Saint Anselm

Saint Anselm
Born: 1033, Italy
Died: 1109, Canterbury UK
Feast Day: 21st April
Shrine: Canterbury UK
Also Known As: Anselm of Aosta, Anselmo d’Aosta, Anselmo of Canterbury, Doctor of Scholasticism
Writings: Cur Deus Homo? (Why did God become man?) and many others
Canonised: 1492 by Pope Alexander IV

Saint Anselm was born in Aosta, Italy to a noble, pious, wealthy family.  When Anselm reached 15, he wanted to join a monastery but his father Gondulf forbid it and he became worldly for several years.  After the death of his mother Ermenberge, Anselm argued with his father and moved to France in 1056 where he joined the Benedictine monks at Bec, Normandy in 1060.  He was educated by Lanfrac whose reputation was well known throughout Europe at the time, and took over as prior in 1063, becoming Abbot in 1078.  His abilities were recognised early on.

In 1092, Anselm was chosen as Archbishop of Canterbury which he reluctantly agreed to.  This set up a 10-year battle of the Church vs the Crown.  He vehemently disagreed with King William’s intrusion on church matters, refusing to pay bribes, and stopping the intrusion of the king in the affairs of the church.  He was exiled, during which time he became an advisor to Pope Blessed Urban II in Rome, who supported his return to England without the Crown’s interference.  King Henry II invited Anselm to return to England in 1100 but was exiled again in 1106 when Anselm disputed with the King over the appointment of religious officials.  He returned once more, after Henry agreed not to interfere.

Anselm opposed slavery and was paramount in obtaining English legislation prohibiting it.  He strongly supported celibate clergy.  Anselm was a great scholastic philosopher and theologian much happier in the monastery than in political circles. He applied reason in exploring faith.  His work Monologium rationalises proof of God’s existence and Proslogium advances the thinking that God exists according the notion of perfection with whom nothing is lacking (Ontological argument).  He died in 1109 following a slightly calmer last few years in Canterbury.

A short video of Saint Anselms work can be found here -

References: Saints, Robbie Blake, HarperCollins
The Bible and the Saints, G. Duchet-Suchaux, M. Pastoureau Flammarion