Anselm of Laon

Anselm of Laon

Anselm of Laon (died 1117) was a French theologian.

Born of very humble parents at Laon before the middle of the 11th century, he is said to have studied under Saint Anselm at Bec. In about 1076 he was teaching with great success at Paris, where, as the associate of William of Champeaux, he upheld the realistic side of the scholastic controversy. Later he moved back to his place of birth and was Master of Laon, with his brother Ralph, from about 1090 until his death. His school for theology and exegetics rapidly became the most famous in Europe. In 1113 he expelled Pierre Abélard from his school.

He was dean and chancellor of Laon from about 1109 and archdeacon from 1115.

The "Liber Pancrisi" (c. 1120) names him, with Ivo of Chartres and William of Champeaux, as one of the three modern masters.


Anselm's greatest work, an interlinear gloss on the 'Scriptures', was one of the great intellectual authorities of the Middle Ages. It has been frequently reprinted. The significance of the gloss, which was continued after Anselm's death by figures such as Gilbert de la Porrée, is that it marked a new way of learning - it represented the birth of efforts to analyze and systemize scripture rather than merely accepting it at face value. This theme was subsequently adopted and extended by the likes of Hugh of St. Victor, Peter Lombard and later Thomas Aquinas, who gave us 'handbooks' for what we would now call theology.

Other commentaries apparently by Anselm have been ascribed to various writers, principally to the great Anselm. A list of them, with notice of Anselm's life, is contained in the "Histoire littéraire de la France", x. 170-189.

The works are collected in Migne's "Patrologia Latina", tome 162; some unpublished "Sententiae" were edited by G Lefevre (Milan, 1894), on which see Barthélemy Hauréau in the "Journal des savants" for 1895.



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