1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Hugh of St Victor

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20387061911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 13 — Hugh of St VictorPaul Daniel Alphandéry

HUGH OF ST VICTOR (c. 1078–1141), mystic philosopher, was probably born at Hartingam, in Saxony. After spending some time in a house of canons regular at Hamersleben, in Saxony, where he completed his studies, he removed to the abbey of St Victor at Marseilles, and thence to the abbey of St Victor in Paris. Of this last house he rose to be canon, in 1125 scholasticus, and perhaps even prior, and it was there that he died on the 11th of February 1141. His eloquence and his writings earned for him a renown and influence which far exceeded St Bernard’s, and which held its ground until the advent of the Thomist philosophy. Hugh was more especially the initiator of a movement of ideas—the mysticism of the school of St Victor—which filled the whole of the second part of the 12th century. “The mysticism which he inaugurated,” says Ch. V. Langlois, “is learned, unctuous, ornate, florid, a mysticism which never indulges in dangerous temerities; it is the orthodox mysticism of a subtle and prudent rhetorician.” This tendency undoubtedly shows a marked reaction from the contentious theology of Roscellinus and Abelard. For Hugh of St Victor dialectic was both insufficient and perilous. Yet he did not profess the haughty contempt for science and philosophy which his followers the Victorines expressed; he regarded knowledge, not as an end in itself, but as the vestibule of the mystic life. The reason, he thought, was but an aid to the understanding of the truths which faith reveals. The ascent towards God and the functions of the “threefold eye of the soul”—cogitatio, meditatio and contemplatio—were minutely taught by him in language which is at once precise and symbolical.

Manuscript copies of his works abound, and are to be found in almost every library which possesses a collection of ancient writings. The works themselves are very numerous and very diverse. The middle ages attributed to him sixty works, and the edition in Migne’s Patr. Lat. vols. clxxv.-clxxvii. (Paris, 1854) contains no fewer than forty-seven treatises, commentaries and collections of sermons. Of that number, however, B. Hauréau (Les Œuvres de Hugues de St Victor (1st ed., Paris, 1859; 2nd ed., Paris, 1886) contests the authenticity of several, which he ascribes with some show of probability to Hugh of Fouilloi, Robert Paululus or others. Among those works with which Hugh of St Victor may almost certainly be credited may be mentioned the celebrated De sacramentis christianae fidei; the Didascalicon de studio legendi; the treatises on mysticism entitled Soliloquium de arrha animae, De contemplatione et ejus operibus, Aureum de meditando opusculum, De arca Noë morali, De arca Noë mystica, De vanitate mundi, De arrha animae, De amore sponsi ad sponsam, &c.; the introduction (Praenotatiunculae) to the study of the Scriptures; homilies on the book of Ecclesiastes; commentaries on other books of the Bible, e.g. the Pentateuch, Judges, Kings, Jeremiah, &c.

See B. Hauréau, op. cit. and Notices et extraits des MSS. latins de la Bibliothèque Nationale, passim; De Wulf, Histoire de la philosophie médiévale (Louvain, 1900), pp. 220–221; article by H. Denifle in Archiv für Literatur und Kirchengeschichte des Mittelalters, iii. 634-640 (1887); A. Mignon, Les Origines de la scholastique et Hugues de St Victor (Paris, 1895); J. Kilgenstein, Die Gotteslehre des Hugo von St Victor (1898). (P. A.)