JOHN OF SALISBURY: English ecclesiastic, and bishop of Chartres; b. at Salisbury between 1110 and 1120; d. at Chartres (54 m. s.w. of Paris) Oct. 25, 1180.
He was of humble Saxon origin, but in 1136 left his native land to study in France, especially in Paris. Among his teachers there were the famous Abelard, Robert of Melun, and Alberic of Reims. After studying dialectics at Paris for two years, he went to Chartres, where for three years he heard the lectures of William of Conches, and later studied under Richard l'Évèque, Hardewin the German, Theodoric, Peter Elias, and others. He returned to Paris and began the study of theology, his teachers being Gilbert de la Porrée, Robert Pulleyne, and Simon of Poissy. Despite bitter poverty, he spent twelve years in France, passing the latter portion of the time with his intimate friend Peter, abbot of the Cistercian monastery of Moutier la Celle near Troyes, through whom he became acquainted with Bernard of Clairvaux. This powerful head of the Cistercians brought John to the attention of Theobald, archbishop of Canterbury, who had fled from England to escape Stephen. When the archbishop was able to return to his see, John was invited, in 1148 or the beginning of 1149, to act as his chancellor or secretary. He was a firm defender of the spiritual and secular supremacy of the pope and of the independence of the clergy, regarding these principles as the means of protecting mankind against the injustice of the secular arm and the consequences of sin. He sought to carry out his doctrine in practical ecclesiastical life, even though his views that only the Roman Catholic hierarchy could unfold the blessings of Christianity aroused the opposition of the court and of the bishops, the latter regarding themselves as peers of the realm rather than as subject to a distant pope. The increasing age and infirmity of the archbishop brought additional ecclesiastical responsibilities upon John, while he was able to render many important political
The most important and comprehensive work of John of Salisbury was his Policraticus sive de nugis curalium et vestigiis philosophorum, written in 1159 and dedicated to Thomas Becket. It is a system of ecclesiastical and political economics and ethics based on Christianity and the wisdom of the ancients, and designed to lead from the triviality of secular and court life to a true knowledge and government of the world. In his book the author wove from his wealth of experience both a picture of actual life and the ideal of true Christian living, in which the Church should rule and lead all mankind as the guardian and representative of divine law and true human justice. The Policraticus, the first great theory of the State in the Middle Ages, exercised an influence on Thomas Aquinas and Vincent of Beauvais. It was first edited, apparently by the Brethren of the Common Life, at Brussels about 1480. Immediately after the Policraticus John wrote the Metalogicus, which may be regarded as its continuation; this was also dedicated to Thomas Becket. This work, which is in four books and which was first edited at Paris in 1610, is a presentment of true and false science, in which the author castigates not only contempt of science, especially of logic, but also false and sophistic scholasticism. These aberrations of his contemporaries were compared with the sound views of Plato and the academic school, and especially with Aristotle, whose Organon John of Salisbury was the first in western Europe to know and use. His earliest work was his Entheticus (Eutheticus, Nutheticus), sive de dogmate philosophorum, written about 1155, and consisting of a philosophical and satirical poem in 928 distichs, dedicated to Thomas Becket. The first part contains a critical presentation of the basal concepts of the Greek and Roman philosophers, who are unfavorably contrasted with the higher truth of Christianity. The second part exhorts Thomas to consider the plight of the threatened and afflicted Church, and describes the lamentable condition of England. The poem is extant in only two manuscripts, and was first edited by C. Petersen at Hamburg in 1843. John was likewise the author of a Historia pontificalis, embracing the years 1148-52 and written about 1165 as a supplement to the chronicle of Sigibert and his immediate successors. The fragment begins with the Council of Reims, which John attended, and breaks off abruptly in the middle of a sentence discussing the events of 1152. The only edition is that by W. Arndt in MGH, Script., xx (1868), 515-545.
The minor works of John of Salisbury were his Vita Sancti Anselmi, written in 1163 as a supplement to Eadmer's larger biography of Anselm and designed as an aid in the projected canonization of the saint at the Council of Tours, and his Vita et passio Sancti Thomae, composed shortly after 1170 as an argument for the canonization of Thomas Becket. His letters, collected by him in four books, although the present collection of 327 is contained in two parts, are of great importance both for his biography and for the ecclesiastical history of his time, since they are addressed to popes (Adrian and Alexander III.), to princes, and to many ecclesiastical and secular potentates. The first edition of J. Masson (Paris, 1611) contained only 302 letters, but others have since been discovered. A number of additional works have been ascribed to this author. Some titles may refer to treatises now lost, while certain others may represent individual chapters of the Policraticus. A complete edition of the works of John of Salisbury (not without flaws) was published by J.. A. Giles (5 vols. PEA, Oxford, 1848) and reprinted in MPL, xcix.
The best sources of knowledge are his own
works, particularly his letters in vol. i. of Giles' edition,
ut sup. Two lives are those by H. Reuter, Johannes von
Salisbury, Berlin, 1842; K. Schaarschmidt, Johannes
Saresbariensis nach Leben und Studien, Schriften und
Philosophie, Leipsic, 1862. Consult further: K. Pauli,
in Zeitschrift für Kirchenrecht, 1881, pp. 265 sqq.; R. L.
Poole. Illustrations of the History of Mediaeval Thought,
chaps iv.-vii., London 1884; W. Stubbs, Seventeen
Lectures on the Study of . . . History, lects. vi.-vii., ib,
1886; P. Gennrich, in ZKG, xii (1893), 544-551; J. H.
Overton. The Church in England, i. 207, 217, 218, London,
1897; Histoire littéraire de la France, xiv. 89-161; Ceillier,
Auteurs sacrés, xiv. 675-680; Neander, Christian Church,
iv. 194-195, 357-358, 415 et passim; DNB, xxix. 439-448.
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