by C. E. Viola

It is in France, in the Benedictine Abbey of Bec-Hellouin, funded by Herluin -a Norman soldier converted to the Christian faith- and recently restored to its original use after almost two centuries of profanation, that took place in 1959 the first international meeting1 celebrating the thought of Saint Anselm one time pupil of the monastic school established by Lanfranc who became a monk, then teacher of the monastic school, prior and finally abbot of this abbey. Under his leadership, the abbey of modest origin became one of the most prestigious abbeys of the XIth century Europe. This first meeting reassembled an spectacular number of scholars of post-war times of whom more than one contributed to the renaissance of Anselm studies in France.2 At the initiative of Fr. F.S. Schmitt, whose life and work were definitively connected with Anselm, this first French meeting was followed by a first International Conference in 1970 at Bad-Wimpfen (Germany)3 which was the beginning of a series of international conferences, celebrated not only in Aosta, native home of Anselm, in Canterbury where he was archbishop, but also in the United States of America where a Conference was consecrated particularly to the investigation of the Augustinian sources of Anselm's thought. The geographical cycle: Aosta, Bec, Canterbury -three of the most important 'étapes' of Anselm's life- still continued when they commemorated in Bec the IXth century anniversary of the redaction of Anselm's first dialogues, namely that of De veritate.4

The Conference consecrated to 'Saint Anselm, a Thinker of Yesterday and Today' and organized in Paris was in some way in rupture with the habitual cycle of Anselm Conferences based on the geographical axis of Anselm's life. As a matter of fact, no historical source -no one of his letters, nor his Biographer who still was very well versed in the smallest details of his life- mentions the presence of Anselm in Lutetiae Parisiorum (Paris). Yet we know that the properties of the abbey extended until Ile de France during the abbacy of Anselm5 and he was supposed to visit them like those situated in England. We know also that Anselm went regularly to the abbey of Nogent not far away from Paris where he did not spear himself transmitting his knowledge to the young monk Guibert who later on became abbot of Nogent. Still more, two of France's Kings, Philip I (1060-1108) and his heir Louis VI, the Fat (1108-1137), addressed each of them -perhaps simultaneously-, a letter to Anselm who was archbishop in exile in Lyon (1104-1105), offering him hospitality and inviting him to come to France ('domaine royal'), whose climate, according to them, would be more fit to the health of the archbishop.6 The letter collection of Anselm did not conserve any answer of the archbishop in exile. Did he refuse the royal proposal?

But the geographical attachment does not have too much importance. It is true that the schools did not start nor flourish in Paris except form the end of the XIIth century -in a time when Anselm was already achieving his activities as a thinker- arriving at the height of their fame with the foundation of the University at the beginning of the XIIIth century. We think that a conference celebrating Anselm as a Thinker of yesterday and today had its raison d'être in Paris whose influence - in spite of the actual endeavor of decentralization- in the domain of the thought at least is without comparison with other cultural centers of Europe and perhaps of the whole world. It was not without purpose to celebrate Anselm in Paris whose thought inspired the great masters of the University of Paris in the XIIIth century if we only think of Saint Bonaventure, Henry of Ghent, Duns Scotus, and even Saint Thomas Aquinas who, in his Quaestiones disputatae de veritate, resumes and deepens the main themes of the Anselmian doctrine of the Truth, although in his critics of the famous Proslogion argument he preferred to follow the path showed by Gaunilo and followed later on by Kant. It was not without purpose to celebrate in Paris a Thinker whose fundamental thought -that namely concerning our manner of knowing God- was resumed and explored by Descartes and Malebranche. It is in Paris that have been published - for the first time in the history- by the Mauritian Benedictine monk Gerberon the complete works of Saint Anselm.7 It is in Paris that has been completed the monumental biography of Anselm due to Father Ragey.8 Even in the XXth century, eminent thinkers continued to occupy themselves with the 'ontological argument' thinking to find the paternity of this proof in the person of Anselm. Etienne Gilson gave lectures on Anselm in 1934 in the famous 'Collège de France'. In the 'Ecole pratique des Hautes Etudes', Paul Vignaux and René Roques consecrated the best of their time in elucidating the thought of the monk and of the archbishop. It is again in Paris that is going to be edited actually and for the first time the complete French translation of Anselm's works under the direction of Michel Corbin.9 These are the main reasons justifying the choice of Paris for this conference where Anselm's thought is sometimes present even in the media.

