Saint Victor, School of

Saint Victor, School of


a theological school associated with the Abby of St. Victor, a house of Augustinian canons founded in Paris in 1113 and an international center of orthodox Catholic philosophy in the 12th century. The founder of the school of Saint Victor, William of Champeaux (c. 1068–1121), was an adherent of extreme realism and an opponent of Abe-lard. The general atmosphere of the school of Saint Victor was set by traditions of medieval mysticism traceable to Augustine and, to some extent, to Dionysius the Areopagite, and revived by Bernard of Clairvaux. Some of the philosophers associated with the school of Saint Victor used the mystical traditions as a springboard for an attack on Scholastic rationalism per se. A particularly aggressive example of this tendency was a treatise by Walter of St. Victor, Against the Four Labyrinths of France, in which the word “labyrinths” was a reference to the systems of Peter Abelard, Gilbert of Poitiers, Peter Lombard, and Peter of Poitiers.

However, the school’s most prominent thinkers—Hugh of St. Victor (c. 1096–1141) and Richard of St. Victor (died 1173)—endeavored to unite mysticism and rationalism in the tradition of medieval Platonism, drawing on the principles of Anselm of Canterbury. Their approach raised the question of the “necessary logical grounds” of even the “mysteries of faith” but subordinated reason to faith. The universalism of Hugh’s constructs anticipated the mature Scholasticism of the 13th century. Richard’s interests, which were considerably narrower, focused primarily on purely mystical themes. His doctrine of the “ascent” of the human spirit by degrees of activity of the imagination and the mind toward pure contemplation provided the necessary link between the earlier tradition of Christian Platonism and the doctrines of Bonaventure.


Trakhtenberg, O. V. Ocherkipo istorii zapadno-evropeiskoi srednevekovoi filosofii. Moscow, 1957.
Dumeige, G. Richard de St.-Victor et l’idée chrétienne de l’amour. Paris, 1952.
Grabmann, M. Die Geschichte der scholastischen Methode, vol. 2. Berlin, 1957.


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