Philip of Harvengt

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Praemonstratensian abbot and ecclesiastical writer; b. Harvengt (?), near Mons (Belgium), early 12th century; d. Bonne-Espérance, April 11 (13?), 1183. He received a good classical education, probably at the cathedral school at Cambrai. He entered the monastery of Bonne-Espérance and in 1130 was made prior under the first abbot, Odo. Difficulties ensued with St. bernard of clairvaux over an incident involving a monk from Bonne-Espérance who wished to join the house of Clairvaux. The conflict caused considerable notoriety, and opposition to Philip was aroused. In 1149 he was removed from his position by the general chapter of the order, and with seven other monks he was sent to another monastery. He was reinstated at Bonne-Espérance in 1151, and in 1158 he succeeded Odo as abbot. Under Philip's rule the abbey prospered, the collection of manuscripts continued, and intellectual activity among the monks flourished.

His writings reveal a vast knowledge of the ancient classics, the Bible, and the writings of the Church Fathers. He stands as a distinguished representative of prescholastic Augustinian philosophy. Many of his works were written for the education and inspiration of his own monks. Of these, the De institutione clericorum is a mirror of his views on monastic and clerical life. In his commentaries on Scripture, of which that on the Canticle is most important, he employed the allegorical explanations typical of his time. He wrote also a number of biographies, including those of St. Augustine and Odo of Rivreuille. In his theological teaching he failed to do complete justice to the human nature of Christ and its capacity to suffer, and, although he accepted the idea of the Assumption of the Blessed Mother, he denied the Immaculate Conception in the sense in which it was propounded at that time.

His works were edited at Douai in 1621 by Nicolas Chamart, Abbot of Bonne-Espérance, and were included in Migne (Patrologia Latina v.203). However, modern scholarship has ascertained that certain treatises in these editions have been falsely ascribed to Philip of Harvengt.

Bibliography: Analecta Praemonstratensia 14:37and 189; 15:129166; 35:336-; 37:530, 177231. m. fitzhum, Die Christologie der Praemonstratenser im 12. Jahrhundert (Marienbad 1939) 62129. f. petit, La Spiritualité des Prémontrés aux XXI e et XIII e siècles (Paris 1947) 129. a. erens, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique 12.1:140711.

[j. c. willke]