Berengar of Tours

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Berengar of Tours (c. 999–January 6, 1088) was a French 11th century Christian theologian and Archdeacon of Angers, a scholar whose leadership of the cathedral school at Chartres set an example of intellectual inquiry through the revived tools of dialectic that was soon followed at cathedral schools of Laon and Paris, and who disputed with the Church leadership over the doctrine of transubstantiation in the Eucharist.



Early life

Berengar of Tours was born perhaps at Tours, probably in the early years of the 11th century. His education began in the school of Bishop Fulbert of Chartres, who represented the traditional theology of the early Middle Ages, but did not succeed in imposing it on his pupil. Berengar was less attracted by pure theology than by secular learning, and brought away a knowledge of Latin literature, dialectic, and a general knowledge and freedom of thought surprising for his age. Later he paid more attention to the Bible and early Christian writers, especially Gregory of Tours and Augustine of Hippo; and thus he came to formal theology.

Returning to Tours, he became a canon of the cathedral and in about 1040 became head of its school, improving its efficiency and attracting students from far and near. He acquired his fame as much from his blameless and ascetic life as from the success of his teaching. His reputation was such that a number of monks requested him to write a book to kindle their zeal; and his letter to Joscelin, later archbishop of Bordeaux, who had asked him to decide a dispute between Bishop Isembert of Poitiers and his chapter, is evidence of the authority attributed to his judgment. He became archdeacon of Angers, and enjoyed the confidence of not a few bishops and of the powerful Count Geoffrey of Anjou.

Amid this chorus of praise, a discordant voice began to be heard; it was asserted that Berengar held heretical views on the Eucharist. The first controversies on the nature of the Eucharistic Presence date from the earlier Middle Ages. In the ninth century Paschasius Radbertus raised doubts as to the identity of Christ's Eucharistic body with his body in heaven, but won practically no support.[1] His doctrine was sharply attacked by Ratramnus and Rabanus Maurus, who opposed to his emphatic realism, which was sometimes marred by unfortunate comparisons and illustrations, their more spiritual conceptions of the Divine presence.[2] Considerably greater stir was provoked by Berengar, who denied that any material change in the elements was needed to explain the Eucharistic Presence.[1]

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