Saint Anselm of Aosta

A famous local, saint, philosopher and Archbishop of Canterbury

The biography of Saint Anselm of Aosta

Also called Anselm of Canterbury for helding the office of Archbishop of Canterbury, Saint Anselm of Aosta was born in Aosta in 1033, where he received his first religious education from his mother Ermemberga. When he was 20 years old, his mother died, and Anselm cut all ties with his father Gondulfo — who wanted to prevent him from entering the religious life — and began travelling around Bourgogne and France, to the schools of the best masters, following the tradition of the clerici vagantes, or "wandering scholars".

In the Benedictine abbey of Le Bec, in Normandy, he chose Prior Lanfranco of Pavia as his master, firstly becoming a monk, then a prior and director of the monastery school and, lastly, an abbot (1078).

He was called to England by Lanfranco to reorganise monastic life there. In 1093 he was elected Archbishop of Canterbury. In England he clashed with Kings William and Henry I on numerous occasions and for this reason went into exile twice, returning to Italy. Anselm died in Canterbury in 1109,  was canonised in 1494 and appointed a Doctor of the Church in 1720.

Saint Anselm's thought

Saint Anselm believed that human reason did not oppose faith, but, on the contrary, was an essential tool for theological speculation. "Credo ut intelligam" (I believe to understand) is the effective formula used by Anselm to summarise his method. Anselm is not only remembered as a theologian, but also as a philosopher (he is often called the "Father of Learning"), especially for his research, which he developed in Proslogion, of an unum argumentum, a unique and immediate principle based exclusively on himself to demonstrate the existence and attributes of God. Immanuel Kant defined this demonstration as "ontological argument for the existence of God", although Anselm never used this expression.

Memories of St. Anselm in the Aosta Valley

There are various places and institutions in Aosta and its surroundings that directly commemorate Saint Anselm.

  • The house called the "Saint Anselm house" (Aosta, Via S. Anselmo, 66): was built in the XVI century, when, according to tradition, the saint  was born.
  • La Bagne Fortress(Gressan): owned by the De Balnea nobles, this fortress (known as Torre di Sant’Anselm), according to the historian De Tillier, later became the summer residence of Saint Anselm's family. According to another tradition this is where the saint was born.
  • Monument to St. Anselm (Aosta, Via Xavier De Maistre, to one side of the Maggiore Seminary): in 1909, to mark 800 years since his death, inhabitants of the town decided to erect a statue in his memory, created by the sculptor A. Stagliano.
  • St. Anselm Seminary (Aosta, Via dei Cappuccini, 2):  built by Giuseppe Augusto Duc, Bishop of Aosta, from 1889-1891, on the buildings of a previous Capuchin convent (founded in 1618 and abolished by the French government in 1802).
  • Academy of Saint Anselm. Founded in 1855, it is the oldest and most prestigious cultural institution in Valle d'Aosta.
 
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