Anselm of Canterbury
Anselm of Canterbury also called of Aosta
Aosta is the principal city of the bilingual Aosta Valley in the Italian Alps, north-northwest of Turin. It is situated near the Italian entrance of the Mont Blanc Tunnel, at the confluence of the Buthier and the Dora Baltea, and at the junction of the Great and Little St. Bernard routes...

for his birthplace, and of Bec
Le Bec-Hellouin
Le Bec-Hellouin is a commune in the department of Eure in the Haute-Normandie region in northern France.It is best known for Bec Abbey and has recently been voted one of the "most beautiful villages of France".-History:...

for his home monastery, was a Benedictine monk
Benedictine refers to the spirituality and consecrated life in accordance with the Rule of St Benedict, written by Benedict of Nursia in the sixth century for the cenobitic communities he founded in central Italy. The most notable of these is Monte Cassino, the first monastery founded by Benedict...

, a philosopher, and a prelate
A prelate is a high-ranking member of the clergy who is an ordinary or who ranks in precedence with ordinaries. The word derives from the Latin prælatus, the past participle of præferre, which means "carry before", "be set above or over" or "prefer"; hence, a prelate is one set over others.-Related...

 of the church who held the office of Archbishop of Canterbury
Archbishop of Canterbury
The Archbishop of Canterbury is the senior bishop and principal leader of the Church of England, the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and the diocesan bishop of the Diocese of Canterbury. In his role as head of the Anglican Communion, the archbishop leads the third largest group...

 from 1093 to 1109. Called the founder of scholasticism
Scholasticism is a method of critical thought which dominated teaching by the academics of medieval universities in Europe from about 1100–1500, and a program of employing that method in articulating and defending orthodoxy in an increasingly pluralistic context...

, he is famous as the originator of the ontological argument
Ontological argument
The ontological argument for the existence of God is an a priori argument for the existence of God. The ontological argument was first proposed by the eleventh-century monk Anselm of Canterbury, who defined God as the greatest possible being we can conceive...

 for the existence of God
Existence of God
Arguments for and against the existence of God have been proposed by philosophers, theologians, scientists, and others. In philosophical terms, arguments for and against the existence of God involve primarily the sub-disciplines of epistemology and ontology , but also of the theory of value, since...


Born into the noble family of Candia
House of Candia
The House of Candia is a European dynastic house, created by a junior branch of the House of Anjou originally from "Castrum Candiaco" in the Dauphiné of the nobility of Savoy and Piemont...

, he entered the Benedictine order at the Abbey of Bec at the age of twenty-seven, where he became abbot in 1079. He became Archbishop of Canterbury under William II of England
William II of England
William II , the third son of William I of England, was King of England from 1087 until 1100, with powers over Normandy, and influence in Scotland. He was less successful in extending control into Wales...

, and was exiled from England from 1097 to 1100, and again from 1105 to 1107 under Henry I of England
Henry I of England
Henry I was the fourth son of William I of England. He succeeded his elder brother William II as King of England in 1100 and defeated his eldest brother, Robert Curthose, to become Duke of Normandy in 1106...

 as a result of the investiture controversy
Investiture Controversy
The Investiture Controversy or Investiture Contest was the most significant conflict between Church and state in medieval Europe. In the 11th and 12th centuries, a series of Popes challenged the authority of European monarchies over control of appointments, or investitures, of church officials such...

, the most significant conflict between Church and State in Medieval Europe.

Anselm was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church
Doctor of the Church
Doctor of the Church is a title given by a variety of Christian churches to individuals whom they recognize as having been of particular importance, particularly regarding their contribution to theology or doctrine.-Catholic Church:In the Catholic Church, this name is given to a saint from whose...

 in 1720 by "Papal Bull
Papal bull
A Papal bull is a particular type of letters patent or charter issued by a Pope of the Catholic Church. It is named after the bulla that was appended to the end in order to authenticate it....

a" of Pope Clement XI
Pope Clement XI
Pope Clement XI , born Giovanni Francesco Albani, was Pope from 1700 until his death in 1721.-Early life:...


Early life

Anselm was born under the name "Anselmus Candiae Genavae" (Italian: Anselmo di Candia Ginevra, French: Anselme de Candie Genève) at or near Aosta
Aosta is the principal city of the bilingual Aosta Valley in the Italian Alps, north-northwest of Turin. It is situated near the Italian entrance of the Mont Blanc Tunnel, at the confluence of the Buthier and the Dora Baltea, and at the junction of the Great and Little St. Bernard routes...

 in the Kingdom of Arles
Kingdom of Arles
The Kingdom of Arles or Second Kingdom of Burgundy of the High Middle Ages was a Frankish dominion established in 933 from lands of the early medieval Kingdom of Burgundy at Arles...

 (currently the capital of the Aosta Valley region in Northern Italy) around 1033. His family was noble (they were related by blood to the ascendant House of Savoy
House of Savoy
The House of Savoy was formed in the early 11th century in the historical Savoy region. Through gradual expansion, it grew from ruling a small county in that region to eventually rule the Kingdom of Italy from 1861 until the end of World War II, king of Croatia and King of Armenia...

