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History of the Christian Church, Volume IV: Mediaeval Christianity. A.D. 590-1073.
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§ 180. Fulbert of Chartres.


I. Sanctus Fulbertus, Carnotensis episcopus: Opera, in Migne, Tom. CXLI. col. 163–374. They were first printed by Masson at Paris, 1585.

II. Du Pin, IX. 1–6. Ceillier, XIII. 78–89. Hist. Lit. de la France, VII. 261–279 (reprinted in Migne, l.c. col. 167–184). Neander III. passim. Reuter: Gesch. der Rel. Aufklärung in Mittelalter (1875), I. 89–91. J. B. Souchet: Hist. du diocèse et de, la ville de Chartres. Chartres, 1867–1876.4 vols. Cf. Karl Werner: Gerbert von Aurillac. Wien, 1878. A. Vogel in Herzog2 IV. 707 sq.


The most distinguished pupils of Gerbert were the Emperor Otho III., King Robert of France, Richer, the historian of France, and Fulbert of Chartres, the most renowned teacher of his age. They represent the rise of a new zeal for learning which began to dispel the darkness of the tenth century. France took the lead, Italy followed.

Fulbert, called by his admiring disciples “the Socrates of the Franks,” was born of poor and obscure parents, probably at Chartres, about 950, and educated in the cathedral school of Rheims by Gerbert. He founded a similar school at Chartres, which soon acquired a brilliant reputation and rivalled that of Rheims. About 1003 he was elected chancellor of the church of Chartres, and in 1007 its bishop. When the cathedral burned down (1020), he received contributions from all parts of France and other countries for its reconstruction, but did not live to finish it. He was involved in the political and ecclesiastical disturbances of his country, opposed the use of the sword by the bishops, and the appropriation of church property, and sale of offices by the avaricious laity. He lost the favor of the court by his opposition to the intrigues of Queen Constantia. He died April 10, 1029.15081508    An epitaph (in Migne, l.c. 165) describes Fulbert as “suae tempestatis [sui temporis] pontificum decus, lux praeclara mundo a Deo data, pauperum sustentator, desolatorum consolator, praedonum et latronuin refrenator, vir eloquentissimus, et sapientissimus tam in divinis quam in liberalium artium libris“ There is also an epitaph in poetry, l.c. col. 171.

Fulbert’s fame rests chiefly on his success as a living teacher. This is indicated by his surname.15091509    “Venerabilis ille Socrates“ he is called by Adelmann. He was not an original thinker, but knew how to inspire his pupils with enthusiasm.15101510    Reuter (I. 89) characterizes him very well: “Ein ungewöhnliches pädagogisches Talent ist sicher demjenigen eigen gewesen, welchen die bewundernden Schüler den Socrates der Franken nannten. Die Persönlichkeit war ungleich grösser als die wissenschaftliche Leistung, das individuell Anfassende bedeutsamer als die materielle Unterweisung. Nicht fähig originelle Gedanken zu entwickeln und mitzutheilen, hat Fulbert als Bildner der Eigenthümlichkeit begabter Schüler seine Virtuosität in der anreqenden Kraft seines Umgangs gezeigt. Dieser Lehrer wurde der Vater gar verschieden gestimmter wissenschaftlicher Söhne.” His personality was greater than his learning. He wisely combined spiritual edification with intellectual instruction, and aimed at the eternal welfare of his students. He used to walk with them at eventide in the garden and to engage in familiar conversations on the celestial country; sometimes he was overcome by his feelings, and adjured them with tears, never to depart from the path of truth and to strive with all might after that heavenly home.15111511    Adelmann, one of his pupils, in a letter to Berengar, his fellow-student, reminded him of these memorable conversations, and warned him against error. See p. 554, and Neander, III. 502.

His ablest pupil was Berengar of Tours, the vigorous opponent of transubstantiation, and it has sometimes been conjectured that he derived his views from him.15121512    By Bishop Cosin (in his Hist. Transsubstantiationis), as quoted by Robertson, If. 607. But Fulbert adhered to the traditional orthodoxy, and expressed himself against innovations, in letters to his metropolitan, Leutberich, archbishop of Sens. He regarded the real presence as an object of faith and adoration rather than of curious speculation, but thought that it is not more difficult to believe in a transformation of substance by Divine power than in the creation of substance.15131513    Ep. V. (Migne, col. 201): ”Jam nunc ad illud Dominici corporis et sanguinis transeamus venerabile sacramentum, quod quidem tantum formidabile est ad loquendum: quantum non terrenum, sed coeleste est mysterium; non humanae aestimationi comparabile, sed admirable non disputandum, sed metuendum. De quo silere potius aestimaveram quam temeraria disputatione indigne aliquid definire; quia coelestis altitudo mysterii plane non valet officio linguae corruptibilis exponi. Est enim mysterium fide non specie aestimandum, non visu corporeo, sed spiritu intuendum.” Then toward,; the close of the same letter (col. 204) he says: ”Si Deum omnia posse credis, et hoc consequitur ut credas; nec humanis disputationibus discernere curiosus insistes, si creaturas quas de nihilo potuit creare, has ipsas multo magis valeat in excellentioris naturae dignitatem convertere, et in sui corporis substantiam transfundere.” The last phrase is nearly equivalent to transubstantiation. He was a zealous worshipper of the saints, especially of the Virgin Mary, and one of the first who celebrated the festival of her Nativity.

The works of Fulbert consist of one hundred and thirty-nine (or 138) Letters, including some letters of his correspondents;15141514    Epistolae, Migne, l.c. col. 189-278. Giesebrecht, Damberger, and Werner have analyzed and made much use of them. nine Sermons;15151515    Sermones ad populum. Ibid. col. 317-340. twenty-seven Hymns and Poems,,15161516    Hymni et carmina ecclesiastica. Ibid. col. 339-352. See above, 96, p. 433. and a few minor compositions, including probably a life of St. Autbert.15171517    Vita S. Autberti, Cameracensis episcopi. Ibid. col. 355-368. His letters have considerable interest and importance for the history of his age. The longest and most important letter treats of three doctrines which he regarded as essential and fundamental, namely, the trinity, baptism, and the eucharist.15181518    Ep. V. (formerly Ep. 1, in Migne, col. 196 sqq.) De tribus quae sunt necessaria ad profectum Christianae religionis, from the year 1007, addressed to his metropolitan superior. See the extract on the eucharist above, p. 784, note 3.

From the school of Gerbert at Rheims proceeded the school of Fulbert at Chartres, and from this again the school of Berengar at Tours—all equally distinguished for popularity and efficiency. They in turn were succeeded by the monastic school of Lanfranc at Bec, who came from Italy, labored in France, opposed Berengar, his rival, and completed his career in England as archbishop of Canterbury. He was excelled by his pupil and successor, Anselm, the second Augustin, the father of Catholic scholasticism. With him began a new and important chapter in the development of theology.



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