This conference was also in rupture with the habitual Anselm conferences. First of all, after the second meeting of Bec where gathered a great number of historians whose work largely contributed for a better understanding of the historical, social or geographic milieu of Anselm's life, we wanted to concentrate our researches exclusively on Anselm's thought in order to better understand Anselm the thinker, in his historical milieu but also in the repercussions of his thought throughout nine centuries, and especially during this last century of the 2nd millenary of which we are approaching the end. We tried to show how this thought of yesterday -which brings us to the turning point of the XIth-XIIth centuries- far from being considered as a mere 'pièce de musé' which would only interest some rare archaeologists of human thought, is able to inspire even toady's thought. In order to get evidence of this fact, it is sufficient to take a look at the imposing Anselm bibliography whose major part belongs to our century. Anselm studies were flourishing in a considerable way during the XXth century, and this in all domains: in the domain of textual research, critical establishment of the texts, the realization of a critical edition of Anselm's Complete Works thanks to the exemplary dedication of Fr. F.S. Schmitt who did not give up in spite of the insurmountable difficulties caused by the tragic events of the history of our century.

We wanted to place this conference to the high patronage of Cardinal Henri de Lubac who, in spite of his age and of his poor health, kindly accepted our proposition. A thinker and a theologian himself, like Anselm, he was also heir of this spirit of research which characterized already Saint Augustine, the spiritual Master of Anselm. Like Anselm in his time, he accepted the challenge of his contemporaries showing them the unique way for man: the search for the face of the Lord10, and in the same time painting the gloomy picture of the drama of a humanism which would intend to be wrongly and with all risks it implies resolutely atheist. Henri de Lubac, like Anselm, did not give up until the end of his life trying to solve the great mysteries of the faith in order to present them more intelligible and more accessible to our contemporaries. An indefectible faith in the God of Revelation together with an exemplary humility: these are two more essential features which made entirely natural the meeting of this two minds through the history. Celebrating Saint Anselm, we are celebrating also the memory of our Cardinal who, with the audacity which characterized Anselm, enabled him to overcome the inevitable difficulties which may come up in the life of a thinker rooted in the supernatural but living in this world, difficulties which took sometimes the aspect of hostility and lack of understanding.

The assiduous presence in our Conference of Sir Richard W. Southern, our Honorary President, was for the participants invaluable. It is to him that we asked to read the opening paper of our Conference. Still more, in spite of his age and of his health problems, he followed without interruption all works of the Conference with a great attention. His continuous interventions allied with an incomparable politeness made him possible to make benefit his colleagues and his posterity of the fruits of his long researches and meditations on the works and life of Anselm. His merits in the domain of historical and doctrinal research of Anselm are invaluable. His mastering of Anselm's thought and life allowed him to give us a very profound and complex global view of the Monk and of the Archbishop. His admiration for Anselm and his esteem of which testified his interventions could but encourage the future generations to recognize in the person of Anselm the identity between the perfect man, the thinker and the praying monk who was searching by his reason the hidden mysteries of our faith.

We thank our lecturers who, thanks to their competence internationally recognized, presented the various aspects of the Anselmian thought and who, in the same time, participated to the discussions of a very high level which followed each paper. It would be too long to give even in their main lines the proceeding of this discussions which have been put on tape, but the publication of which in extenso would enlarge considerably the volume of the Proceeding. Anyway, the authors of the papers ware able to give echo of the critical remarks of their colleagues in their final redaction. Nevertheless, we wanted to give in extent the discussions of the Table ronde which shows the interest our contemporaries might have for Anselm's thought and which shows some of the paths which could be explored by our contemporaries in view of their major preoccupation.