) and owned considerable property. His parents were from a noble lineage and holders of fiefdoms within the Burgundian territories. His father, Gundulf de Candia, was by birth a Lombard
The Lombards , also referred to as Longobards, were a Germanic tribe of Scandinavian origin, who from 568 to 774 ruled a Kingdom in Italy...

 of the House of Candia
House of Candia
The House of Candia is a European dynastic house, created by a junior branch of the House of Anjou originally from "Castrum Candiaco" in the Dauphiné of the nobility of Savoy and Piemont...

; he seems to have been harsh. His mother, Ermenberga of Geneva, was regarded as prudent and virtuous; she was related to Otto, Count of Savoy.

At the age of fifteen, Anselm desired to enter a monastery but could not obtain his father's consent, and so the abbot refused him. Disappointment brought on apparent psychosomatic illness
Psychosomatic illness
Psychosomatic medicine is an interdisciplinary medical field studying the relationships of social, psychological, and behavioral factors on bodily processes and well-being in humans and animals...

. After recovery, he gave up his studies and lived a carefree life. During this period, his mother died and his father's harshness became unbearable.

When he was twenty-three, Anselm left home, crossed the Alps and wandered through Burgundy and France. Attracted by the fame of his countryman Lanfranc
Lanfranc was Archbishop of Canterbury, and a Lombard by birth.-Early life:Lanfranc was born in the early years of the 11th century at Pavia, where later tradition held that his father, Hanbald, held a rank broadly equivalent to magistrate...

 (then prior
Prior is an ecclesiastical title, derived from the Latin adjective for 'earlier, first', with several notable uses.-Monastic superiors:A Prior is a monastic superior, usually lower in rank than an Abbot. In the Rule of St...

 of the Benedictine Abbey of Bec), Anselm arrived in Normandy
Normandy is a geographical region corresponding to the former Duchy of Normandy. It is in France.The continental territory covers 30,627 km² and forms the preponderant part of Normandy and roughly 5% of the territory of France. It is divided for administrative purposes into two régions:...

 in 1059. The following year, after some time at Avranches
Avranches is a commune in the Manche department in the Basse-Normandie region in north-western France. It is a sub-prefecture of the department. The inhabitants are called Avranchinais.-History:...

, he entered the abbey as a novice
A novice is a person or creature who is new to a field or activity. The term is most commonly applied in religion and sports.-Buddhism:In many Buddhist orders, a man or woman who intends to take ordination must first become a novice, adopting part of the monastic code indicated in the vinaya and...

 at the age of twenty-seven; in doing so he submitted himself to the Rule of Saint Benedict, which was to reshape his thought over the next decade.

Years at Bec and accession to Canterbury

In 1063, Lanfranc was made abbot of Caen
Caen is a commune in northwestern France. It is the prefecture of the Calvados department and the capital of the Basse-Normandie region. It is located inland from the English Channel....

 and Anselm was elected prior of the abbey of Bec. Anselm held this office for fifteen years before he became abbot at the death of Herluin, the abbey's founder, in 1078. He was consecrated abbot 22 February 1079 by the bishop of Évreux. This consecration was rushed, because at the time the archdiocese of Rouen (wherein Bec lay) was sede vacante
Sede vacante
Sede vacante is an expression, used in the Canon Law of the Catholic Church, that refers to the vacancy of the episcopal see of a particular church...

. And had Anselm been consecrated by the archbishop of Rouen, he would have been under pressure to profess obedience to him, which would compromise Bec's independence.

Under Anselm's jurisdiction, Bec became the foremost seat of learning in Europe, attracting students from France, Italy and elsewhere, even though study and scholarly research were of secondary importance in the monasticism of the time. It was during his time at Bec that he wrote his first works of philosophy, the Monologion (1076) and the Proslogion
The Proslogion, , written in 1077-1078, was written as a prayer, or meditation, by the medieval cleric Anselm which serves to reflect on the attributes of God and endeavours to explain how God can have qualities which often seem contradictory...

(1077–8). These were followed by The Dialogues on Truth, Free Will and Fall of the Devil. During his time at Bec, Anselm worked to maintain its freedom from lay and archiepiscopal control. Later in his abbacy Anselm worked to ensure Bec's independence from Robert de Beaumont, 1st Earl of Leicester
Robert de Beaumont, 1st Earl of Leicester
Robert de Beaumont, 1st Earl of Leicester, Count of Meulan was a powerful English and French nobleman, revered as one of the wisest men of his age...

 and from the archbishop of Rouen.

Anselm occasionally visited England to see the abbey's property there, as well as to visit Lanfranc—who, in 1070, had been installed as Archbishop of Canterbury
Archbishop of Canterbury
The Archbishop of Canterbury is the senior bishop and principal leader of the Church of England, the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and the diocesan bishop of the Diocese of Canterbury. In his role as head of the Anglican Communion, the archbishop leads the third largest group...

--until the latter's death in 1089. He made a good impression while there, and was the natural successor to Lanfranc as Archbishop.

Upon Lanfranc's death, however, William II of England
William II of England
William II , the third son of William I of England, was King of England from 1087 until 1100, with powers over Normandy, and influence in Scotland. He was less successful in extending control into Wales...

 seized the possessions and revenues of the see, and made no new appointment. In 1092, at the invitation of Hugh d'Avranches, 1st Earl of Chester
Hugh d'Avranches, 1st Earl of Chester
Hugh d'Avranches , also known as le Gros and Lupus was the first Earl of Chester and one of the great magnates of early Norman England.-Early career:...

