Gilbert the Great (DNB00)

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GILBERT the Great or the Theologian (d. 1167?), abbot of Cîteaux, is described as an Englishman in an epistle prefixed to the commentary ‘In Oraculum Cyrilli,’ of which he is said to be the author (cf. Tanner). Going to France he entered the Cistercian order, and in 1143 became abbot of Ourcamp. In 1163 he succeeded Fastradus as eighth abbot of Cîteaux and general of the order (Recueil des Historiens, xiii. 278). In this capacity he drew up statutes for the knights of Calatrava in 1164, and in 1165 obtained from Alexander III a charter exempting his order from all episcopal jurisdiction. He supported Geoffrey of Clairvaux against the pope and the king of France; and under his rule Becket found a refuge at Pontigny, although regard for the interests of his order compelled Gilbert to convey to the archbishop the threats of Henry II against the Cistercians (Materials for Hist. of Becket (Rolls Ser.), iii. 397). In May 1167 he made an agreement with the chapter of Autun, and probably died 17 Oct. of that year, although some fix his death in 1168. All writers celebrate the learning and piety to which he owed his cognomen, but seem to confuse him with other Gilberts. Bale and Pits ascribe to him various works, of which, with one or two exceptions, nothing seems known. Among them there are ‘Commentaries on the Psalms,’ the opening words of which correspond with Bodl. MS. Auct. D. 4. 6; a treatise styled ‘Distinctiones Theologicæ’ is also assigned to Gilbert in Bodl. MSS. 29 and 45. Mabillon prints a sermon which he ascribes to Gilbert in his edition of S. Bernard's works, ii. 745. There are also three letters from Gilbert to Louis VII in Duchesne's ‘Historiæ Francorum Scriptores,’ iv. 670, 679, 744; these, however, are all short, and contain nothing to justify the high praise bestowed on their author for his literary ability. Henrique includes Gilbert among the saints of the Cistercian order. Bale and Pits wrongly give his date as 1280, and say that he had studied at Paris and Toulouse.

[Bale, p. 337; Pits, p. 361; Tanner, p. 317, under ‘Gilbert the Cistercian;’ Hist. Lit. de la France, xiii. 381–5; Gallia Christiana, iv. 987; Menologium Cisterciense Oct. 17.]

C. L. K.