Celebrating the life and works of Saint Albert the Great

Albertus Magnus (fresco, 1352, Treviso, Italy). Author: Tommaso da Modena [Public domain]
On November 15 the Catholic Church celebrates the feast day of Saint Albert the Great (Albertus Magnus), Doctor of the Church, philosopher, and the patron saint of scientists. “Known as Albert the German, Albert of Cologne, and Albert of Ratisbon, Saint Albert was known as Great even during his lifetime”. [1] Being one of the most prominent scholars of the 13th century, he is also known for being a teacher of Saint Thomas Aquinas”. [1]

Saint Albert was born in 1206 in Lauingen, situated on the left bank of the river Danube in Germany [4]. He comes from a wealthy military family and received education, which included arithmetic, grammar, and arts. His further education was in humanities and natural sciences in Bologna, Italy [2]. This is where he became acquainted with Aristotle’s physics and ethics for the first time.” [2] Saint Albert was fascinated by science and was “gifted with special instinct for scientific investigation and research”. [3] The love of study and deep piety led Saint Albert to answer God’s invitation to join the Order of Preachers (popularly known as the Dominican Order). [1]

“Saint Albert studied and learned not just for the sake of knowing, but he also investigated and challenged the works and studies of others often conducting his own experiments”. [4] Because he was an expert in not just one branch of learning but in all, his contemporaries were so impressed by his knowledge that they conferred on him a doctorate that no other man ever received – the Universal Doctor (Doctor Universalis). [3] In his work on Saint Albert, Joseph Wimmer says: “Albert has studied and described the entire cosmos from its stars to its stones”. [3] Speaking in his own words about the wealth of knowledge he accumulated, Saint Albert says the following: “When there is a question of faith and morals Augustine enjoys the greatest authority; of medicine, Galen and Hippocrates; of natural sciences, Aristotle”. [3]

Albertus Magnus - manuscript. Author: Rudolf H. Boettcher [CC BY-SA 4.0]
Albertus Magnus – manuscript. Author: Rudolf H. Boettcher [CC BY-SA 4.0]
Having a lot of administrative work and various teaching assignments, and even when serving as a bishop of Ratisbon, Saint Albert was still able to find time to write lengthy multi-volume works about natural sciences, philosophy, and theology. [2] Among many works written by Saint Albert, some of the most prominent ones include a commentary on Aristotle’s Physics, commentaries on the Sentences of Peter Lombard, Summa Theologiae, and commentaries on the Gospels and various books from the Scriptures.

Saint Albert the Great died on November 15, 1280 in Cologne, Germany. [2] He was beatified by Pope Gregory XV in 1622 and canonized in 1931 by Pope Pius XI. [2] Pope Pius XI proclaimed Saint Albert a Doctor of the Church and named him patron of students of the natural sciences. [2] Albert, the Pope said, “is precisely the saint whose example should inspire the present age, which seeks peace so ardently and is so full of hope in its scientific discoveries”. [2]

Albertus Magnus on the Frankfurt Dominican family tree. Author: Hans Holbein der Ältere [Public domain]
Albertus Magnus on the Frankfurt Dominican family tree. Author: Hans Holbein der Ältere [Public domain]
Mullen Library offers many resources on Saint Albert the Great. Please consult the library catalog or refer to the list of select resources below:

Alberti Magni Opera Omnia (database)
This is the critical edition of the works of Saint Albert the Great (Alberti Magni Opera Omnia, Editio Coloniensis).

Opera Omnia, Coloniensis Edition (1951-).
This 28-part set reproduces the complete works of Saint Albertus Magnus in Latin. This critical edition began in 1951 and lead by the Albertus-Magnus-Institut of Bonn. It is still unfinished. The text includes a critical apparatus, notes, and prefaces, in addition to bibliographical references and indexes. BQ 6334 1951 (Religious Studies and Philosophy Library Folios, room 314)

Opera Omnia, Vivés Edition (1890-1899)
This edition is based on Lyon’s edition of 1651. Edited by Auguste and Emile Borgnet. Parisiis: apud Ludovicum Vivès, 1890-1899. BQ 6334 1890 (Religious Studies and Philosophy Library, room 314)

Albert the Great: a Selectively Annotated Bibliography (1900-2000). BQ 6338 .M6 Z97 (Religious Studies and Philosophy Library, room 314)
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[1] Weisheipl, J. A. “Albert the Great, Saint” New Catholic Encyclopedia, 2nd ed., vol. 1, Gale, 2003, pp. 224-228. Gale eBooks, https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/CX3407700281/GVRL?u=wash31575&sid=GVRL&xid=a87a256e. Accessed 13 Nov. 2019.
[2] Butler, Alban, Farmer, David Hugh., and Burns, Paul. Butler’s Lives of the Saints. New full ed., vol. 11, pp. 118-120. Tunbridge Wells, Kent: Burns & Oates, 1996.
[3] Schwertner, Thomas M. Saint Albert the Great. New York: The Bruce publishing company, pp. vii-xi and 169-210. 1932.
[4] Sighart, Joachim. Albert the Great, of the order of friar-preachers: his life and scholastic labours., pp. 101-148. Dubuque, Iowa: W.C. Brown, 1967.

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