Vol. 4, Chapter XIV (Cont’d) – Johannes Scotus Erigena


I. Johannes Scotus: Opera omnia, in Migne, Tom. CXXII. (1853). H. J. Floss prepared this edition, which is more complete than any other, for Migne’s series. The De divisione naturae was separately edited by C. B. Schlüter, Münster, 1838, who reprints in the same vol. (pp. 593-610) thirteen religious poems of Scotus as edited by Cardinal Mai (Class. Auct. V. 426 sqq.). B. Hauréau has edited Scotus’s commentary on Marcianus Capella, Paris, 1861; and Cardinal Mai, his commentary on the Heavenly Hierarchy of Dionysius Areopagita in Appendix at opera edita ab Mai, Rome, 1871. There is an excellent German translation of the De Div. Nat. by L. Noack (Erigena über die Eintheilung der Natur, mit einer Schlussabhandlung Berlin, 1870-4, Leipzig, 1876, 3 pts.),

II. Besides the Prolegomena and notes of the works already mentioned, see Peder Hjort: J. S. E., oder von dem Ursprung einer christlichen Philosophie und ihrem heiligen Beruf, Copenhagen, 1823. F. A. Staudenmaier: J. S. E., u. d. Wissenschaft s. Zeit., vol. I. (all published), Frankfort-on-the-Main, 1834. St. Réné Taillandier: S. E. et la philosophie scholastique, Strasbourg, 1843. N. Möller: J. S. E. u. s. Irrthümer, Mayence, 1844. Theodor Christlieb Leben u. Lehre d. J. S. E., Gotha, 1860; comp. also his article in Herzog,2 XIII. 788-804 (1884). Johannes Huber: J. S. E. Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der Philosophie und Theologie im Mittelalter, Munich, 1861. A. Stöckl: De J. S. E., Münster, 1867. O. Hermens: Das Leben des J. S. E., Jena, 1869. R. Hoffmann: De J. S. E. vita et doctrina, Halle, 1877 (pp. 37). Cf. Baur: Geschichte der Lehre von der Dreieinigkeit, II. 263-344. Dorner: Gesch. d. Lehre v. d. Person Christi, II. 344-359. Neander, III. 461-466.

III. On particular points. Torstrick: Philosophia Erigenae; 1. Trinitatis notio, Göttingen, 1844. Francis Monnier: De Gothescalci et J. S. E. controversia, Paris, 1853. W. Kaulich: Das speculative System des J S. E., Prag, 1860. Meusel: Doctrina J. S. E. cum Christiana comparavit, Budissae (Bautzen), 1869. F. J. Hoffmann: Der Gottes u. Schoepfungsbegriff des J. S. E., Jena, 1876. G. Anders: Darstellung u. Kritik d. Ansicht dass d. Kategorien nicht auf Gott anwendbar seien, Sorau, 1877 (pp. 37). G. Buchwald: Der Logosbegriff de J. S. E., Leipzig, 1884. For his logic see Prantl: Geschichte d. Logik im Abendlande, Leipzig, 1855-70, 4 vols. (II. 20-37). For his philosophy in general see B. Hauréau: Histoire de la philosophie scholastique, Paris, 1850, 2 vols., 2d ed. 1872-81, (chap. viii). F. D. Maurice: Medieval Philosophy, London, 1856, 2d ed. 1870 (pp. 45-79). F. Ueberweg: History of Philosophy, Eng. trans. I., 358-365. Reuter.: Geschichte d. religioesen Aufklärung im Mittelalter, Berlin, 1875-1877, 2 vols. (I. 51-64). J. Bass Mullinger.: The Schools of Charles the Great, London, 1877 (pp. 171-193). Also Du Pin, VII. 82-84. Ceillier, XII. 605-609. Hist. Lit. de la France, V. 416-429. Bähr., 483-500. Ebert, II. 257-267.


His Life

Of Johannes Scotus Erigena, philosopher and theologian, one of the great men of history, very little is known. His ancestry, and places of birth, education, residence and death are disputed. Upon only a few facts of his life, such as his position at the court of Charles the Bald, and his literary works, can one venture to speak authoritatively.

He was born in Ireland between 800 and 815, educated in, one of its famous monastic schools, where the Greek Fathers, particularly Origen, were studied as well as the Latin. He went to France about 843, attracted the notice of Charles the Bald, and was honored with his friendship. The king appointed him principal of the School of the Palace, and frequently deferred to his judgment. John Scotus was one of the ornaments of the court by reason of his great learning, his signal ability both as teacher and philosopher, and his blameless life. He was popularly regarded as having boundless knowledge, and in reality his attainments were uncommon. He knew Greek fairly well and often introduces Greek words into his writings. He owed much to Greek theologians, especially Pseudo-Dionysius and Maximus. He was acquainted with the Timaes of Plato in the translation of Chalcidus and with the Categories of Aristotle. He was also well read in Augustin, Boëthius, Cassiodorus and Isidore. He took a leading part in the two great doctrinal controversies of his age, on predestination and the eucharist, and by request of Charles the Bald translated into Latin the Pseudo-Dionysian writings. The single known fact about his personal appearance is that, like Einhard, he was of small stature. He died about 877, probably shortly after Charles the Bald.


His Writings

Besides the treatise upon Predestination and the translation of Dionysius, already discussed, Scotus Erigena wrote:

1. A translation of the Obscurities of Gregory Nazianzen, by Maximus Confessor. This was made at the instance of Charles the Bald, in 864.

2. Expositions of the Heavenly Hierarchy, the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy, and the Mystical Theology of Dionysius.

3. Homily upon the prologue to John’s Gospel.

4. A commentary upon John’s Gospel. Only four fragments of it have as yet been found.

5. A commentary upon the Dialectic of Martianus Capella. This has been published by Hauréau.

6. The outgoing and in-coming of a soul to God. Of this only a small fragment has as yet been found.

7 The vision of God. This is in MS. at St. Omer and not yet printed.

8. Verses. Among them are some Greek verses, with a self-made Latin interlinear translation. He introduces both single Greek words and verses similarly interlineated into his other poems.

