Lamennais, Félicité Robert de

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Lamennais, Félicité Robert de

Lamennais or La Mennais, Félicité Robert de (fālēsētāˈ rōbĕrˈ də lämənāˈ), 1782–1854, French Roman Catholic apologist and liberal, b. Saint-Malo. He was largely self-educated by wide, indiscriminate reading. He was converted (1804) to active Catholicism and resolved to serve the church. In 1817 he was ordained and began a brilliant campaign against Gallicanism and anti-Christian philosophy. He soon became the most celebrated French cleric of his day and was for many years the most open advocate of ultramontanism in France. He felt that the church could have no real liberty under a royal government and that free speech and a free press were necessary. He and his friends Montalembert and Lacordaire founded (1830) the journal Avenir. His work created a sensation, and he was soon embroiled with the conservative, royalistic Gallicans among the clergy. In 1831 he went to Rome to submit his quarrel to the pope, Gregory XVI, only to be condemned in the encyclical Mirari vos. He retired for two years and appeared in public as a non-Christian. His Paroles d'un croyant (1834) was the greatest work of this period. He died excommunicate. Paradoxically, Lamennais probably did more than any other church figure to break down Gallicanism and to open the way for the universal acceptance of the papal authority by French Catholics.


See studies by A. R. Vidler (1954), W. G. Roe (1966), and P. N. Stearns (1967).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Lamennais, Félicité Robert de


Born June 19, 1782, in St. Malo; died Feb. 27, 1854, in Paris. French publicist and philosopher. Abbot. One of the forefathers of Christian socialism.

Quickly overcoming his passion for the ideas of Rousseau, even in his youth Lamennais was a convinced monarchist and a faithful Catholic. In his early works (1810 through the 1820’s) he criticized the ideas of the Great French Revolution and the materialist philosophy of the 18th century. During this period his political ideal was a Christian monarchy. But by the late 1820’s he adopted a liberal point of view. Collaborating with Abbé Lacordaire and Count Montalembert, he founded the journal L’Avenir during the Revolution of 1830. The publication advocated the separation of church and state, universal suffrage, and a number of other liberal reforms. In 1834, Lamennais published Words of a Believer (Russian translation, 1906), in which he castigated capitalism from the standpoint of feudal socialism. The opinions expressed by Lamennais during the 1830’s were condemned in papal encyclicals.

Lamennais’s utopian ideas on the possibility of averting social revolutions and improving the social system through Christian love and moral self-perfection greatly influenced the development of Christian socialism—in particular, the social doctrine of Catholic modernism. During the 1950’s and 1960’s his ideas became extremely popular among left-wing Catholics. Toward the end of his life Lamennais presented his own philosophical system (Outline of Philosophy, vols. 1–4, 1840–46). In it he departed from orthodox Catholic doctrine on a number of issues, attempting to combine religion and philosophy and basing his ideas on neo-Platonism and the work of G. Leibniz.


Oeuvres complètes, vols. 1–12. Paris, 1836–37.
Oeuvres complètes, vols. 1–10. Paris, 1843–44.
Oeuvres posthumes, vols. 1–3. Paris, 1856–59.
Oeuvres inédites, vols. 1–2. Paris, 1866.
In Russian translation:
Sovremennoe rabstvo. Nizhny Novgorod, 1905.


Kotliarevskii, S. A. Lamenne i noveishii katolitsizm. Moscow, 1904.
Insarov, Kh. “Lamenne i ego vremia.” Mir bozhii, 1905, nos. 1, 2.
Speranskii, V. N. Lamenne kak politicheskii myslitel’. Petrograd, 1922.
Boutard, C. Lamennais, sa vie et ses doctrines, vols. 1–3. Paris, 1905–13.
Duine, F. M. Essai de bibliographie de F. R. de Lamennais. Paris, 1923.
Mourre, M. Lamennais ou l’hérésie des temps modernes. Paris, 1955.
Roussel, J. F. de Lamennais. Paris, 1957.
Tuloup, F. Lamennais et son époque. Dinan, 1961.
Verucci, G. F. Lamennais. Naples, 1963.
Stearns, P. N. Priest and Revolutionary. New York, 1967.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.