, Anselm crossed to England. He was detained there by business for nearly four months and then refused permission to return to Bec by the king. The latter suddenly fell seriously ill at Alveston
Alveston is a commuter village of roughly 3000 people about south of Thornbury, South Gloucestershire and approximately north of Bristol, England. Alveston is twinned with Courville sur Eure, France. It has two hotels, a variety of small shops, several parks and fields, two churches and a...

 the following year, and spurred on by his wish to make amends for his sinful behaviour which he believed had caused his illness, he allowed the nomination of Anselm to the vacant see, on 6 March 1093. That month Anselm wrote the monks of Bec, telling them to accept his nomination to the see. Over the course of the following months, Anselm tried to refuse, on the grounds of age and ill-health, and being unfit as a monk for secular affairs. On 24 August, Anselm gave William the conditions under which he would accept the see, which amounted to an agenda of the Gregorian Reform
Gregorian Reform
The Gregorian Reforms were a series of reforms initiated by Pope Gregory VII and the circle he formed in the papal curia, circa 1050–80, which dealt with the moral integrity and independence of the clergy...

: that William return the see's land which he had seized; that William accept the pre-eminence of Anselm's spiritual counsel; and that William acknowledge Pope Urban II
Pope Urban II
Pope Urban II , born Otho de Lagery , was Pope from 12 March 1088 until his death on July 29 1099...

 as pope (in opposition to Antipope Clement III
Antipope Clement III
Guibert or Wibert of Ravenna was a cleric made antipope in 1080 due to perceived abuses of Pope Gregory VII during the Investiture Controversy, a title that lasted to his death....

). Anselm's professions of refusal aided his bargaining position as he discussed terms with William. William was exceedingly reluctant to accept these conditions; he would only grant the first. A few days after this, William tried to rescind even this; he suspended the preparations for Anselm's investiture. Under public pressure William was forced to carry out the appointment. In the end Anselm and William settled on the return of Canterbury's lands as the only concession from William. Finally, the English bishops thrust the crosier into his hands and took him to the church to be inducted. He did homage to William, and on 25 September 1093 he received the lands of the see, and was enthroned, after obtaining dispensation from his duties in Normandy. He was consecrated archbishop of Canterbury on 4 December.

It has been argued whether or not Anselm's reluctance to take the see was sincere. Scholars such as Southern maintain that his preference would have been to stay at Bec. However, reluctance to accept important ecclesiastical positions was a Medieval trope. Vaughn states that Anselm could not have expressed a desire for the position, because he would be regarded as an ambitious careerist. She further states that Anselm recognized William's political situation and goals, and acted at the moment that would gain him the most leverage in the interests of his expected see, and of the reform movement.

Archbishop of Canterbury under William

One of Anselm's first conflicts with William came the very month he was consecrated. William was preparing to fight his elder brother, Robert II, Duke of Normandy
Robert II, Duke of Normandy
Robert the Magnificent , also called Robert the Devil , was the Duke of Normandy from 1027 until his death. Owing to uncertainty over the numbering of the Dukes of Normandy he is usually called Robert I, but sometimes Robert II with his ancestor Rollo as Robert I...

, and needed funds for doing so. Anselm was among those expected to pay him, and he offered ₤500; rather less than he was expected to pay. William refused the offer, insisting on a greater sum. Later on, a group of bishops suggested that William might now settle for the original sum, but Anselm told them he had already given the money to the poor. In this episode Anselm was careful, and managed to both avoid charges of simony
Simony is the act of paying for sacraments and consequently for holy offices or for positions in the hierarchy of a church, named after Simon Magus , who appears in the Acts of the Apostles 8:9-24...

, and be generous.

Anselm continued to agitate William for reform and the interests of Canterbury. His vision of the Church was one of a universal Church with its own internal authority, which countered with William's vision of royal control over both Church and state. Consequently, he has been viewed alternatively as a contemplative monastic or as a man politically engaged, committed to maintaining the privileges of the episcopal see
Episcopal See
An episcopal see is, in the original sense, the official seat of a bishop. This seat, which is also referred to as the bishop's cathedra, is placed in the bishop's principal church, which is therefore called the bishop's cathedral...

 of Canterbury.

The Church's rule stated that metropolitans could not be consecrated without receiving the pallium
The pallium is an ecclesiastical vestment in the Roman Catholic Church, originally peculiar to the Pope, but for many centuries bestowed by him on metropolitans and primates as a symbol of the jurisdiction delegated to them by the Holy See. In that context it has always remained unambiguously...

 from the hands of the pope. Anselm, accordingly, insisted that he must proceed to Rome to receive the pallium, but William would not permit it; he had not acknowledged Urban as pope and maintained his right to prevent a pope's acknowledgment by an English subject.

On 25 February 1095, the bishops and nobles of England held a council at Rockingham to discuss the issue. The bishops sided with the king, with William de St-Calais, the bishop of Durham, even advising William to depose Anselm. The nobles chose Anselm's position, and the conference ended in deadlock.

Immediately following this William sent secret messengers to Rome. They prevailed on Urban to send a legate (Walter of Albano
Walter of Albano
Walter of Albano or Gualterio was the cardinal-bishop of the Diocese of Albano in Italy from 1091 to 1101. He served as papal legate to England in May 1095, where he secured the recognition of Pope Urban II by King William II of England...