9. The great work of Scotus Erigena is The Division of Nature. It consists of five books in the form of a dialogue between a teacher and a disciple. The latter, generally speaking, represents the ecclesiastical conscience, but always in the end echoes his teacher. The style is lively and the range of topics embraces the most important theological cosmological and anthropological questions. The work was the first practical attempt made in the West to unite philosophy and theology. As in the dedication to Wulfad, the well-known opponent of Hincmar, John calls him simply “brother,” the work must have been written prior to 865, the Year of Wulfad’s elevation to the archiepiscopate of Bourges.


His Theological Teaching

In the Division of Nature Scotus Erigena has embodied his theology and philosophy. By the term “Nature” he means all that is and is not. The latter expression he further interprets as including, 1st, that which is above the reach of our senses or our reason; 2d, that which though known to those higher in the scale of being is not known to those lower; 3d, that which is yet only potentially existent, like the human race in Adam, the plant in the seed, etc.; 4th, the material which comes and goes and therefore is not truly existent like the intelligible; 5th, sin as being the loss of the Divine image. Nature is divided into four species: (1) that which creates and is not created, (2) that which is created and creates, (3) that which is created and does not create, (4) that which neither creates nor is created. The first three divisions are a Neo-Platonic and Christian modification of the three-fold ontological division of Aristotle: the unmoved and the moving, the moved and moving, and the moved and not moving. The fourth form was suggested by the Pseudo-Dionysian doctrine of the return of all things to God.

One of the fundamental ideas of his theology is the identity of true philosophy and true religion. Both have the same divine source. “True religion” and authority, i.e. the Church doctrine, are however not with him exactly identical, and in a conflict between them he sides with the former. In his use of Scripture he follows the allegorical method. He puts the Fathers almost upon a level with the Sacred Writers and claims that their wisdom in interpreting Scripture must not be questioned. At the same time he holds that it is permissible, especially when the Fathers differ among themselves, to select that interpretation of Scripture which most recommends itself to reason as accordant with Scripture. It is, he says, the province of reason to bring out the hidden meaning of the text, which is manifold, inexhaustible, and striking like a peacock’s feathers. It is interesting to note in this connection that John Scotus read the New Testament in the original Greek, and the Old Testament in Jerome’s version, not in the Septuagint. And it is still more interesting to know that he prayed most earnestly for daily guidance in the study of the Scriptures.

The doctrinal teaching of Scotus Erigena can be reduced, as he himself states, to three heads. (1) God, the simple and at the same time the multiform cause of all things; (2) Procession from God, the divine goodness showing itself in all that is, from general to particular; (3) Return to God, the manifold going back into the one.

First Head. God, or Nature, which creates but is not created. a. The Being of God in itself considered. God is the essence of all things, alone truly is, and is the beginning, middle and end of all things. He is incomprehensible. While the predicates of essence, truth, goodness, wisdom, &c., can be, according to the “affirmative” theology, applied to God, it can only be done metaphorically, because each such predicate has an opposite, while in God there is no opposition. Hence the “negative” theology correctly maintains they can not be. Neither can self-consciousness be predicated of God. Although not even the angels can see the essence of God, yet his being (i.e. the Father) can be seen in the being of things; his wisdom (i.e. the Son) in their orderly arrangement, and his life (i.e. the Holy Spirit) in their constant motion. God is therefore an essence in three substances. Scotus Erigena takes up the doctrine of John of Damascus concerning the procession of the Holy Spirit and applies it to the relation of the Son to the Father: “As the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son, so is the Son born of the Father through the Holy Spirit.” In the old patristic fashion he compares the Three Persons to light, heat and radiance united in the flame. But he understood under “persons” no real beings, only names of the aspects and relations under which God’s being comes out. God realizes himself in creation, and in every part of it, yet he does not thereby yield the simplicity of his essence. He is still removed from all, subsists outside of and above the world, which has no independent existence apart from God, but is simply his manifestation. He is both the substance and the accidents of all that exists. “God therefore is all and all is God.” But God reveals himself to the creature. He appeared first to the pious in visions, but this was only occasional. He then appeared constantly in the form of the different virtues. The intellect is itself a theophany; and so is the whole world, visible and invisible.

2. The Procession from God or Nature. a. Nature which creates and is created, or the primordial ideas of the world and their unity in the Logos. God is the nature and essence of the world. Creation is the effect of the divine nature, which as cause eternally produces its effects, indeed is itself in the primordial ideas the first forms and grounds of things. As the pure Being of God cannot immediately manifest itself in the finite, it is necessary that God should create the prototypes in which he can appear. In creation God passes through these prototypes or primordial causes into the world of visible creatures. So the Triune God enters the finite, not only in the Incarnation, but in all created existences. Our life is God’s life in us. As remarked above, we know God because in us he reveals himself. These prototypes have only subjective existence, except as they find their unity in the Logos. Under the influence of the Holy Spirit they produce the external world of time and space.

b. Nature, which is created and does not create, or the phenomenal world and its union in man. In the Logos all things existed from eternity. Creation is their appearance in time. The principle of the development of the primordial ideas is the Holy Spirit. The materiality of the world is only apparent, space and time only exist in the mind. The “nothing” from which God made the heavens and the earth was his own incomprehensible essence. The whole phenomenal world is but the shadow of the real existence. Man is the centre of the phenomenal world, uniting in himself all the contradictions and differences of creation. His intellect has the power to grasp the sensuous and intelligible, and is itself the substance of things. So all nature is created in man, and subsists in him, because the idea of all its parts is implanted in him. The divine thought is the primary, the human the secondary substance of things.

