Lanfranc

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Lanfranc (c. 1005 – 1089) was Archbishop of Canterbury, and a Lombard by extraction.[1]

Contents

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. He was orphaned at an early age.[2]

Lanfranc was trained in the liberal arts, at that time a field in which northern Italy was famous (there is little or no evidence to support the myth that his education included much in the way of Civil Law, and none that links him with Irnerius of Bologna as a pioneer in the renaissance of its study). For unknown reasons at an uncertain date, he crossed the Alps, soon taking up the role of teacher in France and eventually in Normandy. About 1039 he became the master of the cathedral school at Avranches, where he taught for three years with conspicuous success. But in 1042 he embraced the monastic profession in the newly founded Bec Abbey. Until 1045 he lived at Bec in absolute seclusion.

Teacher and scholar

Lanfranc was then persuaded by Abbot Herluin to open a school in the monastery. From the first he was celebrated (totius Latinitatis magister). His pupils were drawn not only from France and Normandy, but also from Gascony, Flanders, Germany and Italy. Many of them afterwards attained high positions in the Church; one possible student, Anselm of Badagio, became pope under the title of Alexander II. In this way Lanfranc set the seal of intellectual activity on the reform movement of which Bec was the centre. The favourite subjects of his lectures were logic and dogmatic theology. He was therefore invited to defend the doctrine of transubstantiation against the attacks of Berengar of Tours. He took up the task with the greatest zeal, although Berengar had been his personal friend; he was the protagonist of orthodoxy at the councils of Vercelli (1050), Tours (1054) and Rome (1059).

To Lanfranc's influence is attributed the desertion of Berengar's cause by Hildebrand and the more broad-minded of the cardinals. Our knowledge of Lanfranc's polemics is chiefly derived from the tract De corpore et sanguine Domini, which he wrote many years later (after 1079), when Berengar had been finally condemned. Though betraying no signs of metaphysical ability, his work was regarded as conclusive and became for a while a text-book in the schools. It is often said to be the place where the Aristotelian distinction between substance and accidence was first applied to explain Eucharistic change. It is the most important of the surviving works attributed to Lanfranc; which, considering his reputation, are slight and disappointing.

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