) to the king bearing the archiepiscopal pallium. Walter and William then negotiated in secret. William agreed to acknowledge Urban as pope, and secured the right to give permission before clerics could receive and obey papal letters; Walter, negotiating for Urban, conceded that Urban would send no legates without William's invitation. William's greatest desire was that Anselm be deposed and another given the pallium. Walter said that "there was good reason to expect a successful issue in accordance with the king’s wishes”. William then openly acknowledged Urban as pope, but Walter refused to depose Anselm. William then tried to extract money from Anselm for the pallium, and was refused. William also tried to personally hand over the pallium to Anselm, and was refused again. He compromised, and Anselm took the pallium from the altar at Canterbury on 10 June 1095.

Over nearly the next two years, no overt dispute between Anselm and William is known. However, William blocked Anselm's efforts at church reform. The issues came to a head in 1097, after William put down a Welsh rebellion. He charged Anselm with having given him insufficient knights for the campaign and tried to fine him. Anselm resolved to proceed to Rome and seek the counsel of the pope because William had refused to fulfill his promise of Church reform, but William denied him permission. The negotiations ended with William declaring that if Anselm left, he would take back the see, and never again receive Anselm as archbishop. If Anselm were to stay, William would fine him and force him to swear never again to appeal to Rome: "Anselm was given the choice of exile or total submission."

First exile

As an exile, in October 1097 Anselm set out for Rome. William immediately seized the revenues of the see and retained them until his death, though Anselm retained the archbishopric. Anselm went into exile to defend his vision of the universal Church, displaying William's sins against that vision. Though he had done homage to William, Anselm qualified that homage by his higher duty towards God and the papacy. Anselm was received with high honour by Urban at the Siege of Capua
Siege of Capua
The Siege of Capua was a military operation involving the states of medieval southern Italy, beginning in May 1098 and lasting forty days. It was an interesting siege historically for the assemblage of great persons it saw and militarily for the cooperation of Norman and Saracen forces which it...

, where he garnered high praise from the Saracen
Saracen was a term used by the ancient Romans to refer to a people who lived in desert areas in and around the Roman province of Arabia, and who were distinguished from Arabs. In Europe during the Middle Ages the term was expanded to include Arabs, and then all who professed the religion of Islam...

 troops of Roger I of Sicily
Roger I of Sicily
Roger I , called Bosso and the Great Count, was the Norman Count of Sicily from 1071 to 1101. He was the last great leader of the Norman conquest of southern Italy.-Conquest of Calabria and Sicily:...

. The pope, however, did not wish to become deeply involved in Anselm's dispute with the king.

At a large provincial council held at Bari in 1098, which 183 bishops attended, Anselm was asked to defend, against representatives of the Greek Church, the Filioque and the practice of using unleavened bread for the Eucharist.

In 1099 Urban renewed the ban on lay investiture and on clerics doing homage. That year Anselm moved to Lyon.

Conflicts with King Henry I

William was killed on 2 August 1100. His successor, Henry I of England
Henry I of England
Henry I was the fourth son of William I of England. He succeeded his elder brother William II as King of England in 1100 and defeated his eldest brother, Robert Curthose, to become Duke of Normandy in 1106...

, invited Anselm to return, writing that he committed himself to be counseled by Anselm. Henry was courting Anselm because he needed his support for the security of his claim to the throne; Anselm could have thrown his support behind Henry's elder brother instead.

When Anselm returned, Henry requested that Anselm do him homage for the Canterbury estates and receive from him investiture
Investiture, from the Latin is a rather general term for the formal installation of an incumbent...

 in his office of archbishop. The papacy had recently banned clerics doing homage to laymen, as well as banning lay investiture; thus started Anselm's conflicts with Henry.

Henry refused to relinquish the privilege possessed by his predecessors, and proposed that the matter be laid before the pope. Two embassies were sent to Pope Paschal II
Pope Paschal II
Pope Paschal II , born Ranierius, was Pope from August 13, 1099, until his death. A monk of the Cluniac order, he was created cardinal priest of the Titulus S...

 regarding the legitimacy of Henry's investiture, but Paschal reaffirmed the papal rule on both occasions. In the meantime, Anselm did work with Henry. Henry was threatened with invasion by his brother, Robert Curthose, and Anselm publicly supported Henry, wooing the wavering barons and threatening Curthose with excommunication. For his part, Henry granted Anselm authority over all the Church in England, and agreed to obey the papacy.

However, because Paschal had reaffirmed the papal rules on lay investiture and homage, Henry turned once more against Anselm. In 1103, Anselm himself and an envoy from the king (William Warelwast
William Warelwast
William Warelwast, sometimes known as William de Warelwast was a medieval Norman cleric and Bishop of Exeter in England. Warelwast was a native of Normandy, but little is known about his background before 1087, when he appears as a royal clerk for King William II of England...

) set out for Rome, Anselm in exile. In response, Paschal excommunicated the bishops whom Henry had invested.