Paradise is to be interpreted spiritually. Adam is not so much an historical personage as the human race in its preëxistent condition. Man was never sinless, for sin, as a limitation and defect, is not accidental or temporal, but original in the creation and nature of man.

c. The union of divinity and created existence, or the Godman. Scotus Erigena shows upon this point the duality of his system. On the one hand he presents Christ as an historical character, with body, mind, soul, spirit, in short the union of the entire sensible and intellectual qualities of the creature. But on the other hand he maintains that the Incarnation was an eternal and necessary fact, and that it came about through an ineffable and multiplex theophany in the consciousness of men and angels.

3. The return to God, or the completion of the world in Nature, which creates not and is not created. a. The return to God according to its pre-temporal idea, or the doctrine of predestination. There is only one true predestination, viz. to holiness. There is no foreknowledge of the bad. God has completest unity and simplicity; hence his being is not different from his knowledge and will; and since he has full liberty, the organization of his nature is free. But this organization is at the same time to the world law and government, i.e. its predestination; and because God is himself goodness, the predestination can only be to good. The very character of wickedness, — it is opposed to God, not substantial in nature, a defect mixed up with the good, transitory, yet essential to the development of the world, — renders it unreal and therefore not an object of divine knowledge. God does not know the bad as such, but only as the negation of the good. “God’s knowledge is the revelation of his essence, one and the same thing with his willing and his creating. As evil cannot be derived from the divine causality, neither can it be considered as an object of divine knowledge.” Nor is there any divine predestination or foreknowledge respecting the punishment of the bad, for this ensues in consequence of their violation of law. They punish themselves. Hell is in the rebellious will. Predestination is, in brief, the eternal law and the immutable order of nature, whereby the elect are restored from their ruin and the rejected are shut up in their ruin.

b. The return of all things to God considered according to their temporal principles, or the doctrine of salvation. There are only a few scattered remarks upon this subject in Scotus Erigena. Christ is the Saviour by what he is in himself, not by what he does. His death is important as the means of resurrection; which began with the resurrection and exaltation of Christ, because then all things began to return to their union in their primordial causes, and this return constitutes salvation. The consequences of salvation are therefore felt by angels as well as men, and even by inanimate things. Salvation, as far as we are concerned, consists in speculative knowledge. We unite ourselves with God by virtue of contemplation.

c. The return of all things to God considered according to their future completion. All things came out from God, all things go back to God. This is the law of creation. The foundation of this return is the return of man to the Logos. The steps are, 1st, deliverance from the bodily forms; 2d, resurrection and the abrogation of sex; 3d, the transformation of body into spirit; 4th, the return to the primordial causes; 5th, the recession of nature, along with these causes, into God. But this, of course, implies that God alone will exist forever, and that there can be no eternal punishment. Scotus Erigena tries in vain to escape both these logical conclusions.


His Philosophy

Ueberweg thus states Scotus Erigena’s philosophical position and teachings: “The fundamental idea, and at the same time the fundamental error, in Erigena’s doctrine is the idea that the degrees of abstraction correspond with the degrees in the scale of real existence. He hypostasizes the Tabula Logica. The universals are before and also in the individual objects which exist, or rather the latter are in the former: the distinction between these (Realistic) formulae appears not yet developed in his writings …. He is throughout a Realist. He teaches, it is true, that grammar and rhetoric, as branches of dialectic or aids to it, relate only to words, not to things, and that they are therefore not properly sciences; but he co-ordinates dialectic itself with ethics, physics and theology, defining it as the doctrine of the methodical form of knowledge, and assigning to it in particular, as its work, the discussion of the most general conceptions or logical categories (predicaments); which categories he by no means regards as merely subjective forms or images, but as the names of the highest genera of all created things ….

“The most noteworthy features in his theory of the categories are his doctrine of the combination of the categories with each other, and his attempt to subsume them under the conceptions of motion and rest; as also his identification of the categories of place with definition in logic, which, he says, is the work of the understanding. The dialectical precepts which relate to the form or method of philosophising are not discussed by him in detail; the most essential thing in his regard is the use of the four forms, called by the Greeks division, definition, demonstration and analysis. Under the latter he understands the reduction of the derivative and composite to the simple, universal and fundamental; but uses the term also in the opposite to denote the unfolding of God in creation.”


His Influence and Importance

Scotus Erigena was considered a heretic or a madman while he lived, and this fact joined to the other that his views were far in advance of his age, caused his influence to be at first much less than might have been expected. He passed into almost complete obscurity before he died, as the conflicting reports of his later years show. Yet he did wield a posthumous influence. His idea of the unity of philosophy and theology comes up in Anselm and Thomas Aquinas; his speculation concerning primordial causes in Alexander of Hales and Albertus Magnus. From him Amalrich of Bena, and David of Dinanto drew their pantheism; and various mystical sects of the Middle Ages were inspired by him. The Church, ever watchful for orthodoxy, perceived that his book, De Divisione Naturae, was doing mischief. Young persons, even in convents, read it eagerly. Everywhere it attracted notice. Accordingly a council, at Sens, formally condemned it, and then the Pope (Honorius III.) ordered, by a bull of Jan. 23, 1225, the destruction of all copies that could be found, styling it “a book teeming with the worms of heretical depravity.” This order probably had the desired effect. The book passed out of notice. But in 1681 Thomas Gale issued it in Oxford. Again the Roman Church was alarmed, and Gregory XIII., by bull of April 3, 1685, put it on the Index.

Scotus Erigena was a man of rare originality and mental vigor. His writings are full of ideas and bold arguments. His strongly syllogistic mode of developing his theme was all his own, and the emphasis he put upon logic proves his superiority to his age. Unlike the scholastics, who meekly bowed to tradition, he treated it with manly independence. To his “disciple” he said: “Let no authority terrify thee.” Hence it is erroneous to call him “the Father of Scholasticism;” rather is he the founder of Speculative Philosophy. The scholastics drew from him, but he was not a scholastic. The mystics drew from him, but he was not a mystic. As a pathfinder it was not given to him to thoroughly explore the rich country he traversed. But others eagerly pressed in along the way he opened. He is one of the most interesting figures among the medieval writers. He demands study and he rewards it. De Divsione Naturae is a master-piece, and, as Baur well says, “an organized system which comprehends the highest speculative ideas.”


