Hugh of Saint-Victor

By Stammberger, Ralf M. W. | The Catholic Historical Review, January 2011 | Go to article overview
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Hugh of Saint-Victor


Stammberger, Ralf M. W., The Catholic Historical Review


Hugh of Saint-Victor. By Paul Rorem. [Great Medieval Thinkers.] (New York: Oxford University Press. 2009. Pp. xiv, 235. $27.95 paperback. ISBN 978-0195-38436-9.)

In the foreword to the latest volume in the series Great Medieval Thinkers Brian Davies, the series editor, feels obliged to explain that the author presented does in fact deserve the title of a great medieval thinker even though he may be little known to a broader public due to the fact that only very few of his works have received a critical edition and even fewer a translation into a modern language. Paul Rorem's introduction into Hugh's oeuvre is the first study in English that endeavors to give the general view of this author, which is the necessary prerequisite for any specialized study. Hugh's works have been most influential. More than 3000 manuscripts containing his works have been counted. His De sacramentis is a commentary on Scripture organized not along the biblical text but according to systematic principles: the works of creation and redemption before and after the Incarnation. Rorem justly identifies "salvation history" as the theological key to Hugh's work (p. 21).The organization of theological thought according to dogmatic principles provided a new quality compared to the preceding collections of sentences. As such it influenced two students at the Abbey of St. Victor: Peter Lombard and his Sententiae as well as Gratian and his Decretum. Unfortunately, Rorem only briefly mentions Hugh's predecessors such as Manegold, Anselm of Laon, Roscelin, and William of Champeaux, and his contemporaries such as St. Bernard of Clairvaux and Peter Abelard, and provides little information on their mutual relations. The much-debated subject of Jewish influence on Hugh is completely ignored. He abstains from placing Hugh's works in a chronological order (p. 12), and he does not mention the further complication that the manuscript evidence frequently points to two, three, or more editions of a single work all going back to Hugh's lifetime- with the exception of the Notulae, where he claims that Hugh "never prepared the whole for publication" (p. 53)- an interesting thesis for which evidence should have been supplied at least in the notes.

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