1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Alexandre, Noël

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search

ALEXANDRE, NOËL (Natalis Alexander) (1639-1724), French theologian and ecclesiastical historian, was born at Rouen on the 19th of January 1639. In his 15th year he joined the Dominicans, and shortly after his ordination was appointed professor of philosophy at the convent of Saint-Jacques in Paris. The success of his subsequent lectures at the Sorbonne led to his selection by Colbert as tutor to his son, Jacques Nicolas Colbert, afterwards archbishop of Rouen. Alexandre obtained the degree of doctor in divinity from the Sorbonne in 1675 and for twelve years taught philosophy, theology and ecclesiastical law to the members of the Saint-Jacques community. He played a prominent part in ecclesiastical affairs and preached several times before Louis XIV., who granted him an annual pension of 800 livres, and in the general assemblies of the French bishops. He became provincial of his order in 1706, but was banished to Châtellerault in 1709 for having subscribed to the Cas de conscience (1703), and was deprived of his pension in 1713 on account of his opposition to the bull Unigenitus. He died in Paris on the 21st of August 1724, having lost his sight some time before owing to his strenuous literary activity. His numerous works are still much valued by ecclesiastical students.

His best-known work, the Selecta historiae capita, et in loca ejusdem insignia dissertationes historicae, chronologicae, dogmaticae (26 vols., Paris, 1676-1686), was placed on the Index by Innocent XI., on account of his bold defence of the Gallican claims. In 1689 he brought out at Paris his history of the Old Testament: Selecta historiae Veteris Testamenti capita, &c., in 6. vols. Of the numerous editions of Alexandre's ecclesiastical history the best is that of P. J. D. Mansi, which contains many valuable notes and additions (11 vols., Lucca, 1749) and has been frequently reprinted. Alexandre's principal contribution to theological literature is his Theologia dogmatica et moralis secundum ordinem catechismi concilii Tridentini (10 vols., Paris, 1694), in which he clearly shows himself a disciple of the Thomist school. His Conformité des cérémonies chinoises avec l'idolâtrie grecque et romaine and Sept lettres sur les cérémonies de la Chine (both published at Cologne in 1700) are interesting as they mark him out as a pioneer in the study of comparative religion.

See Catalogue complet des œuvres du Père Alexandre (Paris, 1716); Quétif-Echard, Scriptores ordinis praedicatorum (Paris, 1719-1721), t. ii. p. 810; and full bibliography in A. Vacant, Dict. de théologie (scholarly article by P. Mandounet, cols. 769-772).