Note on the Country of Birth and Death of Scotus Erigena

The statement that John was born in Ireland rests upon the interpretation of his name. Scotus is indefinite, since it was used of both Ireland and Scotland, the former country being called Scotia Major. But Erigena is most probably a corruption of Ἱεροῦ [sc. νήσου] γενα, Hierugena, which John, with his fondness for using Greek words on all occasions, added to his original name to indicate his birth in the “holy isle,” or “isle of saints,” a common designation of Ireland. The derivation is the more probable since he himself calls Maximus Confessor Graiga-gena, to indicate the latter’s birth in Greece. By his contemporaries and in the oldest codices he is called Joannes Scotus or Scottus, but in the oldest MSS. of his translation of Dionysius Joanna Ierugena. In course of time, owing to his scribes’ ignorance of Greek, the epithet was written Eriugena, Erygena, and finally Erigena. Another derivation of the epithet, which has less to commend it, is from Ἰέρνη + γένα, Ἰέρνη being the Greek name for Ireland. But this leaves the disappearance of the first ν to be accounted for. The far-fetched explanations of Erigena either from Ayr, a city on the west coast of Scotland, or Ergene in Hereford, a shire in England on the south Welsh border, and gena, may be dismissed without discussion.

The absence of authentic information to the contrary makes it probable that Scotus Erigena died in France. But there is a tradition that he was called by Alfred the Great into England and made abbot of Malmesbury, and there died a violent death at the hands of his scholars. It is inherently improbable that a conservative and loyal son of the church like Alfred, would invite to any position so eccentric, if not heretical, a man as Scotus Erigena. Charles the Bald died in 877. It is not likely that Erigena would leave France before that date, but then he was at least sixty-two, and hence rather old to change his residence. A reference to Asser’s biography of King Alfred affords a rational explanation of the tradition. Asser says that Alfred invited from Gaul a priest and monk named John, who was remarkable for energy, talent and learning, in order that the king might profit by his conversation. A few pages further on, Asser calls this John an old Saxon, and says that Alfred appointed him the first abbot of Athelney, and that he was almost murdered by hired ruffians. Mon. Hist. Brit. vol. i. [1848], pp. 489, 493, 4 Eng. trans. Six Old English Chronicles in Bohn’s “Antiquarian Library,” pp. 70, 80, 81. It needed only that the fame of John Scotus should reach England for the John of Asser’s biography to be confounded with him, and thus the story arose as it is found in Ingulph, William of Malmesbury, and Matthew Paris.


177. Anastasius

I. Anastasius Bibliothecarius: Opera omnia in Migne, Tom. CXXVII.-CXXIX. col. 744.

II. The Prolegomena in Migne, CXXVII. Ceillier, XII. 712-718. Bähr, 261-271.

Anastasius, librarian of the Roman Church, hence surnamed the “Librarian,” to distinguish him from others of the same name, was abbot of the monastery of Sancta Maria trans Tiberim under Nicolas I. (858-867). He was sent in 869 to Constantinople as ambassador to arrange a marriage between the daughter of Louis II. and a son of Basil the Macedonian. While there the eighth ecumenical council was in session, and by his knowledge of Greek he was very useful to the Papal ambassador in attendance. He brought back with him the canons of the council and at the request of Hadrian II. translated them into Latin. He died, according to Baronius, in 886.

He has been identified by some (e.g. Fabricius and Hergenröther) with the Cardinal presbyter Anastasius who was deposed and excommunicated in 850, anathematized in 853, but elected pope in 855 in opposition to Benedict III. whom he imprisoned. He was deposed in 856 and died in 879. Those who accept the statement are obliged to suppose that for some reason Nicolas and Louis II. condoned his fault and Hadrian II. continued him in favor. The name Anastasius is too common in Church history to render it necessary or safe to resort to such an improbable identification.

The fame of Anastasius rests upon his numerous translations from the Greek and his supposed connection with the Liber Pontificalis. His style is rude and semi-barbarous, but he brought to the knowledge of the Latins much information about the Greeks. He translated the canons of the sixth, seventh and eighth ecumenical councils; the Chronology of Nicephorus; the collection of documents in Greek for the history of Monotheletism which John the Deacon had made; and the lives of several saints. He also compiled and translated from Nicephorus, George Syncellus, and Theophanus Confessor a church history, which has been incorporated with the so-called Historia Miscella of Paulus Diaconus.

His original writings now extant consist of a valuable historical introduction to the translation of the canons of the Eighth Ecumenical Council, a preface to that of the Collectanea, three letters (two to Charles the Bald and one to archbishop Ado), and probably the life of Pope Nicolas I. in the Liber Pontificalis.


178. Ratherius of Verona

I. Ratherius, Veronensis episcopus: Opera omnia, in Migne, Tom. CXXXVI. col. 9-768 (reprint of ed. by Peter and, Jerome Balterini, Verona, 1765).

II. See Vita by Ballerini in Migne, l.c. col. 27-142. Albrecht Vogel: Ratherius von Verona und das 10. Jahrhundert. Jena, 1854, 2 vols. Cf. his art. in Herzog2, XII. 503-506. Du Pin, VIII. 20-26.Ceillier, XII. 846-860. Hist. de la France, VI. 339-383. Bähr, 546-553.

Ratherius (Rathier) was born of noble ancestry at or near Liège in 890 (or 891) and educated at the convent of Lobbes. He became a monk, acquired much learning and in 931 was consecrated bishop of Verona. By his vigorous denunciation of the faults and failings of his clergy, particularly of their marriages or, as he called them, adulteries, he raised a storm of opposition. When Arnold of Bavaria took Verona (934), king Hugo of Italy deposed him for alleged connivance with Arnold and held him a close prisoner at Pavia from February, 935, until August, 937, when he was transferred to the oversight of the bishop of Como.

