Albertus Magnus, also known as Saint Albertus the Great, was a renowned scientist and catholic saint. Due to his prowess in both fields, Albertus was given the title ‘Doctor Universalis’. He was ranked as one of the best theologians and philosophers of the middle ages.
During the course of his life, Magnus demonstrated several links between religion and science which was a hot topic of debate back in the medieval period.
According to history, Albertus Magnus was one of the first philosophers to combine Christianity with Aristotelian philosophy.
Centuries after his death, a lot of stories emerged about Albertus being both a magician and an alchemist. There is no doubt that he was a man of many talents and played a big role in society. Here is an article on the life of Albertus Magnus.
It’s estimated that Albertus was born between 1193 and 1206 in Bavaria, Germany. He was the eldest son of Count Bollstadt. He attended school in Padua, Italy where he was introduced to Aristotle’s writing. It’s alleged that he joined the Dominican Order in 1223 after having an encounter with the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Under the Dominicans, Albertus studied theology at Cologne, but later on, he was called to Paris where he was awarded a doctorate and began teaching.
One of his famous students is Thomas Aquinas whom Albertus returned with to Paris when he was appointed to organize the new Studium Generale also known as House of Studies. There, Thomas Aquinas became the 2nd professor and was under Albertus who was Regent.
With the assistance of Thomas Aquinas and Peter of Tarentaise who later became Pope Innocent V, they crafted rules for the course of studies in 1250.
Four years later, he was elected as provincial of the Dominican Order in Germany. During this time, he spoke out against errors of the Averroists and defended William St Amuor’s books from the harsh condemnation from Pope Alexander IV. In 1256 Albertus resigned from being a provincial and focused mainly on his studies.
The Catholic Church was still in need of Albertus’ services, and this is why in 1260, he was appointed the bishop of Regensburg by Pope Alexander IV. This didn’t last long because he resigned in 1961 when the pope died and returned to Cologne to be a professor. He spent out the rest of his life as a preacher.
Some of his notable life achievements include having preached in the 8th crusade in Austria 1270. In 1274, he was summoned by Pope Gregory X to the council of Lyons. On his way there he was informed that his student Thomas Aquinas had passed on.
In 1277, he also went to Paris with the aim of defending both his and Thomas’s writings from the unbelieving philosophers.
Thomas collapsed in 1278, and this led to his death on 15th November 1280. He died in Cologne Germany, and his tomb remains in the crypt of the Dominican Church of St. Andreas.
Centuries after his death, Albert the Great was named a doctor by the church and canonized in 1931 by Pope Pius XII.
The great works of Albertus have been published twice. The first is in Lyons in 1651, that saw 21 volumes published. The second, which consisted of 38 volumes, was published between 1890 to 1899 in Paris.
In his works, Albert the Great touched on all aspects of science including astronomy, botany, theology, logic, chemistry, physiology and much more.
In his time, he was the most diverse author. This is where he got his nickname ‘Doctor Universalis’ because he displayed encyclopedic knowledge.
He was a keen student of the Aristotelianism, and he promoted it against the conventional arguments of the theologians of his time. He also interpreted Latin translations and notes from Arabian commentators.
All this information, he correlated it with the church doctrine. He was a keen follower of Aristotle’s works, and this even gave him another nickname, ‘Aristotle’s Ape’.
Albertus As A Magician and Alchemist
Other than being a renowned theologian, Albertus had a passion for science. Before his death, he had done numerous experiments in every area of the then medieval science. The two were a clear presentation that the Roman Catholic Church was not in any way against the study of nature.
Albert worked alongside other alchemists such as Roger Bacoon. In some instances, he was criticized for leaning more towards science than theology. But he had a lot of respect for the church, and most of his teachings had to go through the church before being published.
History refers to Albert the Great as a magician because of the work he did back in the day. This, however, continues to be debatable because modern science has proven otherwise.
The ‘Experimenta Alberti’ included some of the works that associate Albertus with Magic. However, some historians have claimed that these were false stories by different authors who wanted to gain prestige of text through association.
Of course, as a man of science, Albertus made several contributions to alchemy. Nonetheless, he never openly discussed this. At one point in his life, he did make a commentary on Aristotle regarding the power of stones.
There are also a number of pseudo-Albertine works that are related to alchemy. Examples include the Secrets of Chemistry and Origin of Metals. He is also credited for discovering the element arsenic, as well as experimenting on various other compounds and elements.
Legend has it that Albert also discovered the philosophical stone and passed it to his student Thomas Aquinas before passing on. The truth in this legend is off-key because according to history, Thomas passed away first. It is therefore highly unlikely for him to have passed the stone to his pupil.
In the 13th century, the study of philosophy was limited when it came to Christianity. Albertus Magnus is one of the few people who defied this and combined both philosophy and theology. He linked Aristotelian methods with Christian principles. In between 1210 and 1215, the study of Aristotle’s physics was banned in Paris. This is because it was believed that the concepts of Pagan philosophers was not to be adopted by the Christians.
However, Albertus believed that the enthusiasm for scholarly studies shouldn’t be prohibited, and this is why he strived to make distinctions between truths that could be answered by nature and mysteries that could only be answered by revelation.
According to Albertus Magnus, philosophy required the understanding of logic, using both reason and ethics to come up with rational choices. He also highly considered the contribution of politics and domestic interactions.
Contribution to Aristotelian Philosophy and Christianity
Albertus played a significant role in the reception of Aristotle’s teaching to Christians in Western Europe. He had a strong understanding of the Aristotelian program and saw nothing wrong with incorporating these studies into Christianity.
With the help of Thomas Aquinas, he helped shape the minds of people on how natural philosophy didn’t present any obstacle towards the Christian perception of the natural order.
He went on to experiment on how Aristotelian philosophy drew conclusions from inductive and deductive logic. According to Albertus the great, he didn’t see how the two opposed each other in any way.
Saint Albert the Great was an exceptional German philosopher. Before his demise, he had succeeded at demonstrating that the study of science was compatible with religious faith.
Although in the medieval times, Albert with the assistance of great thinkers like Thomas Aquinas, came up with compelling research and arguments that they presented to the church and world in general.
The numerous contributions made by Albertus Magnus in different fields continue to be used up to date. He was termed the most widely read author of his time because of the comprehensive knowledge he portrayed. His writings were put together in 38 volumes, and before his death, he had compiled no less than seventy books.
Albertus Magnus is a man who isn’t only celebrated by the Christian community, but also the scholarly.