Saturday, November 07, 2009

The Rise of Scholasticism

A Diagram Of The Virtues, In St. Anselm's 'Similitudes' And Other Works 1225
Ink and pigments on vellum
Cotton MS Cleopatra C XI
Item number: f.75r
The British Library, London

"St. Anselm (c.1033-1109), archbishop of Canterbury, was a widely influential medieval philosopher and theologian, perhaps best known for formulating a theory which sought to prove the existence of God. In his 'Similitudes', also called 'Human Morals', he compares virtues and vices. Other texts in this volume include an account by Adam, monk of Eynsham, of a vision of purgatory and paradise experienced by his brother Edmund in 1196. The illustrations are exceptional because they usually attempt to illustrate abstract ideas, often in pairs, such as health and sickness, or strength and weakness. This manuscript belonged to the Cistercian Abbey of Dore, Herefordshire, by the 14th century, and it may have been written and illustrated there.

The various Virtues, including Fortitude, Temperance, Justice, etc., are illustrated with Christ raising a man from his tomb, Christ enthroned, King Solomon, the Harrowing of Hell, and several other figures. (Commentary by The British Library)

List of Manuscripts At Bridlington Priory c.1200
Ink on vellum
Harley MS 50
Item number: f.48v
The British Library, London

At the end of a copy of a glossed Gospel of Mark, this list of books is headed 'Books of the big bookcase'. Rubrics separate lists of books by Ambrose, High of St.-Victor, and Anselm, while others are grouped as glossed books or small books (the latter perhaps on shallower shelves). Eight lines down in the second column is recorded two copies of Mark, glossed: presumably one of them is the present manuscript.
(Commentary by The British Library)

Charter by King Louis le Gros to found l'abbaye de Saint-Victor in Paris. He gives lands situated at Puiseaux, Orgenoy, Bucy, Corbeilles, Fontenay, Larchant, etc.
Parchment 57 x 70 cm
AE/II/131 ; Cote origine K21/pce8-a
Musée des documents français, Paris

The school of St-Victor (one of the schools in Paris) arose to rival those of Notre-Dame and Ste-Geneviève. It was founded by William of Champeaux when he withdrew to the Abbey of St-Victor. Its most famous professors are Hugh of St. Victor and Richard of St. Victor.

The Gospel of Saint Luke in Latin (Glossed)
South-east England :Canterbury
Ink on Vellum
Private collection

Monks from Normandy were brought after 1066 to both the Benedictine monasteries in Canterbury, Saint Augustine's and Christ Church Cathedral Priory, and they introduced Norman texts and scripts into south-east England. The new monks at Saint Augustine's were recruited especially from Mont St-Michel in southern Normandy, but those at Christ Church came mainly from Bec and probably Jumièges in the north.

Christ Church was probably more attuned to the new scholastic learning than Saint Augustine's. Lanfranc (c. 1005-1089) and Anselm (1033-1109) had both been members of the Cathedral Priory. The Gloss on the Bible was the latest scholastic innovation, disseminated from the cathedral schools of Laon and Auxerre and (probably by 1137) from Paris. It was composed by Anselm of Laon and his school, and it was still being developed and formed until the early 1120s; cf. C. de Hamel, Glossed Books of the Bible, 1982, esp. chapter 1. The text is F. Stegmüller, Repertorium Biblicum Medii Aevi, IX, 1977, pp. 525-6, no. 11829.

The present manuscript shows the oldest and most primitive form of page layout. It is the oldest known English manuscript of the Gloss on Luke's Gospel

Pope Benedict XVI in his recent discussion about Monastic Theology and Scholasticism in the Twelfth Century explained the beginnings of Scholastic Theology in this way:

"Theology also flourished anew, acquiring a greater awareness of its own nature: it refined its method; it tackled the new problems; advanced in the contemplation of God's mysteries; produced fundamental works; inspired important initiatives of culture, from art to literature; and prepared the masterpieces of the century to come, the century of Thomas Aquinas and Bonaventure of Bagnoregio. This intense theological activity took place in two milieus: the monasteries and the urban Schools, the scholae, some of which were the forerunners of universities, one of the characteristic "inventions" of the Christian Middle Ages ...

Scholastic theology, on the other hand as I was saying was practised at the scholae which came into being beside the great cathedrals of that time for the formation of the clergy, or around a teacher of theology and his disciples, to train professionals of culture in a period in which the appreciation of knowledge was constantly growing.

Central to the method of the Scholastics was the quaestio, that is, the problem the reader faces in approaching the words of Scripture and of Tradition. In the face of the problem that these authoritative texts pose, questions arise and the debate between teacher and student comes into being. In this discussion, on the one hand the arguments of the authority appear and on the other those of reason, and the ensuing discussion seeks to come to a synthesis between authority and reason in order to reach a deeper understanding of the word of God.

In this regard St Bonaventure said that theology is "per additionem" (cf. Commentaria in quatuor libros sententiarum, I, proem., q. 1, concl.), that is, theology adds the dimension of reason to the word of God and thus creates a faith that is deeper, more personal, hence also more concrete in the person's life. In this regard various solutions were found and conclusions reached which began to build a system of theology.

The organization of the quaestiones led to the compilation of ever more extensive syntheses, that is, the different quaestiones were composed with the answers elicited, thereby creating a synthesis, the summae that were in reality extensive theological and dogmatic treatises born from the confrontation of human reason with the word of God.

Scholastic theology aimed to present the unity and harmony of the Christian Revelation with a method, called, precisely "Scholastic" of the school which places trust in human reason. Grammar and philology are at the service of theological knowledge, but logic even more so, namely the discipline that studies the "functioning" of human reasoning, in such a way that the truth of a proposal appears obvious.

Still today, in reading the Scholastic summae one is struck by the order, clarity and logical continuity of the arguments and by the depth of certain insights. With technical language a precise meaning is attributed to every word and, between believing and understanding, a reciprocal movement of clarification is established.

Dear brothers and sisters, in echoing the invitation of the First Letter of Peter, Scholastic theology stimulates us to be ever ready to account for the hope that is in us (cf. 3: 15), hearing the questions as our own and thus also being capable of giving an answer.

It reminds us that a natural friendship exists between faith and reason, founded in the order of Creation itself. In the incipit of the Encyclical Fides et Ratio, the Servant of God John Paul II wrote: "Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth". Faith is open to the effort of understanding by reason; reason, in turn, recognizes that faith does not mortify her but on the contrary impels her towards vaster and loftier horizons."

(Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience in Saint Peter's Square, on Wednesday, 28 October 2009)  Full text here