Anselm of Laon
Anselm of Laon was a French
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

Theology is the systematic and rational study of religion and its influences and of the nature of religious truths, or the learned profession acquired by completing specialized training in religious studies, usually at a university or school of divinity or seminary.-Definition:Augustine of Hippo...

 and founder of a school of scholars who helped to pioneer biblical hermeneutics
Biblical hermeneutics
Biblical hermeneutics is the study of the principles of interpretation concerning the books of the Bible. It is part of the broader field of hermeneutics which involves the study of principles for the text and includes all forms of communication: verbal and nonverbal.While Jewish and Christian...


Remembered in the century after his death as "Anselmus" or "Anselm", his name was more properly "Ansellus" or, in Modern French, "Anseau."

Born of very humble parents at Laon
Laon is the capital city of the Aisne department in Picardy in northern France.-History:The hilly district of Laon, which rises a hundred metres above the otherwise flat Picardy plain, has always held strategic importance...

 before the middle of the 11th century, he is said to have studied under Saint Anselm
Anselm of Canterbury
Anselm of Canterbury , also called of Aosta for his birthplace, and of Bec for his home monastery, was a Benedictine monk, a philosopher, and a prelate of the church who held the office of Archbishop of Canterbury from 1093 to 1109...

 at Bec
Bec Abbey
Bec Abbey in Le Bec Hellouin, Normandy, France, once the most influential abbey in the Anglo-Norman kingdom of the twelfth century, is a Benedictine monastic foundation in the Eure département, in the Bec valley midway between the cities of Rouen and Bernay.Like all abbeys, Bec maintained annals...

, though this is almost certainly incorrect. Other potential teachers of Anselm have been identified, including Bruno of Cologne
Bruno of Cologne
Saint Bruno of Cologne , the founder of the Carthusian Order, personally founded the order's first two communities...

 and Manegold of Lautenbach
Manegold of Lautenbach
Manegold of Lautenbach was a religious and polemical writer and Augustinian canon from Alsace, active mostly as a teacher in south-west Germany. William of Champeaux may have been one of his pupils, but this is disputed...

. By ca. 1080, he had moved back to his place of birth and was teaching at the cathedral school of Laon, with his brother Ralph. In ca. 1109 he became dean and chancellor of the cathedral, and in 1115 he was one of Laon's two archdeacons. His school for theology and exegesis
Exegesis is a critical explanation or interpretation of a text, especially a religious text. Traditionally the term was used primarily for exegesis of the Bible; however, in contemporary usage it has broadened to mean a critical explanation of any text, and the term "Biblical exegesis" is used...

 rapidly became the most famous in Europe. Famously, in 1113 he expelled Pierre Abélard from his school.

The Liber Pancrisi (c. 1120) names him, with Ivo of Chartres
Ivo of Chartres
Saint Ivo ' of Chartres was the Bishop of Chartres from 1090 until his death and an important canon lawyer during the Investiture Crisis....

 and William of Champeaux
William of Champeaux
Guillaume de Champeaux , also known as William of Champeaux or Guglielmus de Campellis , was a French philosopher and theologian.He was born at Champeaux near Melun...

, as one of the three modern masters.


Anselm's greatest work, an interlinear and marginal gloss
A gloss is a brief notation of the meaning of a word or wording in a text. It may be in the language of the text, or in the reader's language if that is different....

 on the 'Scriptures', the Glossa ordinaria
Glossa Ordinaria
The Glossa ordinaria , Lat., "the ordinary gloss/interpretation/explanation", was an assembly of glosses, from the Church Fathers and thereafter, printed in the margins of the Vulgate Bible; these were widely used in the education system of Christendom in Cathedral schools from the Carolingian...

, now attributed to him and his followers, was one of the great intellectual achievements of the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

. It has been frequently reprinted. The significance of the gloss, which was most likely assembled after Anselm's death by his students, such as Gilbert de la Porrée
Gilbert de la Porrée
Gilbert de la Porrée , also known as Gilbert of Poitiers, Gilbertus Porretanus or Pictaviensis, was a scholastic logician and theologian.-Life:...

, and based on Anselm's teaching, is that it marked a new way of learning — it represented the birth of efforts to present discrete patristic and earlier medieval interpretations of individual verses of Scripture in a readily-accessible, easily-referenced way. This theme was subsequently adopted and extended by the likes of Hugh of St. Victor, Peter Lombard
Peter Lombard
Peter Lombard was a scholastic theologian and bishop and author of Four Books of Sentences, which became the standard textbook of theology, for which he is also known as Magister Sententiarum-Biography:Peter Lombard was born in Lumellogno , in...

 and later 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...

, who gave us 'handbooks' for what we would now call theology
Theology is the systematic and rational study of religion and its influences and of the nature of religious truths, or the learned profession acquired by completing specialized training in religious studies, usually at a university or school of divinity or seminary.-Definition:Augustine of Hippo...


Other commentaries apparently by Anselm have been ascribed to various writers, principally to Anselm of Canterbury. A list of them, with notice of Anselm's life, is contained in the Histoire littéraire de la France
Histoire littéraire de la France
Histoire littéraire de la France is an enormous history of French literature initiated in 1733 by Dom Rivest and the Benedictines of St. Maur but it was abandoned in 1763 after the publication of volume XII...

, x. 170-189.

The works are collected in Migne
Jacques Paul Migne
Jacques Paul Migne was a French priest who published inexpensive and widely-distributed editions of theological works, encyclopedias and the texts of the Church Fathers, with the goal of providing a universal library for the Catholic priesthood.He was born at Saint-Flour, Cantal and studied...

's Patrologia Latina
Patrologia Latina
The Patrologia Latina is an enormous collection of the writings of the Church Fathers and other ecclesiastical writers published by Jacques-Paul Migne between 1844 and 1855, with indices published between 1862 and 1865....

, tome 162; some unpublished Sententiae were edited by G Lefevre (Milan, 1894), on which see Barthélemy Hauréau
Barthélemy Hauréau
Jean-Barthélémy Hauréau was a French historian and writer.Born in Paris, he was educated at the Louis-le-Grand and Bourbon colleges in his native city, and won high honours at his public examination...

 in the Journal des savants for 1895. The commentary on the Psalms published by Migne in vol. 116 and attributed to Haymo of Halberstadt has also been identified as possibly being the work of Anselm.


  • C. Giraud, Per verba magistri. Anselme de Laon et son École au XIIe siècle, Brepols Publishers, 2010, ISBN 978-2-503-53341-4
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