Albertus Magnus, Champion of the Western Mind
Posted on: 2007-11-15 13:18:36
Saint Albert the Great reawakened Europe to her classical past
November 15 is celebrated as the Feast Day of Saint Albert the Great, the "Universal Doctor" (1193-1280), whose life and work helped to reanimate European scholarship and lay the intellectual foundation for the Renaissance. Called Albertus Magnus by his contemporary Roger Bacon, Albert of Cologne's contribution to Western Civilization was so great that he was named a Doctor of the Church, a rare honor shared by only 32 others, among them St. John Chrysostom, whose Liturgy forms the basis of Christian church ceremony, St. Thomas Aquinas, who defined Western ethics, and the Venerable Bede, the father of English history.
In the Middle Ages, Italy was the font of cultural enlightenment, and the Bavarian Albert studied the works of the Greek philosopher Aristotle at Padua, taking holy orders as a Dominican Friar and learning theology at Bologna. Albert went on to an acclaimed career as a professor in Germany and in Paris, where a young Thomas Aquinas was his student. Albert made his name as a professor in Cologne.
Albertus Magnus systematized Aristotelian knowledge to make classical learning available to European scholars in an exhaustive body of work that spans thirty-eight volumes. In the pre-printing era his commentaries were invaluable, covering areas of learning as diverse as botany, theology, geography, physiology and logic. The modern Western university system was founded by religious orders, but Albert the Great was one of the first to break Western learning out of the narrow confines of theology and helped to integrate classical knowledge into the Western world view. His intellectual courage and achievements led directly to a flowering of the Western mind that became the Renaissance.
Albert's defense of the West went beyond mere intellectualism. As a beloved church leader he preached the Eighth Crusade, which was led by Louis IX, King of France, whose devout lifestyle led to his own elevation to sainthood.
In this day and age, when "dead white males" are denigrated and the Western mind is increasingly closed, the work and legacy of great men like Albert the Great deserves our appraisal and respect.