Second exile

Exiled from England, Anselm withdrew to Lyon after this ruling and awaited further action from Paschal. On 26 March 1105 Paschal excommunicated Henry's chief advisor (Robert of Meulan) for urging Henry to continue lay investiture, as well as prelates invested by Henry and other counselors, and threatened Henry with the same. In April Anselm threatened to excommunicate Henry himself, probably to force Henry's hand in their negotiations. In response Henry arranged a meeting with Anselm, and they managed a compromise at Laigle on 22 July 1105. Part of the agreement was that Robert's (and his associates') excommunication be lifted (given that they counsel the king to obey the papacy); Anselm lifted the excommunications on his own authority, an act which he later had to justify to Paschal. Other conditions of the agreement were that Henry would forsake lay investiture if Anselm obtained Paschal's permission for clerics to do homage for their nobles; that the revenues of his see be given back to Anselm; and that priests not be allowed to marry. Anselm then insisted on having the Laigle agreement sanctioned by Paschal before he would consent to return to England. By letter Anselm also asked that the pope accept his compromise on doing homage to the king, because he had secured a greater victory in Henry's forsaking lay investiture. On 23 March 1106 Paschal wrote Anselm accepting the compromise, though both saw this as a temporary compromise, and intended to later continue pushing for the Gregorian reform, including the custom of homage.

Even after this, Anselm still refused to return to England. Henry traveled to Bec and met with him on 15 August 1106. Henry made further concession, restoring to Anselm all the churches that had been seized by William; he promised that nothing more would be taken from the churches; prelates who had paid his controversial tax (which had started as a tax on married clergy) would be exempt from taxes for three years; and he promised to restore all that had been taken from Canterbury during Anselm's exile, even giving Anselm security for this promise. These compromises on Henry's part strengthened the rights of the Church against the king. Anselm returned to England following this.

By 1107, the long dispute regarding investiture was finally settled. The Concordat of London announced the compromises that Anselm and Henry had made at Bec. The final two years of Anselm's life were spent in the duties of his archbishopric. As archbishop, Anselm maintained his monastic ideals, which included stewardship, prudence, and fitting instruction to his flock, as well as prayer and contemplation. During his service as archbishop, Anselm maintained a habit of pressing on his monarchs at expedient times (when they needed his help, and when he would have public support) to advance his Church reforms. Anselm died on Holy Wednesday
Holy Wednesday
In Christianity, Holy Wednesday is the Wednesday of the Holy Week, the week before Easter...

, 21 April 1109.


Vaughn reads Anselm's motivation in the lay investiture conflict as advancing the interests of the see of Canterbury, rather than those of the Church at large. Other historians had seen Anselm as aligned with the papacy against the English monarchs, but Vaughn asserts that he acted on his own, as a third pole in the controversy, his aim being to promote the primacy of the archdiocese of Canterbury. His view of Canterbury's primacy is demonstrated in his charter of c. 3 September 1101, in which he called himself "Archbishop of Canterbury and primate of Great Britain and Ireland and vicar of the High Pontiff Paschal". By the end of his life he had secured the primatial status of Canterbury in relation to the papacy, and he had freed Canterbury from submission to the English king. In addition to securing the archbishop of Canterbury's role as primate of the English bishops, Anselm also initiated Canterbury's permanent control over the Welsh bishops, and gained strong authority over the Irish bishops during his lifetime.

He continued to work for the primacy of Canterbury, managing to force Paschal into sending the pallium for the archbishop of York to himself, so that the archbishop-elect would have to profess obedience to Canterbury before receiving it. From his deathbed he anathematized all who failed to recognize Canterbury's primacy over York, as Thomas II of York
Thomas II of York
Thomas was a medieval archbishop of York. To distinguish him from his uncle, also a Thomas who was archbishop of York, Thomas is usually known as Thomas II or Thomas the Younger.-Life:...

 was doing. This anathema forced Henry to order Thomas to confess obedience to Canterbury.

During Henry's reign Anselm tried to advance another part of the Gregorian reform (which Henry actually supported): clerical celibacy. At Michaelmas
Michaelmas, the feast of Saint Michael the Archangel is a day in the Western Christian calendar which occurs on 29 September...

 of 1102, Anselm held a council in London in which he prohibited marriage and concubinage to those in holy orders (as well as condemning simony and reforming regulations on clerical dress and sobriety). In the previous two centuries, attempts at enforcing clerical celibacy had been made, but with little success. Anselm's council was disobeyed en masse as well. In 1106 Henry levied a tax on married clergy, ostensibly to enforce the council's canons, but really in an effort to raise money for his war in Normandy. Another council was held in 1108, which focused on enforcing the canons of the 1102 council by creating incentives for the archdeacons who in practice were in charge of enforcing such rules.


His great predecessor, Johannes Scotus Eriugena
Johannes Scotus Eriugena
Johannes Scotus Eriugena was an Irish theologian, Neoplatonist philosopher, and poet. He is known for having translated and made commentaries upon the work of Pseudo-Dionysius.-Name:...

, was more speculative and mystical in his writings. Anselm's writings represent a recognition of the relationship of reason to revealed truth, and an attempt to elaborate a rational system of faith.


Anselm sought to understand Christian doctrine through reason and develop intelligible truths interwoven with the Christian belief. He believed that the necessary preliminary for this was possession of the Christian faith. He wrote, "Neque enim quaero intelligere ut credam, sed credo ut intelligam
Credo ut intelligam
Credo ut intelligam is Latin for "I believe so that I may understand" and is a maxim of Anselm of Canterbury, which is based on a saying of Augustine of Hippo to relate faith and reason...