In the early part of 941 Ratherius escaped to Southern France, was tutor in a rich family of Provence, and in 944 re-entered the monastery of Lobbes. Two years later he was restored to his see of Verona; whence he was driven again in 948. From 953 to 955 he was bishop of Liège. On his deposition he became abbot of Alna, a dependency of the monastery of Lobbes, where he stirred up a controversy upon the eucharist by his revival of Paschasian views. In 961 he was for the third time bishop of Verona, but having learned no moderation from his misfortunes he was forced by, his indignant clergy to leave in 968. He returned to Liège and the abbotship of Alna. By money he secured other charges, and even for a year (971) forcibly held the abbotship of Lobbes. On April 25, 974, he died at the court of the count of Namur.

Ratherius “deserves in many respects to be styled the Tertullian of his time.” Some see in his castigation of vice the zeal of a Protestant reformer, but his standpoint was different. He was learned and ambitious, but also headstrong and envious. His works are obscure in style, but full of information. The chief are

1. The Combat, also called Preliminary discourses, in six books. It treats in prolix style of the different occupations and relations in life, and dwells particularly upon the duties of bishops. It was the fruit of his prison-leisure (935-937), when he was without books and friends.

2. On contempt for canonical law. It dates from 961, and is upon the disorders in his diocese, particularly his clergy’s opposition to his dispensation of its revenues. In all this Ratherius sees contempt of the canons which he cites.

3. A conjecture of a certain quality. This is a vigorous defense of his conduct, written in 966. Fourteen of his Letters and eleven of his Sermons have been printed. In the first letter he avows his belief in transubstantiation.


179. Gerbert (Sylvester II.)

I. Silvester II. Papa (Gerbertus): Opera, in Migne, Tom. CXXXIX. col. 57-350. Contains also the biographical and literary notices of Natalis Alexander, Fabricius, and the Bened. Hist. Lit. de la France. Oeuvres de Gerbert par A. Olleris. Clermont, 1867. Pertz: Monum. Germ. Tom. V. Script. III. contains Gerberti archiep. Remensis Acta Concilii Remensis, and the Libri IV. Historiarum of Richerus monachus S. Remigii. Richer was a pupil of Gerbert, and his history of France was first edited by Pertz.

II. Abr. Bzovius: Sylvester vindicatus. Rom., 1629. Hist. Lit. de la France, VI., 559-614. C. F. Hock: Gerbert oder Papst Sylvester und sein Jahrh. Wien, 1837. Max Büdinger: Ueber Gerberts wissenschaftl. und polit. Stellung. Marburg, 1851. Gfrörer: Allgem. Kirchengeschichte, Bd. III. Abth. 3. Wilmanns: Jachbücher des deutschen Reichs unter Otto III. Berlin, 1840. Giesebrecht: Geschichte der deutschen Kaiserzeit, Bd. I. 613-616; 712-715: 842 (3d ed. 1865). Hefele: Conciliengesch. Bd. IV. 637 and passim. (2d ed. 1879). A. Olleris: Vie de Gerbert. Clermont-Ferrand, 1867. Eduard Barthelémy: Gerbert, étude sur sa vie et ses ouvrages, suivie de la traduction de ses lettres. Paris, 1868. Loupot: Gerbert, sa vie et ses écrits. Lille, 1869. Karl Werner: Gerbert von Aurillac. Wien, 1878. Hauck: Silvester II., in Herzog, XIV. 233-240. Comp. also Ceillier, XII. 901-9II. Neander: III. 371-374, and Reuter: Aufklärung in Mittelalter, I. 78-84.

Gerbert, the scholar and philosopher in the Fisherman’s chair, and the brightest light in the darkness of the tenth century was born before 950, of low parentage, in or near Aurilac in Auvergne, and educated as a monk in the Benedictine convent of that place. He accompanied Count Borel of Barcelona to Spain and acquired there some knowledge of Arabic learning, but probably only through Latin translations. He also visited Rome (968) in company of his patron Borel, and attracted the attention of Pope John XIII., who recommended him to Emperor Otho the Great. He afterwards became the tutor and friend of the youthful Otho III., and inspired him with the romantic and abortive scheme of re-establishing the Graeco-Roman empire of Constantine the Great in the city of Rome. He was ambitious and fond of basking in the sunshine of imperial and royal favor.

Gerbert became master of the cathedral school of Rheims and acquired great fame as a scholar and teacher. He collected rare and valuable books on every subject. He was intensely interested in every branch of knowledge, divine and human, especially in mathematics, astronomy, physics, and music; he first introduced the Arabic numerals and the decimal notation into France, and showed his scientific and mechanical genius by the construction of astronomical instruments and an organ blown by steam. At the same time he was a man of affairs, a statesman and politician.

In 972 he obtained through imperial favor the abbey, of Bobbio, but was involved in contentions with the neighboring nobles and left in disgust, though retaining his dignity. “All Italy,” he wrote to a friend, “appears to me a Rome, and the morals of the Romans are the horror of the world.” He returned to his position at Rheims, attracted pupils from near and far and raised the cathedral school to the height of prosperity. He was the secretary of the council held in the basilica of St. Basolus near Rheims in 991, and gave shape to the flaming speech of the learned bishop Arnulf of Orleans against the assumptions and corruptions of the papacy. No Gallican could have spoken more boldly. By the same synod Arnulf, archbishop of Rheims, an illegitimate son of one of the last Carolingian kings, was deposed on the charge of treason against Hugh Capet, and Gerbert was chosen in his place, at the desire of the king. But his election was disputed, and he assumed an almost schismatical attitude towards Rome. He was deposed, and his rival Arnulf, with the aid of the pope, reinstated by a Council of Senlis or Rheims (996). He now left France and accepted an invitation of his pupil Otho III. to Magdeburg, followed him to Italy (996), was by imperial favor made archbishop of Ravenna (998), and a year afterwards raised to the papal throne as Sylvester II. He was the first French pope. The three R’s (Rheims, Ravenna, Rome) mark his highest dignities, as expressed in the line ascribed to him:

“Scandit ab R. Gerbertus in R., fit postea papa vigens R.”

