« Benzo Berengar of Poitiers Berengar of Tours »

Berengar of Poitiers

BERENGAR OF POITIERS: A younger contemporary and zealous adherent of Abelard. Practically nothing is known of his life except what may be learned from his few brief writings. These, however, are not without interest, partly because (in spite of their being by no means completely trustworthy) they are among the authorities for the history of the Council of Sens in 1141, and partly for the light which they throw on the mental attitude and literary tone which prevailed among the disciples of Abelard and opponents of Bernard about the middle of the twelfth century. There are three of them extant: an Apologeticus against Bernard, an Epistola contra Carthusienses, and an Epistola ad episcopum Mimatensem, the bishop of Mende. The first was written not long after the Council of Sens, but not until the sentence of Innocent II against Abelard was known. Toward the end of it Berengar points out that other teachers, such as Jerome and Hilary of Poitiers, had made mistakes without being deposed; but a large part of the tractate is a personal attack on Bernard, accusing him of having made frivolous songs in his youth, taught the preexistence of the soul, and made up his commentary on the Canticles of a lot of heterogeneous material, partly borrowed from Ambrose. Especially bitter are his accusations of duplicity and unfairness in connection with the Council of Sens. The shorter but equally malicious letter against the. Carthusians, who had taken a stand against Abelard, accuses them of breaking their vow of silence to speak calumny, and, while abstaining from the flesh of beasts, devouring their fellow men. The third letter is written in a different tone. Berengar's boldness had apparently stirred up so much hostility that he feared for his safety, left home, and sought an asylum in the Cévennes, whence he wrote to beg the bishop's protection, not exactly as a penitent, though he implies that he has approached more nearly to Bernard's standpoint. Whether he succeeded in setting himself right cannot be told, as nothing is known of his later life.

(F. Nitzsch†.)

Bibliography: Berengar's works are usually printed among Abelard's, e.g., in Cousin's ed., ii, 771 sqq., 2 vols., Paris, 1849–59; also in MPL, clxxviii. Consult also Histoire littéraire de la France, xii, 254 sqq., Paris, 1763; Hefele, Conciliengeschichte, v, 427–428; S. M. Deutsch, Die Synods von Sens, 1141, und die Verurteilung Abälards, pp. 37–40, Berlin, 1880.

« Benzo Berengar of Poitiers Berengar of Tours »
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