Anselm of Laon

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Anselm of Laon (died 1117) was a French theologian and founder of a school of scholars who helped to pioneer biblical hermeneutics.

Remembered in the century after his death as "Anselmus" or "Anselm", his name was more properly "Ansellus" or, in Modern French, "Anseau."

Born of very humble parents at Laon before the middle of the 11th century, he is said to have studied under Saint Anselm at Bec, though this is almost certainly incorrect. Other potential teachers of Anselm have been identified, including Bruno of Cologne and Manegold of Lautenbach. By ca. 1080, he had moved back to his place of birth and was teaching at the cathedral school of Laon, with his brother Ralph. In ca. 1109 he became dean and chancellor of the cathedral, and in 1115 he was one of Laon's two archdeacons. His school for theology and exegesis rapidly became the most famous in Europe. Famously, in 1113 he expelled Peter Abelard from his school.

The Liber Pancrisi (c. 1120) names him, with Ivo of Chartres and William of Champeaux, as one of the three modern masters.


Anselm's greatest work, an interlinear and marginal gloss on the 'Scriptures', the Glossa ordinaria, now attributed to him and his followers,[1] was one of the great intellectual achievements of the Middle Ages. It has been frequently reprinted. The significance of the gloss, which was most likely assembled after Anselm's death by his students, such as Gilbert de la Porrée, and based on Anselm's teaching, is that it marked a new way of learning — it represented the birth of efforts to present discrete patristic and earlier medieval interpretations of individual verses of Scripture in a readily accessible, easily referenced way. This theme was subsequently adopted and extended by the likes of Hugh of St. Victor, Peter Lombard and later Thomas Aquinas, who gave us 'handbooks' for what we would now call theology.

Other commentaries apparently by Anselm have been ascribed to various writers, principally to Anselm of Canterbury. A list of them, with notice of Anselm's life, is contained in the Histoire littéraire de la France, x. 170-189.

The works are collected in Migne's Patrologia Latina, tome 162; some unpublished Sententiae were edited by G Lefevre (Milan, 1894), on which see Barthélemy Hauréau in the Journal des savants for 1895. The commentary on the Psalms published by Migne in vol. 116 and attributed to Haymo of Halberstadt has also been identified as possibly being the work of Anselm.


  1. ^ Lindberg, David (1978). Science in the Middle Ages. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0226482324. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Giraud, C. (2010). Per verba magistri. Anselme de Laon et son École au XIIe siècle. Brepols Publishers. ISBN 978-2-503-53341-4.