Anselm of Canterbury
Who was Anselm of Canterbury?
Saint Anselm of Canterbury (1033 – 1109), 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.
Called the founder of scholasticism, he has been a major influence in Western theology and is famous as the originator of the ontological argument for the existence of God and the satisfaction theory of atonement.
Born into the House of Candia, he entered the Benedictine order at the Abbey of Bec at the age of 27, where he became abbot in 1079. He became Archbishop of Canterbury under William II of England, and was exiled from England from 1097 to 1100, and again from 1105 to 1107 under Henry I of England as a result of the investiture controversy, the most significant conflict between Church and state in Medieval Europe. Anselm was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1720 by a Papal Bull of Pope Clement XI.
Early life of Saint Anslem
Anselm was born under the name "Anselmus Candiae Genavae" (Italian: Anselmo di Candia Ginevra, French: Anselme de Candie Genève) at or near Aosta in the Kingdom of Arles (currently the capital of the Aosta Valley region in North-Western Italy) around 1033. His family was noble (they were related by blood to the ascendant House of Savoy) 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 of the House of Candia; 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. 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 (then prior of the Benedictine Abbey of Bec), Anselm arrived in Normandy in 1059.
The following year, after some time at Avranches, he entered the abbey as a novice 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 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 (vacant). 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 (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 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--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 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, 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 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: 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 as pope (in opposition to Antipope Clement III).
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, 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, and be generous.
Anselm continued to agitate 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 of Canterbury.
The Church's rule stated that metropolitans could not be consecrated without receiving the pallium 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) 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."
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, where he garnered high praise from the Saracen troops of Roger I of 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, 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 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 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) set out for Rome, Anselm in exile. In response, Paschal excommunicated the bishops whom Henry had invested.
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, 21 April 1109.
- "Anselm of Conterbury" Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (with minor edits), under GFDL.