Richard Of St Victor - Encyclopedia

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RICHARD OF ST VICTOR (d. 1173), theologian and mystic of the 12th century. Very little is known of his life; he was born in Scotland or in England, and went to Paris, where he entered the abbey of St Victor and was a pupil of the great mystic, Hugh of St Victor. He succeeded as prior of this house in 1162, and was continually contesting the tyrannical authority of the abbot Ervisius. His writings, some of which are still in manuscript, are very numerous, the best known being his mystical treatises: De statu hominis interioris, De praeparatione animi ad contemplationem, De gratia contemplationis, De gradibus caritatis, De area nuptica, and his two works on the Trinity: De trinitate libri sex, De tribus appropriatis personis in Trinitate. As is the case with all the Victorines, his mysticism was a reaction against the philosophy of the schools of his time, a perpetual justification of contemplation as opposed to logical reasoning. According to him, six steps lead the soul to contemplation: (r) contemplation of visible and tangible objects; (2) study of the productions of nature and of art; (3) study of character; (4) study of souls and of spirits; (5) entrance to the mystical region which ends in (6) ecstasy. His theory of the Trinity is chiefly based on the arguments of Anselm of Canterbury, although a certain deification of the social sense is evident.

His style is most affected, and the influence of the neo-Platonist terminology as well as of the works of the pseudo-Dionysius can be clearly detected. In the Paradis Dante has placed Richard de St Victor, whose books were much read by his contemporaries, among the greatest teachers of the Church. His writings seem to have come into favour again in the 16th and 17th centuries, six editions of his works having been printed between 1506 and 1650.

Bibliography. -CEuvres, edited in the Patrologia latina by Migne, vol. cxcvi.; W. Kaulich, "Die Lehren des Hugo and Richard von St Victor" (Abhandlungen der bohmischen Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften. V. Folge, vol. xiii. (2nd ed. Paris, 1905), p. 231 (Prague, 1864); P. C. F. Daunou, article in Histoire litteraire de la France, tome xiii. (Paris, 1869); G. Buonamici, Riccardo da S. Vittore (Alatri, 1899) DeWulf, Histoire de la philosophie medievale(2nd ed.Paris,1905), p. 231.

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