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St Anselm

Italy, France, England

Archbishop of Canterbury, a great churchman, and a pioneer of theological method, Anselm was born in the Piedmont region of northern Italy in 1033 and joined the Benedictine monastery of Bec in Normandy in 1056. He became its prior in 1063 and then its abbot in 1078. In 1093, when he was 60 years old, he became the second Norman Archbishop of Canterbury. He argued with King William II of England about the independence of the Church and was exiled from 1097 to 1100. He returned to Canterbury again from 1105 to 1107 under Henry I of England and, despite another term of exile and the opposition of many English Bishops, he secured the Westminster Agreement (or Concordat of London) of 1107, which secured the independence of the church from the civil state.

Anselm’s combination of Christianity, neoplatonic metaphysics, and Aristotelean logic in the form of dialectical question-and-answer was an important influence in the development scholasticism during the next several centuries. As a philosopher, Anselm is most often remembered for his attempts to prove the existence of god. It could be argued, however, that in these proofs he was also defending the transcendence of God. Anselm held that faith precedes reason, but that reason can expand upon faith. He prayed:

O God, let me know you and love you so that I may find joy in you; and if I cannot do so fully in this life, let me at least make some progress every day, until at last that knowledge, love and joy come to me in all their plenitude.

Anselm died in Canterbury on 21 April 1109, and there he was buried. His anniversary is celebrated in the Roman Catholic Church, much of the Anglican Communion, and in parts of Lutheranism

Anselm’s canonization was requested by Thomas Becket in 1163. He may have been formally canonized at some point before Becket’s death in 1170, but no explicit record has survived, even though Anselm was soon included among the saints at Canterbury and elsewhere. Some scholars argue that Anselm’s canonization was formalized in 1492 or 1494. He was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1720 by Pope Clement XI.