Abbot of the Cistercian monastery at Perseigne, Adam was a 'director of souls' in the late twelfth century. By his letters he counselled clerics and kings, nuns and nobles with affection, respect, and candor. Because his monastery lay in Normandy, he enjoyed close ties with Norman England and acted as an adviser to the crusader-king, Richard the Lion-hearted. Yet this intimate of the high-born was himself the son of a serf.
Nothing certain is know of the education by which Adam rose from the peasantry, but he is an example of the way in which a young man could improve his station by entering clerical life. After being ordained priest, Adam found favor at the witty and sophisticated court of the Countess of Champagne.
In his letters, Adam reveals that at some point he began to seek a disciplined life of prayer and entered a monastery of cannons regular. Dissatisfied there, he transferred to a Benedictine monastery, and then to a Cistercian abbey, likely Pontigny. His final choice may have been guided in large part by his great personal devotion to the infant Jesus and to His Mother, the patroness of the Cistercian Order. Marian devotion had grown rapidly in the twelfth century and was echoed in secular life by the increasing chivalric regard for ladies which found its greatest expression at the court of Champagne. In several of his letters Adam speaks tenderly of the virtues and graces of Saint Mary, giving eloquent voice to the popular love and admiration which swept across western Europe in the twelfth century.