Skip to main content

Berengar of Tours


BERENGAR OF TOURS (c. 10001088), rector of the schools of Saint-Martin in Tours and sometime archdeacon of Angers. Berengar was at the center of a eucharistic controversy in his own day and subsequently lent his name to a cluster of positions that more or less closely resembled his. He stands at one pole of a tension that has recurrently characterized Western thinking on the sacrament.

In 1059, under duress, Berengar took an oath formulated by Humbert, cardinal bishop of Silva Candida, to the effect that "the bread and wine which are laid on the altar are after consecration not only a sign [sacramentum ], but the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and they are physically [sensualiter ] touched and broken by the hands of the priests and crushed by the teeth of the faithful, not only in a sign [sacramento ] but in truth." The oath of 1059 passed into canonical collections as orthodox doctrine, but its crudity embarrassed most later theologians.

Returning from Rome to Tours, Berengar repudiated and attacked the oath of Humbert and defended his own position that Christ's body and blood were received by the faithful figuratively rather than naturally. This time Lanfranc of Bec led the opposition with his On the Lord's Body and Blood, to which Berengar replied in On the Holy Supper, against Lanfranc. Berengar took a "spiritual" view of salvation, in which the mental memory of the Lord's life, passion, and resurrection apparently did not entail an earthly reception of Christ's physical body, which was in fact incorruptibly located in heaven. "Eternal salvation is given us if we receive with a pure heart the body of Christ, that is, the reality of the sign [rem sacramenti ], while we are receiving the body of Christ in sign [in sacramento ], that is, in the holy bread of the altar, which belongs to the temporal order" (Beekenkamp, 1941, vol. 2, p. 158).

At a Roman council in 1079, Gregory VII secured the reconciliation of Berengar by a considerably modified oath:

The bread and wine which are placed on the altar are converted substantially into the true, proper, life-giving flesh and blood of Jesus Christ our Lord and after the consecration are, not merely in sacramental sign and power, but in the property of nature and truth of substance, the true body of Christ, which was born of the Virgin, and which as an offering for the salva-tion of the world hung upon the Cross, and sits at the right hand of the Father, and the true blood of Christ, which flowed from his side. (J.-P. Migne, ed., Patrologia Latina 150.411)

Berengar's account of the Roman council shows him still trying to interpret the late insertion of substantialiter in his own sense.

Berengar never ceased to quote Augustine: "That which you see on the altar is bread and wine, but faith insists that the bread is the body of Christ, and the wine is his blood." Berengar's interpretation of that principle, though rejected by the Roman Catholic church, finds clear echoes in the "receptionism" of parts of the Reformed tradition.


Berengar's chief work was respectively introduced and edited by W. H. Beekenkamp in two volumes: De avondmaalsleer van Berengarius van Tours and De Sacra Coena adversus Lanfrancum (The Hague, 1941). Necessary corrections have been made by R. B. C. Huygens in "À propos de Bérengar et son traité de l'eucharistie," Revue bénédictine 76, nos. 12 (1966): 133139.

The background and sequel to the Berengarian controversy are described in Gary Macy's The Theologies of the Eucharist in the Early Scholastic Period (Oxford, 1984); see especially pages 172. An account of the affair is also given in Margaret T. Gibson's Lanfranc of Bec (Oxford, 1978). Roman Catholic scholars tend to stress the inadequacy of Berengar in terms of the later teaching of the Fourth Lateran Council, Thomas Aquinas, and the Council of Trent, as does Jean de Montclos in Lanfranc et Bérenger: La controverse eucharistique du onzième siècle (Louvain, 1971). On the other hand, a sympathetic appreciation of Berengar is offered by the Protestant A. J. Macdonald in Berengar and the Reform of Sacramental Doctrine (London, 1930).

Geoffrey Wainwright (1987)

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Berengar of Tours." Encyclopedia of Religion. . 25 Sep. 2018 <>.

"Berengar of Tours." Encyclopedia of Religion. . (September 25, 2018).

"Berengar of Tours." Encyclopedia of Religion. . Retrieved September 25, 2018 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.