As Gerbert of Rheims he had advocated liberal views and boldly attacked the Roman Antichrists who at that time were seated in the temple of God; but as Sylvester II. he disowned his Gallican antecedents and supported the claims of the papacy. He did, however, nothing remarkable during his short and troublesome pontificate (between 999-1003), except crown King Stephen of Hungary and give the first impulse, though prematurely, to the crusades at a time when hundreds of pilgrims flocked to the Holy Land in expectation of the end of the world after the lapse of the first Christian millennium.

His character has been very differently judged. The papal biographers of the later middle ages malignantly represent him as a magician in league with the devil, and his life and pontificate as a series of monstrous crimes. This story arose partly from his uncommon learning and supposed contact with Mohammedanism, partly from his former antagonistic position to Rome. Some modern historians make him an ambitious intriguer.

His literary labors are chiefly mathematical. His theological works are few and unimportant, and do not rise above the superstition of his age. His short treatise, “De Corpore et Sanguine Domini,” is a defense of the doctrine of transubstantiation as taught by Paschasius Radbertus, with the additional notion that the consecrated elements are not digested like other food (as the Stercorianists held), but are imperishable spiritual nourishment for the inner man, and constitute the germ of the future resurrection body. Where words give out there is the more room for faith.

In his sermon De informatione episcoporum, if genuine, he presents the high theocratic view of the middle ages, raises the episcopate far above royalty, and attacks the common traffic in ecclesiastical dignities (simony), but maintains also that all bishops share with Peter the care of Christ’s flock. This indicates that the tract was written before his elevation to the papacy, and that he did not hold the ultramontane or Vatican doctrine of papal absolutism.

His Epistles to popes, emperors, kings, queens, archbishops and other dignitaries., shed light on the history of the times, and show his high connections, and his genius for politics and intrigue. They are mostly short, and include also some letters of Otho III. The longest and most interesting is addressed to Queen Adelaide, wife of Hugo Capet, and the suffragans of the diocese of Rheims, in defense of his ordination as archbishop of Rheims in opposition to his rival Arnulf, whom he afterwards reinstated in his see as soon as he became pope.


180. Fulbert of Chartres

I. Sanctus Fulbertus, Carnotensis episcopus: Opera, in Migne, Tom. CXLI. col. 163-374. They were first printed by Masson at Paris, 1585.

II. Du Pin, IX. 1-6. Ceillier, XIII. 78-89. Hist. Lit. de la France, VII. 261-279 (reprinted in Migne, l.c. col. 167-184). Neander III. passim. Reuter: Gesch. der Rel. Aufklärung in Mittelalter (1875), I. 89-91. J. B. Souchet: Hist. du diocèse et de, la ville de Chartres. Chartres, 1867-1876.4 vols. Cf. Karl Werner: Gerbert von Aurillac. Wien, 1878. A. Vogel in Herzog2 IV. 707 sq.

The most distinguished pupils of Gerbert were the Emperor Otho III., King Robert of France, Richer, the historian of France, and Fulbert of Chartres, the most renowned teacher of his age. They represent the rise of a new zeal for learning which began to dispel the darkness of the tenth century. France took the lead, Italy followed.

Fulbert, called by his admiring disciples “the Socrates of the Franks,” was born of poor and obscure parents, probably at Chartres, about 950, and educated in the cathedral school of Rheims by Gerbert. He founded a similar school at Chartres, which soon acquired a brilliant reputation and rivalled that of Rheims. About 1003 he was elected chancellor of the church of Chartres, and in 1007 its bishop. When the cathedral burned down (1020), he received contributions from all parts of France and other countries for its reconstruction, but did not live to finish it. He was involved in the political and ecclesiastical disturbances of his country, opposed the use of the sword by the bishops, and the appropriation of church property, and sale of offices by the avaricious laity. He lost the favor of the court by his opposition to the intrigues of Queen Constantia. He died April 10, 1029.

Fulbert’s fame rests chiefly on his success as a living teacher. This is indicated by his surname. He was not an original thinker, but knew how to inspire his pupils with enthusiasm. His personality was greater than his learning. He wisely combined spiritual edification with intellectual instruction, and aimed at the eternal welfare of his students. He used to walk with them at eventide in the garden and to engage in familiar conversations on the celestial country; sometimes he was overcome by his feelings, and adjured them with tears, never to depart from the path of truth and to strive with all might after that heavenly home.

His ablest pupil was Berengar of Tours, the vigorous opponent of transubstantiation, and it has sometimes been conjectured that he derived his views from him. But Fulbert adhered to the traditional orthodoxy, and expressed himself against innovations, in letters to his metropolitan, Leutberich, archbishop of Sens. He regarded the real presence as an object of faith and adoration rather than of curious speculation, but thought that it is not more difficult to believe in a transformation of substance by Divine power than in the creation of substance. He was a zealous worshipper of the saints, especially of the Virgin Mary, and one of the first who celebrated the festival of her Nativity.

The works of Fulbert consist of one hundred and thirty-nine (or 138) Letters, including some letters of his correspondents; nine Sermons; twenty-seven Hymns and Poems, and a few minor compositions, including probably a life of St. Autbert. His letters have considerable interest and importance for the history of his age. The longest and most important letter treats of three doctrines which he regarded as essential and fundamental, namely, the trinity, baptism, and the eucharist.

From the school of Gerbert at Rheims proceeded the school of Fulbert at Chartres, and from this again the school of Berengar at Tours — all equally distinguished for popularity and efficiency. They in turn were succeeded by the monastic school of Lanfranc at Bec, who came from Italy, labored in France, opposed Berengar, his rival, and completed his career in England as archbishop of Canterbury. He was excelled by his pupil and successor, Anselm, the second Augustin, the father of Catholic scholasticism. With him began a new and important chapter in the development of theology.