. Nam et hoc credo, quia, nisi credidero, non intelligam.
" ("Nor do I seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe that I may understand. For this, too, I believe, that, unless I first believe, I shall not understand.") This is possibly drawn from Augustine of Hippo's Ten Homilies on the First Epistle of John Tractate XXIX on John 7:14-18, §6: Therefore do not seek to understand in order to believe, but believe that thou mayest understand. Anselm held that faith precedes reason, but that reason can expand upon faith.

The groundwork of Anselm's theory of knowledge is contained in the tract De Veritate, where he affirms the existence of an absolute truth in which all other truth participates. This absolute truth, he argues, is God, who is the ultimate ground or principle both of things and of thought. The notion of God becomes the foreground of Anselm's theory, so it is necessary first to make God clear to reason and be demonstrated to have real existence.

Anselm's world-view was broadly that of Neoplatonism
Neoplatonism , is the modern term for a school of religious and mystical philosophy that took shape in the 3rd century AD, based on the teachings of Plato and earlier Platonists, with its earliest contributor believed to be Plotinus, and his teacher Ammonius Saccas...

, which he inherited from his primary influence, Augustine of Hippo
Augustine of Hippo
Augustine of Hippo , also known as Augustine, St. Augustine, St. Austin, St. Augoustinos, Blessed Augustine, or St. Augustine the Blessed, was Bishop of Hippo Regius . He was a Latin-speaking philosopher and theologian who lived in the Roman Africa Province...

, as well as from Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite
Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite
Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, also known as Pseudo-Denys, was a Christian theologian and philosopher of the late 5th to early 6th century, the author of the Corpus Areopagiticum . The author is identified as "Dionysos" in the corpus, which later incorrectly came to be attributed to Dionysius...

 and possibly Scotus. He also inherited a rationalist way of thinking from Aristotle and Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius
Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius
Anicius Manlius Severinus Boëthius, commonly called Boethius was a philosopher of the early 6th century. He was born in Rome to an ancient and important family which included emperors Petronius Maximus and Olybrius and many consuls. His father, Flavius Manlius Boethius, was consul in 487 after...



Anselm wrote many proofs
In philosophy and logic, an argument is an attempt to persuade someone of something, or give evidence or reasons for accepting a particular conclusion.Argument may also refer to:-Mathematics and computer science:...

 within Monologion and Proslogion. In the first proof, Anselm relies on the ordinary grounds of realism, which coincide to some extent with the theory of Augustine. He argues that "things" are called "good" in a variety of ways and degrees, which would be impossible were there not some absolute standard and some good in itself, in which all relative goods participate. The same applies to adjectives like "great" and "just", whereby things involve a certain greatness and justice. Anselm uses this thought process to state that the very existence of things is impossible without some one Being, by whom they come to exist. This absolute Being, this goodness, justice and greatness, is God. Anselm is not thoroughly satisfied with this reasoning, however, because it begins from a posteriori grounds
A priori and a posteriori (philosophy)
The terms a priori and a posteriori are used in philosophy to distinguish two types of knowledge, justifications or arguments...

, meaning that the reasoning is inductive
Inductive reasoning
Inductive reasoning, also known as induction or inductive logic, is a kind of reasoning that constructs or evaluates propositions that are abstractions of observations. It is commonly construed as a form of reasoning that makes generalizations based on individual instances...

. The philosophy also contains several converging lines of proof.

In his Proslogion, Anselm put forward a proof of the existence of God called the ontological argument; although this type of proof had been produced by Avicenna
Abū ʿAlī al-Ḥusayn ibn ʿAbd Allāh ibn Sīnā , commonly known as Ibn Sīnā or by his Latinized name Avicenna, was a Persian polymath, who wrote almost 450 treatises on a wide range of subjects, of which around 240 have survived...

 some time before. The term itself was first applied by Kant
Immanuel Kant
Immanuel Kant was a German philosopher from Königsberg , researching, lecturing and writing on philosophy and anthropology at the end of the 18th Century Enlightenment....

 to the arguments of Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century rationalists. Anselm defined his belief in the existence of God using the phrase "that than which nothing greater can be conceived". He reasoned that, if "that than which nothing greater can be conceived" existed only in the intellect, it would not be "that than which nothing greater can be conceived", since it can be thought to exist in reality, which is greater. It follows, according to Anselm, that "that than which nothing greater can be conceived" must exist in reality. The bulk of the Proslogion is taken up with Anselm's attempt to establish the identity of "that than which nothing greater can be conceived" as God, and thus to establish that God exists in reality.

Anselm's ontological proof has been the subject of controversy since it was first published in the 1070s. It was opposed at the time by the monk Gaunilo, in his Liber pro Insipiente, on the grounds that humans cannot pass from intellect to reality. Anselm replied to the objections in his Responsio.

Gaunilo's criticism is repeated by several later philosophers, among whom are Thomas Aquinas
Thomas Aquinas
Thomas Aquinas, O.P. , also Thomas of Aquin or Aquino, was an Italian Dominican priest of the Catholic Church, and an immensely influential philosopher and theologian in the tradition of scholasticism, known as Doctor Angelicus, Doctor Communis, or Doctor Universalis...

 and Kant
KANT is a computer algebra system for mathematicians interested in algebraic number theory, performing sophisticated computations in algebraic number fields, in global function fields, and in local fields. KASH is the associated command line interface...

