Gottschalk of Orbais

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Benedictine theologian and poet, whose teaching on predestination disquieted the Church in France and Germany; b. c. 803; d. Abbey of Hautvillers, near Reims, France, between 867 and 869. The son of Berno, a Saxon noble, Gottschalk was offered by his father as an oblate in the Benedictine abbey of Fulda. After reaching his majority, he was released at his own request from his monastic obligations by the Synod of Mainz in 829, but louis i the pious, on the appeal of his abbot, rabanus maurus, reversed this decision. Gottschalk was forced to lead a monk's life and moved to the monastery of Orbais in the Diocese of Soissons, where he studied diligently the writings of St. augustine and Fulgentius of Ruspe. With disregard for the rights of the bishop of Soissons, he was raised to the priesthood by the chorbishop Rigbold of Reims. He made a pilgrimage to Rome (c. 847) and on his return journey discussed with Count Eberhard of Friuli and Bp. Noting of Brescia his views on the twofold predestination of the elect to life and of the reprobate to death. Shortly afterward Noting alerted Rabanus Maurus, then archbishop of Mainz, of these theories and the danger of their diffusion in upper Italy. After a period of missionary activity in the Balkan regions, Gottschalk appeared before the Synod of Mainz, which in 848 condemned him for heresy and committed him to his metropolitan, hincmar of reims. In 849 Hincmar convoked another synod at quiercy-sur-oise, which again condemned Gottschalk; he was degraded from the priesthood, flogged until he was half dead, and imprisoned for life in the monastery of Hautvillers in the Diocese of reims. Toward the middle of 849 Hincmar wrote a small work to counteract Gottschalk's influence and to explain the passages from Scripture and the Fathers of the Church that he had used. This work aroused a storm of opposition from illustrious churchmen who, without openly siding with Gottschalk, defended twofold predestination; but Hincmar prevailed at the synod of Quiercy-sur-Oise in 853, and the doctrine of twofold predestination was condemned. His opponents declared against his teaching at the synods of Valence (855) and Langres (859) and proclaimed the doctrine of twofold predestination. The controversy ended with the deliberations of the national councils of Savonnières (859) and especially of Toucy (860), which enunciated generally acceptable principles and avoided explicit reference to the predestination of the reprobate to death. During this phase of the dispute over Augustinian predestination Gottschalk languished in prison almost overlooked; but, as his reputation became more widely known, his plight was brought to the attention of Pope nicholas i. When pontifical envoys were sent to Metz in June of 863 to discuss the divorce of King Lothair II, they were commissioned to get further information on the imprisoned monk. On their return to Rome the citation of Gottschalk before the Roman Curia was discussed; and in 866 a monk of Hautvillers, Guntbert, fled the monastery to bring to Rome an appeal on behalf of Gottschalk. Hincmar charged his representative at Rome to present to the Holy See in a favorable light his role in Gottschalk's imprisonment, but Nicholas's death ended the desires of the Roman Curia to have the controversial monk brought to Rome for a review of his trial and condemnation. From his arrival at Hautvillers Gottschalk had been deprived of the Sacraments; and as his end approached, Hincmar was anxious to admit him to their reception but only on condition he abjure what he considered his errors. Despite increasing insistence he remained inflexible. Stubbornly adhering to his views and embittered by the harsh treatment accorded him, the cause of the hallucinations that clouded his last years, Gottschalk resisted his archbishop to the end and died unreconciled. He taught a positive reprobation that supposed the prevision of future misdeeds, denied a universal salvific will in God after the sin of Adam, and limited the efficacy of the sufferings of Christ for salvation to those predestined to life. The interpretation of his words and the exact import of his theses needed more explanation and clarification than he was able to give them and are subject to discussion. He opposed the Eucharistic teaching of paschasius radbertus and attacked Hincmar for replacing with Summa deitas the expression Trina deitas in the Vesper hymn sanctorum meritis, from the common of many martyrs. Gottschalk left several well-written poems that rank among the best Carolingian verse and reveal depths of poetic feeling and a delicately sensitive use of rhyme.

Bibliography: Monumenta Germaniae Poetae (Berlin 1825) 3:707738; 4:934; 6:86106. c. lambot, Oeuvres théologiques et grammaticales de Godescalc D'Orbais (Spicilegium sacrum Lovaniense 20; Louvain 1945). m. manitius, Geschichte der lateinischen Literatur des Mittelalters (Munich 19111931) 1:568574. b. lavaud, Dictionaire de théologie catholique (Paris 19031950) 12:290135. f. chatillon, "Augustine in G. and Peter the Venerable," Revue de moyen-âge latin 3 (1949) 234237. k. vielhaber, Gottschalk der Sachse (Bonn 1956). j. jolivet, Godescalc d'Orbais et la Trinité (Paris 1958). k. vielhaber, Lexicon für Theologie und Kirche (Freiburg 1957) 2 4:114445. szÖvÉrffy, Die Annalen der lateinischen Hymnendichtung (Berlin 196465) 1:235244.

[j. m. o'donnell]