181. Rodulfus Glaber. Adam of Bremen

I. Rodulfus Glaber (Cluniacnesis monachus): Opera, in Migne, Tom. CXLII. col. 611-720. The Historia sui temporis or Historia Francorum is also printed in part, with textual emendations by G. Waitz, in the Monum. Germ. Script., ed. by Pertz, Tom. VII. 48-72, and the Vita Willelmi abbatis in Tom. IV. 655-658. Comp. Ceillier: XIII. 143-147. Wattenbach: Deutschlands Geschichtsquellen. Potthast: Biblioth. Hist. medii aevi, p. 521.

II. Adamus Bremensis: Gesta Hammaburgenais ecclesiae Pontificum, seu Historia ecclesiastica. Libri IV. Best. ed. by Lappenberg in Pertz, Mon. Germ. Scriptores, Tom. VII. 267-389. German translation by Laurent, with introduction by Lappenberg, Berlin, 1850 (in “Geschichtschreiber der deutschen Vorzeit;” XI. Jahrh. B. VII.). In Migne, Tom. CXLVI. col. 433-566 (reprinted from Pertz). — Comp. Giesebrecht: Wendische Geschichte, III. 316 sqq.; Wattenbach: Deutschlands Geschichtsquellen (first ed. p. 252 sqq.); Koppmann: Die mittelalterlichen Geschichtsquellen in Bezug auf Hamburg (1868); Potthast, l.c p. 100; C. Bertheau in Herzog2 I. 140 sqq. Of older notices see Ceillier, XIV. 201-206.

Among the historical writers of the eleventh century, Rodulfus Glaber, and Adam of Bremen deserve special mention, the one for France, the other for the North of Europe.

Rodulfus Glaber was a native of Burgundy, sent to a convent in early youth by his uncle, and expelled for bad conduct; but he reformed and joined the strict Benedictine school of Cluny. He lived a while in the monastery of St. Benignus, at Dijon, then at Cluny, and died about 1050.

His chief work is a history of his own time, from 1000-1045, in five books. Though written in barbarous Latin and full of inaccuracies, chronological blunders, and legendary miracles, it is an interesting and indispensable source of information, and gives vivid pictures of the corrupt morals of that period. He wrote also a biography of St. William, abbot of Dijon, who died 1031.

Adam of Bremen, a Saxon by birth, educated (probably) at Magdeburg, teacher and canon of the chapter at Bremen (1068), composed, between 1072 and 1076, a history of the Bishops of Hamburg-Bremen. This is the chief source for the oldest church history of North Germany and Scandinavia, from 788 to the death of Adalbert, who was archbishop of Bremen from 1045-1072. Adam drew from the written sources in the rich library, of the church at Bremen, and from oral traditions. He went to the Danish King Sven Estrithson, who “preserved the whole history of the barbarians in his memory as in a book.” He is impartial and reliable, but neglects the chronology. He may almost be called the Herodotus of the North except for his want of simplicity. He was familiar with Virgil, Horace, Lucian, and formed his style chiefly after Sallust; hence his artificial brevity and sententiousness. He ranks with the first historians of the middle ages.


182. St. Peter Damiani

I. Beati Petri Damiani (S. R. E. cardinalis Episcopi Ostiensis Ordinis S. Benedicti) Opera omnia in quatuor tomos distributa, studio et labora Domni Constantini Cajetani (of Montecassino), first publ. Rom. 1606-’13; in Paris, 1663; in Venice, 1783. Reprinted with Vitae and Prolegomena in Migne’s “Patrol. Lat.,” Tom. CXLIV. and CXLV. (1853). Tom. I. 1060 cols.; Tom. II. 1224 cols.

II. Three biographies of Damiani, one by his pupil, Joannes monachus, who, however, only describes his monastic character. See Migne, I. 47-204. Acta Sanctorum (Bolland.), for February 23, Tom. III. 406-427. Acta Sanctorum Ordinis S. Bened., Saec. VI. Also the Annales Ordinis S. Benedicti, ed. Mabillon, Tom. IV., lib. LVIII.-LXII. (which extend from a.d. 1039-1066, and notice the public acts of Damiani in chronological order).

III. Jac. Laderchi: Vita S. Petri Damiani S. R. E. Cardinalis. Rom. 1702. 3 Tom. Albr. Vogel: Peter Damiani. Jena, 1856. Comp. his art. in Herzog2 III. 466 sqq. F. Neukirch: Das Leben des Peter Dam. Göttingen, 1876. Jos. Kleinermanns (R.C.): Petrus Damiani in s. Leben und Wirken, nach den Quellen dargestellt. Steyl, 1882. Comp. also Ceillier, XIII. 296-324. Neander, III. 382, 397 and passim; Gfrörer Gregor. VII, Bd. I.; Höfler: Die deutschen Päpste; Will: Die Anfaenge der Restauration der Kirche im elfte Jahrh.; Giesebrecht: Gesch. der deutschen Kaizerzeit, vol. II.; Hefele: Conciliengesch., vol. IV.


I. Life

Peter Damianus or Damiani (1007-1072), a friend of Hildebrand and zealous promoter of the moral reform of the clergy, was a native of Ravenna, had a very hard youth, but with the help of his brother Damianus (whose name he adopted), he was enabled to study at Ravenna, Faenza and Parma. He acquired honor and fortune as a teacher of the liberal arts in his native city. In his thirtieth year he suddenly left the world and became a hermit at Fonte Avellano near Gubbio (Eugubium) in Umbria, following the example of his countryman, Romuald, whose life he described. He soon reached the height of ascetic holiness and became abbot and disciplinarian of the hermits and monks of the whole surrounding region. Even miracles were attributed to him.

He systematized and popularized a method of meritorious self-flagellation in connection with the recital of the Psalms; each Psalm was accompanied with a hundred strokes of a leathern thong on the bare back, the whole Psalter with fifteen thousand strokes. This penance became a rage, and many a monk flogged himself to death to the music of the Psalms for his own benefit, or for the release of souls in purgatory. The greatest expert was Dominicus, who wore an iron cuirass around his bare body (hence called Loricatus), and so accelerated the strokes that he absolved without a break twelve Psalters; at last he died of exhaustion (1063). Even noble women ardently practiced “hoc purgatorii genus,” as Damiani calls it. He defended this self-imposed penance against the opponents as a voluntary imitation of the passion of Christ and the sufferings of martyrs, but he found it necessary also to check unnatural excesses among his disciples, and ordered that no one should be forced to scourge himself, and that forty Psalms with four thousand strokes at a time should be sufficient as a rule.

