St. Albert the Great, Doctor of the Church

November 15

c. 1206-80

Eldest son of the count of Bollstädt, he was born in the family castle at Lauingen, Swabia, Germany, studied at the University of Padua, and in 1223 became a Dominican there despite family opposition. He was teaching at Cologne in 1228 and later taught at Hildesheim, Freiburg-im-Breisgau, Regensburg, and Strasbourg. By the time of his return to Cologne, he had a widespread reputation for his learning and intellect. He went to teach and study at the university of Paris, where he received his doctorate in 1245, and he was named regent of the newly established studia generalia at Cologne in 1248. Among his students at Paris and Cologne was Thomas Aquinas, whose genius he early perceived and proclaimed; Aquinas was to be his close friend and comrade in intellect until his death in 1274. Albert was named provincial of his order in 1254, went to Rome in 1256 to defend the mendicant orders against attacks by William of St. Armour [who was condemned later in the year by Pope Alexander IV], and while there served as personal theologian to the Pope. Albert resigned his provincialate in 1257 to devote himself to study, and in 1259 with Peter of Tarentasia and Thomas Aquinas drew up a new study curriculum for the Dominicans. Against his wishes, he was appointed bishop of Regensburg in 1260 but resigned two years later to resume teaching at Cologne. He was active in the Council of Lyons in 1274, working for the reunion of the Greek Church with Rome. He fiercely and brilliantly defended Aquinas and his position against Bishop Stephen Tempier of Paris and a group of theologians at the university there in 1277. In 1278 a memory lapse progressed into two years of ailing health and mind, which led to his death in Cologne on November 15. He was canonized and declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XI in 1931. Albert was one of the great intellects of the medieval Church. He was one of the first and among the greatest of natural scientists. His knowledge of biology, chemistry, physics, astronomy, geography [one of his treatises proved the earth to be round] was so encyclopedic, he was often accused of magic. He wrote profusely on logic, metaphysics, mathematics, the Bible, and theology. He pioneered the Scholastic method, so brilliantly developed by his pupil and disciple, Thomas Aquinas, by applying Aristotelian methods to revealed doctrine. A keen student of Arabic learning and culture, his and Aquinas' adaptation of Aristotelian principles to systematic theology and their attempts to reconcile Aristotelianism to Christianity caused bitter opposition among many of their fellow theologians. His brilliance and erudition caused him to be called "the Universal Doctor" by his contemporaries. Among his many works are Summa theologiae, De unitate intellectus contra Averrem, De vegetabilibus, and Summa de creaturis.


HOME---------------PRAYERS AND DEVOTIONS-----------------LITANIES