. Anselm wrote a number of other arguments for the existence of God, based on cosmological
Cosmological argument
The cosmological argument is an argument for the existence of a First Cause to the universe, and by extension is often used as an argument for the existence of an "unconditioned" or "supreme" being, usually then identified as God...

 and teleological
A teleology is any philosophical account which holds that final causes exist in nature, meaning that design and purpose analogous to that found in human actions are inherent also in the rest of nature. The word comes from the Greek τέλος, telos; root: τελε-, "end, purpose...


Further works

In Anselm's other works, he strove to state the rational grounds of the Christian doctrines of creation
Creation according to Genesis
The Genesis creation narrative describes the divine creation of the world including the first man and woman...

 and the Trinity
The Christian doctrine of the Trinity defines God as three divine persons : the Father, the Son , and the Holy Spirit. The three persons are distinct yet coexist in unity, and are co-equal, co-eternal and consubstantial . Put another way, the three persons of the Trinity are of one being...

. He discussed the Trinity first by stating that human beings could not know God from Himself but only from analogy. The analogy that he used was the self-consciousness of man.

The peculiar double-nature of consciousness, memory and intelligence represent the relation of the Father to the Son. The mutual love of these two (memory and intelligence), proceeding from the relation they hold to one another, symbolizes the Holy Spirit. The further theological doctrines of man, such as original sin
Original sin
Original sin is, according to a Christian theological doctrine, humanity's state of sin resulting from the Fall of Man. This condition has been characterized in many ways, ranging from something as insignificant as a slight deficiency, or a tendency toward sin yet without collective guilt, referred...

 and free will
Free will
"To make my own decisions whether I am successful or not due to uncontrollable forces" -Troy MorrisonA pragmatic definition of free willFree will is the ability of agents to make choices free from certain kinds of constraints. The existence of free will and its exact nature and definition have long...

, are developed in the Monologion and other treatises.

Cur Deus Homo and Satisfaction Atonement

The Satisfaction (or Commercial) theory of the atonement was formulated by Anselm of Canterbury in his book, Cur Deus Homo (lit. ‘Why the God-Man?’).
He has introduced the idea of satisfaction as the chief demand of the nature of God, of punishment as a possible alternative of satisfaction and equally fulfilling the requirements of justice thus opening the way to the assertion of punishment as the true satisfaction of the law. In his view, God’s offended honor and dignity could only be satisfied by the sacrifice of the God-man, Jesus Christ. Anselm undertook to explain the rational necessity of the Christian mystery of the atonement. His philosophy rests on three positions—first, that satisfaction is necessary on account of God's honour and justice; second, that such satisfaction can be given only by the peculiar personality of the God-man Jesus; and, third, that such satisfaction is really given by this God-man's voluntary death.

According to this view, sin incurs a debt to Divine justice, a debt that must be paid somehow. Thus, no sin, according to Anselm, can be forgiven without satisfaction. However, the incurred debt is something far greater than a human being is capable of paying. All the service that a person can offer to God is already obligated on other debts to God. By Anselm's time the suggestion has been made that some innocent person, or angel, might possibly pay the debt incurred by sinners. That, however, we would put the sinner under obligation to that deliverer and the sinner would become indebted to a "mere creature."

The only way in which the satisfaction could be made─that humans could be set free from their sin─was by the coming of a Redeemer who is both God and man. He himself would have to be sinless, thus having no debt that he owed. His death is something greater than all the sins of all humanity. His death makes a superabundant satisfaction to the Divine Justice.

Anselm's satisfaction theory has often been used by modern theologians in their genealogical critiques of Christian theology. For example, George Foley, a professor of pastoral care, wrote in 1908 that while the 'traditional' statement of Anselm's doctrine has inspired the development of much devout and consecrated life, its power has come from the fact that it is an emotional witness to the fundamental reality of Incarnate love and sacrifice. Foley thus claims that the doctrine is not a positive theory and has brought "grievous harm" down through the centuries. Although Foley cites no clear examples of the 'grievous harm' caused by Anselm's theory, he does link it with the satisfaction theory of the Reformation. It was made the test of some Protestant forms orthodoxy and continued to be so until near the end of the 19th century. Foley believes that "Anselm's adoption of a purely objective interpretation of Christ's work, and his assumption of and ability to penetrate into the esoteric relations of the Trinity, made him primarily responsible for the intrusive prying into Divine mysteries, and for the confident familiarity with the unrevealed portions of truth that issued in the dogmatic tyranny so conspicuous in the Protestant churches."

Anselm denied the belief which is now referred to as the Immaculate Conception
Immaculate Conception
The Immaculate Conception of Mary is a dogma of the Roman Catholic Church, according to which the Virgin Mary was conceived without any stain of original sin. It is one of the four dogmata in Roman Catholic Mariology...

, though his thinking laid the groundwork for the doctrine's development in the West. In De virginali conceptu et de peccato originali, he gave two principles which became fundamental for thinking about the Immaculate Conception. The first is that it was proper that Mary
Mary (mother of Jesus)
Mary , commonly referred to as "Saint Mary", "Mother Mary", the "Virgin Mary", the "Blessed Virgin Mary", or "Mary, Mother of God", was a Jewish woman of Nazareth in Galilee...

 should be so pure that no purer being could be imagined, aside from God.