The ascetic practice which he encouraged by word and example, had far-reaching consequences; it became a part of the monastic discipline among Dominicans and Franciscans, and assumed gigantic proportions in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, especially during the reign of the Black Death (1349), when fraternities of Flagellants or Cross-bearers, moved by a spirit of repentance, preceded by crosses, stripped to the waist, with faces veiled, made pilgrimages through Italy, Germany and England and scourged themselves, while chanting the penitential psalms, twice a day for thirty-three days, in memory of the thirty-three years of our Lord’s life.

Damiani became the leader of the strict monastic party which centred at Cluny and labored, from the sacerdotal and theocratic point of view, for a reformation of the clergy and the church at a time of their deepest degradation and corruption. He compared the condition of his age to that of Sodom and Gomorrah; he opposed simony and the concubinage of priests, as the two chief sources of evil. He advocated a law which punished simony with deposition, and which prohibited the laity from hearing mass said by married priests. Such a law was enacted by the Lateran Council of 1059. He also condemned in the clergy the practice of bearing arms, although even Pope Leo IX., in 1053, led an army against the pillaging Normans. He firmly maintained that a priest should not draw the sword even in defense of the faith, but contend only with the Word of God and the weapon of the Spirit.

A man of such talent, piety and energy could not remain hidden in the desert. He was drawn to Rome, and against his will chosen bishop of Ostia and Cardinal of the Roman church by Stephen X. in 1058. He narrowly escaped the triple crown in 1061. He was the spiritual counsellor and censor of the Hildebrandian popes (Gregory VI., Clement II., Leo IX., Victor II., Stephen X., Nicolas II., Alexander II.), and of Hildebrand himself. He was employed on important missions at Milan, Florence, Montecassino, Cluny, Mainz, Frankfort. He helped to put down the papal schism of Cadalous. He had the confidence of the Emperor Henry III. whom he highly praise as a second David, became confessor of the widowed Empress Agnes, and prevented the divorce of her son Henry IV. from his wife Bertha. He resigned his bishopric, but was again called out from his retreat by Hildebrand; hence he called him his holy Satan, and also the lord of the pope. He despised the vanities and dignities of high office. He preferred his monastic cell in the Apennines, where he could conquer his own world within, recite the Psalter, scourge himself, and for a change write satires and epigrams, and make wooden spoons. “What would the bishops of old have done,” he said, “had they to endure the torments which now attend the episcopate? To ride forth constantly accompanied by troops of soldiers with swords and lances, to be girt about with armed men, like a heathen general! Every day royal banquets, every day parade! The table loaded with delicacies for voluptuous guests; while the poor pine away with famine!”

His last work was to heal a schism in the church of his native city. On his return he died of fever at Faenza, Feb. 23, 1072, one year before Hildebrand ascended the papal chair to carry out the reforms for which Damiani had prepared the way with narrow, but honest, earnest and unselfish devotion.


II. Works

The Works of Damiani consist of Epistles, Sermons, Lives of Saints, ascetic tracts, and Poems. They are a mirror of the church of his age.

1. The Epistles are divided into eight books. They are addressed (a) to contemporary Roman Bishops (Gregory VI., Clement II., Leo IX., Victor II., Nicolas II., Alexander II., and the Anti-pope Cadalous or Honorius II.); (b) to the Cardinal Bishops, and to Cardinal Hildebrand in particular; (c) to Patriarchs and to the Archbishops of Ravenna and Cologne; (d) to various Bishops; (e) to Archpresbyters, Archdeacons, Presbyters and other clergy. They give a graphic picture of the corruptions of the church in his times, and are full of zeal for a moral reform. He subscribes himself “Petrus peccator monachus.” The letters to the anti-pope Cadalous show his power of sarcasm; he tells him that his very name from cado, to fall, and λαός, people, was ominous, that he deserved a triple deposition, that his new crime was adultery and simony of the worst sort, that he had sold his own church (Parma) and bought another, that the church was desecrated to the very top by such adulteries. He prophesied his death within one year, but Cadalous outlived it, and Damiani defended his prophecy as applying to moral death.

2. Sermons, seventy-four in number. They are short and treat of church festivals, apostles, the Virgin Mary, martyrs, saints, relics, and enjoin a churchly and ascetic piety.

3. Lives of Saints, of the Benedictine order, namely, Odilo of Cluny, Romuald, Rodulphus, and Dominicus Loricatus (the hero of self-flagellation), whose examples are held up for imitation.

4. Dogmatic Discussions, De Fide Catholica; Contra Judaeos; Dialogus inter Judaeum et Christianum; De Divina Omnipotentia; De Processione Spiritus Sancti (against the Greeks), etc.

5. Polemic and ascetic treatises. The most important is the Liber Gomorrhianus (1051), a fearless exposure of clerical immorality which appeared to him as bad as the lewdness of Sodom and Gomorrah (hence the title). It is addressed to Pope Leo IX. and calls on him to exercise his authority in removing the scandals. The Liber Gratissimus, addressed to Henry, archbishop of Ravenna, is directed against simony. He wrote also tracts on the contempt of the world, on monastic perfection, on the life of hermits, on sacerdotal celibacy, against intemperance, against avarice, etc.

6. On Miracles and Apparitions.

7. On the Pictures of the chief Apostles, especially Peter and Paul.

8. Exposition of the Canon of the Mass, and other liturgical topics.

9. Exegetical Fragments on the Old and New Testaments.

10 Poems, satires, epigrams and Prayers. His best hymn is on the glory of Paradise, based on poetic prose of St. Augustin: “Ad perennis vitae fontem mens sativit arida.”