Now let us turn our look to those who contributed to the realization of this international meeting. First of all, we want to express our gratitude to the Scientific Direction of the Department of human Sciences of the 'Centre Natiional de la Recherche Scientifique', in first place to Mr. Jacques Lautman, Directeur Scientifique, to Mrs Claire Salomon-Bayet, Directeur Scientifique Adjoint who, after the very favorable judgment expressed by the 'Commission de Philosophie' gave their official agreement to the realization of our project agreeing the maximum of financial help they used to give for an international conference. We thank equally Mr. Alain Degenne, director of IRESCO who kindly agreed to held our Conference in his research center, and who gave us all facilities: the conference room with its audio-visual equipment and the restaurant, contributing in this way to a real conviviality of our colleagues. We thank him also for having accepted to honor with his presence our opening session. We must express our gratitude to the members of the Organizing Committee, especially to Helmut Kohlenberger who gave his greetings to the participants on behalf of the International Committee for Anselm Studies. It is a duty for us to thank our colleagues who accepted the presidency of the sessions, in particular to Mr. Pierre Magnard who, in quality of acting president of the 'Commission de Philosophie' of the CNRS, addressed his cordial words to the participants. Finally, I thank to my children, François, Bernard and Marie-Geneviève who, in a perfectly benevolent spirit, helped me in the sometimes ungrateful tasks of the material organization of the Conference and who gave the best of their own during the Conference in order to assure an agreeable reception and stay of the participants. To all of them I express my profund gratitude and my friendship according to the spirit of Saint Anselm.

1 Spicilegium Beccense, I, Congrès international du IXe centenaire de l'arrivée d'Anselme au Bec (Paris 1959).

2 Analecta Anselmiana

3 C. Viola, "Les Journées Internationales Anselmiennes" (Bad Wimpfen, 13-16 septembre 1970), Archives de Philosophie, 35 (1972) 149-57.

4 Spicilegium Beccense, II, Les mutations socio-culturelles au tournant des XIe-XIIe siècles. Actes du colloque international du C.N.R.S. Etudes anselmiennes IVe session, Le Bec, 11-16 juillet, (ed.) R. Foreville (Paris 1982; éditions du C.N.R.S. 1984).

5 Cf. V. Gazeau, "Le domaine continental du Bec: Aristocratie et monachisme au temps d'Anselme," Spicilegium Beccense, II (n. 4) 259-71.

6 Cf. Anselmo d'Aosta, Lettere, II, introduction G. Picasso, I. Biffi, R.W. Southern (trans.) A. Granata (Milano 1993) 240-41.

7 D. G. Gerberon, S. Anselmi ex Beccensi Abbate Cantuariensis Archiepiscopi Opera Omnia necnon Eadmeri Historia Novorum et alia opuscula, labore et studio, Monachi Congregationis S. Mauri (Paris 1675; reedition in 1721) which was reedited in J.-P. Migne, PL CLXVIII-CLXIX.

8 Ragey, Histoire de saint Anselme archevêque de Cantorbéry 2vols. (Paris-Lyon 1889).

9 L'oeuvre d'Anselme de Cantorbéry, sous la direction de M. Corbin (Paris 1986). Has been published until now vols. I-V and the complementary vol. of M. Corbin, Prière et raison de la foi. Introduction à l'oeuvre de s. Anselme de Cantorbéry (Paris 1992)

10 H. de Lubac, "'Seigneur, je cherche ton visage'. Sur le chapitre XIVe du Proslogion de saint Anselme", Archives de Philosophie, 39 (1976) 201-25 and 407-25.

C. E. VIOLA: Foreword 3