GUILLAUME OF SAINT-AMOUR (In English for foreigners)


Guillaume of Saint-Amour, a scholar from Burgundy, a Doctor of the Sorbonne, a Canon of Beauvais, an active Defender of the rights of the Clergy against the excessive pretensions of the Mendicant Orders , was praised and persecuted by the Popes according to their prejudices. Even the Monks, without reason, placed him among the Heretics. Their intrigues forced him to retire in Burgundy where he died on September 12 th 1272, in Saint-Amour, the last place of the Comté, close to Bresse. His tomb is in the choir of the parish church; this epitaph can still be seen on it:

Dux and lux cleri., cor and sententia veri,

Vir pius and charus viduit, jacet hic tumulatus;

Omnibus, hunc, hori, plebs sancti plagat amoris,

Tutorem vill, tutor, quia deficit ille.

Obiit anno 1272.

He bequeathed his house to make a hospital and his memory is venerated in the Country. Against the heresy of the Mendicant Orders, he wrote three books whith the title:<< De periculis novissimorum temporum >>. He lived during the reign of Saint Louis.

Guillaume of Saint-Amour
Guillaume's Tower at Saint-Amour

A brief survey of his life

Guillaume of Saint-Amour, together with Robert de Sorbon, founded the first congregation named after the latter who became one of its first doctors. He then became successively a prosecutor of the French nation to this school, a dean and finally a trustee of the Paris University.

Patronized by the Comte de Savoie who helped him during his studies which he probably started with the Saint Vincent chapter in Mâcon, he was a student, then a master in theology in the Paris University; he was elected a dean by his peers in 1250 or thereabaouts. His main treatises of logic, in which he does a commentary on Aristotle, probably date back from that time:

On the first analytics (In Priora Analytica) and on the second analytics (In Posteriora Analytica).

But it seems he has never studied either the De cælo or the Physics of the Stagiritte, which makes him similar to the other masters in logic of the XIIth century, such as Bernard de Scanciza and Mathieu d'Orléans. Though he remained an under-deacon, he was supplied with the income of a parish and became a canon of the Beauvais and Mâcon cathedrals.

Guillaume, like several other masters in Paris, finds it hard to tolerate the ever increasing interference of the Mendicant Orders in the teaching of the University. Being essentially a jurist, he is irritated by their wandering from the secular clergy and traditional piety. He wishes to limit their privileges, to cast discredit on their way of life, to ban them from the ministry and the rising to University chairs. He attacks particularly Saint Bonaventure who, after attending the teaching of Alexandre de Halès in Paris, in 1248 occupied there a chair that had just been reserved for the Franciscans.

At the beginning of 1255, after Bonaventure had practically resigned, the University of Paris, at Guillaume's request, suspended the regular masters. At the same time, after Guillaume went to Rome for the first time in 1254, Pope Innocent IV limited the number of chairs that the latter could occupy and cancelled some of the privileges of the Mendicant Orders. However, a few months later, Alexandre IV repealed these decrees and ordered the University of Paris to accept again the Dominicans and Franciscans in the faculty of theology. Then Guillaume tried to prove that the Mendicant Orders, like Joachim de Flore, believed in the coming of a theocratic age and of an Antichrist (Liber of Antechristo and ejusdem ministris, 1255). In 1256, Pope Alexandre IV deprived Guillaume of every academic and administrative responsability: on October 23 rd, the pope confirmed the Dominicans and Franciscans in their rights to occupy teaching chairs and appointed Franciscan Bonaventure and Dominican Thomas d'Aquin at the faculty of theology (nevertheless they were to be accepted as masters only in 1257). Guillaume did not yield and he obtained again a strong condemnation of the Mendicant Orders by a certain number of Parisian masters (De periculis novissimorum temporum ). In 1257, Guillaume was once more condemned by the pope, who had him banished from France. Then the theologian retired to Saint-Amour, in Franche-Comté where he remained until the death of Alexandre IV (1260). At that time, he went back to Paris, there he was enthusiastically welcomed by the members of the University and by the students; he resumed his struggle against the Mendicant Orders and completed his book << De periculis >> with an other entitled: << Collectiones catholicae ad canonicae scripturae >> which brought him a benevolent letter from the new pope Clément IV.

First he went back to France, thanks to Urbain IV in 1266, then he retired to Saint-Amour, in Franche Comté, however whithout ceasing his controversy against his sworn enemies. He died in Saint-Amour, on September 13 th 1272 .

Guillaume of Saint-Amour was a scholar, steady in his behaviour, but with a wild imagination which made him often go beyond the limits of moderation in the subjects that opposed his ideas. his works were printed in Paris in 1632, 1 vol in-4°. They all aim at disproving the claims of the Mendicant Orders and contain a lot of oratory.

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