Benedictine historian of Christian Latin literature, patristic and medieval; b. Orléans, France, Jan. 28, 1876; d. Paris, April 21, 1941. While a student in Paris (1893–96) Wilmart was guided by Pierre batiffol to turn from philology to ecclesiastical erudition and to direct himself to the priesthood. Visits to Solesmes led to his profession there in 1901. After ordination at Appuldurcombe (Isle of Wight) in 1906, he was enrolled in another colony of the expatriated Solesmes monks, the Abbey of Farnborough in Hampshire, where he maintained his monastic stability until his death. There were, however, frequent voyages littéraires —in England, Belgium, and France, and later in Italy and Switzerland—without which his researches, regularly based upon direct study of manuscripts, would have been impossible. For a little more than a decade (1929–40), Wilmart resided mainly in Rome, occupied chiefly with the official catalogue of the codices Reginenses latini of the Vatican Library (the first 500 of these were covered in two magisterial volumes, the second of which was published posthumously). Upon Italy's entrance into World War II, Wilmart returned to France. There, amidst the rigors of wartime Paris, he spent his last working days describing Latin manuscripts of the Bibliothèque Nationale.
Wilmart's scholarly production (at least 377 books and articles and 87 reviews) centered first upon Latin patristic literature (notably Gregory of Elvira and St. Hilary) and, in part through intimate collaboration with Edmund Bishop, upon the Latin liturgy (outstanding studies on the Bobbio Missal, the Mone Masses, the Pseudo-St. Germain of Paris). Wilmart's discovery (1916–17) of the genuine prayers of St. Anselm led him into the field of medieval spiritual literature and medieval poetry. His contributions to the study, not only of St. Anselm, but of John of Fécamp, St. Bernard, the two Guigos of the Grande Chartreuse, and Hildebert, were especially fruitful. A selection of papers in this field, prompted by H. Brémond, Auteurs spirituels et textes dévots du moyen âge latin (Paris 1932) well illustrates Wilmart's consummate mastery in research and presentation.
Bibliography: a. wilmart, Lettres de jeunesse et lettres d'amitié (Rome 1963–). j. bignamiodier et al., Bibliographie sommaire des travaux du Père A. Wilmart (Rome 1953), contains indispensable autobiog. sketches. n. abercrombie, The Life and Work of Edmund Bishop (London 1959).
[b. m. peebles]