St. Anselm of Canterbury

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Anselm of Canterbury (1033 – 1109), also called Anselm of Bec after his monastery, was an Italian Benedictine monk, abbot, philosopher and theologian of the Catholic Church, who held the office of Archbishop of Canterbury from 1093 to 1109. After his death, he was canonized as a saint and later declared a Doctor of the Church.

As archbishop, he defended the church’s interests in England amid the Investiture Controversy, a conflict between the church and the state in medieval Europe, which began in 1076 as a power struggle between Pope Gregory VII and Henry IV (then King, later Holy Roman Emperor) over the ability to choose and install bishops (investiture).  For his resistance to the English kings William II and Henry I, he was exiled twice. While in exile, he helped guide the Greek bishops of southern Italy to adopt Roman rites at the Council of Bari. He also worked for the primacy of Canterbury over the bishops of York and Wales, which was later reversed by Pope Paschal II, who restored York’s independence.

The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church has referred to Anselm as “the most luminous and penetrating intellect between St Augustine and St Thomas Aquinas.”  He has also been called “the father of scholasticism“, which was a medieval school of philosophy that employed a critical method of philosophical analysis, due to his philosophical and theological work endeavoring to render Christian tenets of faith, traditionally taken as a revealed truth, into a rational system.  Anselm studiously analyzed the language used in his subjects, carefully distinguishing the meaning of the terms employed from the verbal forms, which he found at times wholly inadequate.  He inaugurated one of the most brilliant periods of Western philosophy, innovating logic, semantics, ethics, metaphysics, and other areas of philosophical theology.


While at Bec, Anselm composed:

  • De Grammatico
  • Monologion
  • Proslogion
  • De Veritate
  • De Libertate Arbitrii
  • De Casu Diaboli
  • De Incarnatione Verbi

While archbishop of Canterbury, he composed:

  • Cur Deus Homo
  • De Conceptu Virginali
  • De Processione Spiritus Sancti
  • De Sacrificio Azymi et Fermentati
  • De Sacramentis Ecclesiae
  • De Concordia

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