Thierry of Chartres

views updated


Teacher, philosopher, scientist, theologian, master and chancellor of Chartres, and defender of the liberal arts. B. Brittany; d. c. 1155.

Life. Little is known of the early years or even his year of birth. Thierry of Chartres signed documents as schoolmaster in the records of Chartres Cathedral in 1119 and 1121. He may have been the brother of Bernard of Chartres and may be the Thierry mentioned by Abelard, in his History of My Calamities, as having attended the Council of Soissons in 1121 and assisting the papal legate, Bishop Geoffrey of Chartres. It is the belief of most scholars that Thierry taught at Chartres until he became chancellor himself in 1142. He may have continued teaching after taking on the chancellorship. He replaced Gilbert who then became bishop of Poitiers. There is indication that Thierry also taught at Paris during the 1130s. He moved away from teaching what he calls the "ignorant mob" that students in the schools had become after the rise of the Cornifician movement of reform. He is mentioned in the writings of several students, including John of Salisbury, Adalbert, and Clarembald of Arras. Thierry obtained renown in his own time as a master of the liberal arts. Herman of Carinthia dedicated his translation of Ptolemy's Planisphere to Thierry, and Bernard Silvester dedicated his Cosmographia to him. Herman describes him, in 1143, as "Thierry the Platonist," and Bernard, in 1147, calls him "the most famous teacher." John of Salisbury, in his Metalogicon, calls him the "most studious investigator of the arts."

Thierry also served as archdeacon at Dreux, where his name appears on surviving official documents from 113642. Thierry attended the Consistory of Reims in 1148, where Gilbert's Trinitarian theories were on trial. Otto of Freising (Chronica, Patrologia Latina, ed. J. P. Migne [Paris 187890] 188, 1250) speaks of Thierry in the past tense in 1156, and a new archdeacon was named at Dreux in 1155. Little was known of Thierry's final days until, in 1946, an epitaph of him was discovered and edited by André Vernet ("Une épitaphe de Thierry de Chartres," in Recueil de travaux offerts á M. Clovis Brunell [Paris 1955] 660670). This revealed that Thierry retired to an unnamed monastery, although not before bequeathing all his bookssome seventy volumesto the library at Chartres.

Works. Thierry wrote glosses on the theological works of Boethius, Cicero's De inventione, and the pseudo-Cicero Ad Herennium. Since the gloss was primarily a teaching tool, it lent itself to natural development and additions. This helps to explain the variety of separate glosses on the same work. Nikolaus Haring has identified three separate texts of Thierry's which gloss Boethius's De Trinitate. Each has both overlapping and distinct content. These are respectively referred to as Commentum super Boethii librum De Trintate, Lectiones super Boethii librum De Trintate, and Glosa super Boethii librum De Trinitate. In the same volume Haring includes critical editions of Thierry's commentary on Boethius's Hebdomadibus and his Contra Eutychen. Thierry uses these glosses as a platform for expounding on his own ideas. Haring also has several texts and textual fragments that are attributed to unnamed students of Thierry who are collectively known as the School of Thierry of Chartres. Thierry also wrote a short treatise titled Tractus de sex dierum operibus. Although the content is offered as an historical and literal exegesis on the opening of the book of Genesis, Thierry presents the story of creation through the interpretative lens of the natural sciences of his day. This work, like William of Conches' Philosophia mundi and Dragmaticon, offer the reader insight into not only the content of Chartrian science, but its integration into philosophy and theology. Finally, Thierry put together the still unedited massive volume entitled the Heptateuchon, the book of the seven arts. This contained almost fifty individual works that ought to be studied or consulted as part of the pursuit of study in the liberal arts. This seems to have been Thierry's first response to those seeking to shorten the course of study in the schools. It was never completed.

Thought. Thierry was a great defender of the liberal arts and believed in the integration of secular and sacred knowledge. He taught that the trivium gave expression to the quadrivium, through which we could obtain knowledge of the Creator. The sciences were tools or instruments for unlocking theological truths, and their study led to a better understanding of God. Although he was schooled in the Aristotle that was available during his lifetime, Thierry was a Platonist. Hermann of Carinthia refers to him as "the soul of Plato granted once again by heaven to mortals" (De essentiis, ed. C. Burnett [Leiden 1982] 347).

Thierry's originality was expressed in a vocabulary of his own making. He speaks of the creation as an unfolding (explicatio ) of God and the universe as enfolded (complicatio ) in God who is perfect simplicity. God is the form of forms and the unity out of which all plurality and all otherness comes. Thierry's concept of intelligibilitas is also original. By it Thierry claims a power for the soul that Boethius did not articulate. He argues that human beings have an innate powerthat most people do not usethat enables them to contemplate the universal simplicity of God directly. This concept goes beyond contemplation of the forms or ideasThierry uses these terms interchangeablyand can only be described as a kind of intellectual mysticism where the distinction between the subject and the object ceases to exist.

The importance of Thierry's thought on his generation and those that came after him can be measured by the large number of students he taught, by those he inspired in their own writing, and by the number of patrons who had his writings copied.

Bibliography: Sources: Tractus de sex dierum operibus ed. n. haring, in Commentaries on Boethius by Thierry of Chartres and His School (Toronto 1971). This critical edition also includes Commentum super Boethii librum De Trintate, Lectiones super Boethii librum De Trintate, Glosa super Boethii librum De Trinitate, and Thierry's commentary on Boethius' Hebdomadibus and Contra Eutychen. Commentarius in librum Ciceronis de Inventione ed. k. m. fredborg, in The Latin Rhetorical Commentaries by Thierry of Chartres (Toronto 1988). "Le Prologus in Eptatheucon de Thierry de Chartres," ed. e. jeanueau, in Lectio philosophorum, ed. e. jeauneau (Amsterdam 1973) 3739. Literature: n.m. haring "Chartres and Paris Revisited," in Essays in Honor of Anton Charles Pegis, ed. j. r. o'donnell, (Toronto 1974); 268329; "The Creation and Creator of the World according to Thierry of Chartres and Clarembaldus of Arra," AHDLMA 22 (1955): 137216; "Thierry of Chartres and Dominicus," Mediaeval Studies 26 (1964): 27186. andrÉ vernet, "Une épitaphe de Thierry de Chartres," in Recueil de travaux offerts á M. Clovis Brunell (Paris 1955) 660670. a. zimmermann, "Die Kosmogonie des Thierry von Chartres," in Architectura Poetica, ed. u. ernst, (Köln 1990) 107118. p. dronke, "Thierry of Chartes," in A History of Twelfth-Century Philosophy, ed. p. dronke, (Cambridge 1988) 358388.

[p. ellard]

About this article

Thierry of Chartres

Updated About content Print Article