Bernard of Chartres

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Platonist, subdeacon, master and chancellor of Chartres, renowned teacher of grammar and philosophy; b. Brittany, c. 1160; d. between 1124 and 1126.

Little is known of Bernard's upbringing or educational background. From 1108 and probably earlier, he was subdeacon at Chartres cathedral, and he remained a subdeacon for the rest of his life. Some time Between 1110 and 1115 Bishop Ivo of Chartres appointed him master of the cathedral school, where his fame as a teacher drew many students to Chartres, including some of the most important figures in the intellectual life of the next generation. Bernard was the chancellor by 1124 and perhaps as early as 1119, which was the date of the death of the previous chancellor, Vulgrin. He signed documents as chancellor in 1124 and died between then and 1126, when Gilbert of Poitiers, his student, became the new chancellor. He bequeathed 24 volumes to the cathedral library.

The little we know of Bernard comes to us third hand from John of Salisbury's Metalogicon, where he waxes nostalgic about his education in the schools of France. John presents Bernard as the ideal philosopher/teacher in opposition to the Cornificians, educational reformers whom John despised. Three of Bernard's students, Gilbert of Poitiers, William of Conches, and Richard the Bishop were all teachers of John, and they instilled in him their deep sense of admiration for Bernard, whom John calls the "old man of Chartres." Of the few sayings of Bernard that John recounts, none is more famous than his description of contemporary thinkers as "dwarfs seated on the shoulders of giants" who had gone before them. John also describes in some detail the method by which Bernard taught grammar and about his insistence on instilling a sense of morals and faith. John also develops to some length certain aspects of Bernard's Platonism and his desire to reconcile Plato and Aristotle. Of note is Bernard's use of the term formae nativae which he uses to describe the way that the ideas of the divine mind, which are eternal but not co-eternal with God, are present in the things of the world. They are secondary forms distinct from the ideas that forever reside in the divine mind. Both John and Hugh of St. Victor (Didascalicon 3.1219) record what is believed to be a short poem by Bernard concerning the "Six Keys of Learning." Paul Dutton has edited what he believes is Bernard's gloss on Plato's Timaeus. Scholarly opinion is still divided on the attribution. Opinion is also divided on whether or not Bernard was the brother of Thierry of Chartres.

Bibliography: bernard of chartres Glosae super Platonem, ed. p. dutton (Toronto 1992). p. dutton, "Uncovering the Glosae super platonem of Bernard of Chartres,"in Medieval Studies XLVI (1984): 192221. d. luscome, "Bernard of Chartres," in The Encyclopedia of Philosophy 1 (New York 1967) 305. l. merlet and r. merlet, Les dignitaires de l'église Notre-Dame de Chartres: Listes chronologiques. Archives du diocèse de Chartres 5 (Chartres 1900). e. jeauneau, "Bernard of Chartres," in Dictionary of Scientific Bibliography 2 (New York 1970) 1920. r. giacone, "Masters, Books and Library at Chartres According to the Cartularies of Notre Dame and Saint Père," Vivarium 12(1974) 3051. e. gilson, "Le platonisme de Bernard de Chartres," in Revue Néo-scholastique de philosophie 25 (1923) 519. a. clerval, "Bernard of Chartres," in Les lettres chrétiennes 4 (Paris 1882), 390397; Les écoles de Chartres au Moyen Age du Ve au XVIe siècle (Paris 1895). See also the introduction and appendices of P. Dutton's critical edition above.

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Bernard of Chartres

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