The second innovation in Anselm's thinking which opened the way for the Immaculate Conception was his understanding of original sin. Anselm affirmed that original sin is simply human nature without original justice, and that it is transmitted because parents cannot give original justice if they do not have it themselves; original sin is the transmission of fallen human nature. In contrast, Anselm's contemporaries held that the transmission of original sin had to with the lustful nature of the act of sexual intercourse
Sexual intercourse
Sexual intercourse, also known as copulation or coitus, commonly refers to the act in which a male's penis enters a female's vagina for the purposes of sexual pleasure or reproduction. The entities may be of opposite sexes, or they may be hermaphroditic, as is the case with snails...

. Anselm was the first thinker to separate original sin from the lust of intercourse.

"Dilecto dilectori"

It was reported that Anselm wrote many letters to monk
A monk is a person who practices religious asceticism, living either alone or with any number of monks, while always maintaining some degree of physical separation from those not sharing the same purpose...

s, male relatives and others that contained passionate expressions of attachment and affection. These letters were typically addressed "dilecto dilectori", sometimes translated as "to the beloved lover." While there is wide agreement that Anselm was personally committed to the monastic ideal of celibacy
Celibacy is a personal commitment to avoiding sexual relations, in particular a vow from marriage. Typically celibacy involves avoiding all romantic relationships of any kind. An individual may choose celibacy for religious reasons, such as is the case for priests in some religions, for reasons of...

, some academics, including Brian P. McGuire
and John Boswell
have characterized these writings as expressions of a homosexual
Homosexuality is romantic or sexual attraction or behavior between members of the same sex or gender. As a sexual orientation, homosexuality refers to "an enduring pattern of or disposition to experience sexual, affectional, or romantic attractions" primarily or exclusively to people of the same...

 inclination. Others, such as Glenn Olsen
and Richard Southern
Richard Southern
Sir Richard William Southern , who published under the name R. W. Southern, was a noted English medieval historian, based at the University of Oxford.-Biography:...

 describe them as representing a "wholly spiritual" affection, "nourished by an incorporeal ideal".


The anniversary of Anselm's death on 21 April is celebrated in the Roman Catholic Church
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

, much of the Anglican Communion
Anglican Communion
The Anglican Communion is an international association of national and regional Anglican churches in full communion with the Church of England and specifically with its principal primate, the Archbishop of Canterbury...

, and in the Lutheran Church, as Anselm's memorial.

Anselm's canonization was requested by Thomas Becket
Thomas Becket
Thomas Becket was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1162 until his murder in 1170. He is venerated as a saint and martyr by both the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion...

 in 1163. Anselm may have been formally canonized at some point before Becket's death in 1170, but no explicit record has survived, even though Anselm was henceforth included among the saints at Canterbury and elsewhere. Some scholars contend that Anselm's canonization was only executed in 1494 by Pope Alexander VI Borgia
Pope Alexander VI
Pope Alexander VI , born Roderic Llançol i Borja was Pope from 1492 until his death on 18 August 1503. He is one of the most controversial of the Renaissance popes, and his Italianized surname—Borgia—became a byword for the debased standards of the Papacy of that era, most notoriously the Banquet...

. He was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church
Doctor of the Church
Doctor of the Church is a title given by a variety of Christian churches to individuals whom they recognize as having been of particular importance, particularly regarding their contribution to theology or doctrine.-Catholic Church:In the Catholic Church, this name is given to a saint from whose...

 in 1720 by Pope Clement XI
Pope Clement XI
Pope Clement XI , born Giovanni Francesco Albani, was Pope from 1700 until his death in 1721.-Early life:...

. On 21 April 1909, 800 years after his death, Pope Pius X
Pope Pius X
Pope Saint Pius X , born Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto, was the 257th Pope of the Catholic Church, serving from 1903 to 1914. He was the first pope since Pope Pius V to be canonized. Pius X rejected modernist interpretations of Catholic doctrine, promoting traditional devotional practices and orthodox...

 issued an encyclical "Communium Rerum", praising Anselm, his ecclesiastical career, and his writings. His symbol in hagiography
Hagiography is the study of saints.From the Greek and , it refers literally to writings on the subject of such holy people, and specifically to the biographies of saints and ecclesiastical leaders. The term hagiology, the study of hagiography, is also current in English, though less common...

 is the ship, representing the spiritual independence of the church.

Recently, Saint Anselm Abbey
Saint Anselm Abbey
Saint Anselm Abbey, located in Goffstown, New Hampshire, is a Benedictine abbey composed of men living under the Rule of Saint Benedict within the Catholic Church. The abbey was founded in 1889 under the patronage of Saint Anselm of Canterbury, a Benedictine monk of Bec and former archbishop of...

 and its college, Saint Anselm College
Saint Anselm College
Saint Anselm College is a nationally ranked, private, Benedictine, Catholic liberal arts college in Goffstown, New Hampshire. Founded in 1889 by Abbot Hilary Pfrängle, O.S.B. of Saint Mary's Abbey in Newark, New Jersey, at the request of Bishop Denis M. Bradley of Manchester, New Hampshire, the...

, held a massive celebration commemorating the 900th anniversary of Anselm's death. An image of the college is to the right.

External links

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