fidelity to the founding fathers, he eventually made five foundations. Ardent, energetic, intransigent, Peter was also kind to his monks and could be indulgent to penitents. But his writings reveal rather his strictness and severity: reproofs of bishops for playing chess match those of wandering wealthy monks. The state of the Church was so critical at this time that he was soon called on to direct his energies into a wider field. First his eloquent voice was heard at the synods of Italy held by reforming popes like Leo IX, preaching against simony and clerical marriage and in favour of the reformed papacy which he saw as the key to the whole future of the Church. He was also severe about laxity of all kinds in the monastic Order.
In 1057 he was appointed bishop of Ostia and cardinal. For several years he took a prominent part in the Gregorian Reform, acting energetically against various antipopes, going on diplomatic and ecclesiastical missions to Milan, Germany, and France, preaching and writing in the cause of reform. In 1059 he took part in the Lateran synod which proclaimed the right of the cardinals alone to elect the future bishops of Rome. In 1069 he managed to dissuade the emperor Henry IV from divorcing his wife Bertha.
Meanwhile he had remained a monk at heart and repeatedly asked to be relieved of his episcopal duties. This was eventually granted by Nicholas II, and Peter returned to his monastery at Fonte Avellana. An interesting occupation of his old age was making wooden spoons and other artefacts.
The last mission he accomplished was to his native town of Ravenna, whose archbishop had been excommunicated; as a result the town was divided into factions. When he arrived the archbishop had died, but he settled matters by punishing the guilty and restoring order. On his way back to Rome he died in a monastery at Faenza on 22 February. Important as an ecclesiastical statesman and reformer, he also made a significant contribution to monastic thought, in so far as he regarded unrealistically the eremitic life as the best for everyone and community life as a poor second. But he also advocated regular canonical life for cathedral clergy, and was a precursor of devotional development to the Passion of Christ and the Blessed Virgin. He was also a notable poet, his best-known hymn being that in honour of St Gregory, beginning ‘Anglorum iam Apostolus’. Feast: 21 February.