Anselm, Saint

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Anselm, Saint

Saint Anselm (ăn´sĕlm), 1033?–1109, prelate in Normandy and England, archbishop of Canterbury, Doctor of the Church (1720), b. Aosta, Piedmont. After a carefree youth of travel and schooling in Burgundy he became a disciple and companion of Lanfranc, the famed theologian and prior of the monastery at Bec, which Anselm soon joined (1060). Anselm became prior (1063) and abbot (1078) and brought widespread fame to the school there. Monastic holdings in England drew him into English public life, and he won the esteem of William the Conqueror. When Lanfranc died, Anselm succeeded him as archbishop of Canterbury (1093).

He disputed the right of William II to invest him, reserving this for Pope Urban II, whom William refused to recognize. Anselm momentarily overcame the king's intransigence and took the pallium from Urban's legate. Anselm's further reform-minded efforts to free the church from ecclesiastical abuses met stiff resistance. When he went to Rome for support, William banished him and confiscated the diocesan properties. At the Council of Bari (1098) Anselm ably defended the Filioque of the creed in the East-West controversy on the procession of the Holy Spirit.

Henry I of England recalled Anselm, who proved valuable in arranging Henry's marriage to Matilda of Scotland and in gaining the support of the barons for the king in his dispute with Robert of Normandy. Conflict over lay investiture now broke out, however, and Anselm refused to consecrate bishops and abbots nominated by the king. He was again banished while appealing in Rome. Anselm eventually won (1107) Henry's agreement to surrender the right of investiture in exchange for homage from church revenues—a compromise that strengthened papal authority in the English church.

Anselm's writings mark him as one of the founders of scholasticism. A strict Augustinian, operating from the formula fides quaerens intellectum (faith seeking understanding), he believed in an essential harmony between revelation and reason. He was the first to incorporate elements of rational Aristotelian dialectics into theology. His precision and mystical insight give permanent value to such works as Cur Deus Homo? (1094–98), on the atonement. He constructed rational proofs for God's existence in Monologium (c.1070), and in the sequel Proslogium he advanced his famous ontological proof, which deduces God's existence from the human notion of a perfect being in whom nothing is lacking. In De Fide Trinitatis he defended universals against the nominalist Roscelin. He taught the Immaculate Conception of Mary in De Conceptu Virginali and is said to have instituted that feast in England. Feast: Apr. 21.

See his letters, translated by Fröhlich (1990); Walter Eadmer's Life of St. Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury (tr. by R. W. Southern, 1962); studies by R. W. Southern (1963, 1990), C. Hartshorne (1965), D. P. Henry (1967), and G. R. Evans (1989).

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