Albertus Magnus

~1200 – 1280

Albertus Magnus was likely born in Bavaria, and he probably studied at the University of Padua in Italy; the historical record has him pegged for sure beginning in 1245, as a young Dominican Friar in Paris, who, through his teaching and writing, was attempting to bridge the gap between the classical sciences and contemporary religious beliefs.

By writing theses on nearly all of Aristotle’s work, he propelled the ancient master of philosophy into the vogue of medieval academia. Magnus impressed Aristotle’s scientific method upon his own scholastic approach to theology, and he wielded an extensive knowledge of the natural arts.  He was a major proponent of free will and the study of astronomy, two ideas he intricately connected in his work The Mirror of Astronomy (Speculum Astronomiae, ~1260).

Also known as Albert the Great, Magnus was well liked, with a reputation for humility. He ascended steadily in the ranks of his Order, and Pope Alexander IV appointed him to the office of the Bishop of Regensburg in 1260. He opted out of riding horses in accordance with his faith, and earned the nicknamed ‘Boots’ from members of his parish.

The later Middle Ages would come to know Albertus Magnus as a master of alchemy, due to a number of pseudo-texts written after his death. He himself had little to say on the subject, although he did acknowledge the intrinsic occult properties of stones. He is among a number of historical figures oft reported to have built or acquired a brazen head, a brass automaton that would answer truthfully any question asked of it.

Magnus’ relics are held in a Roman sarcophagus in Cologne, Germany. He is the patron saint of natural sciences. In his honor, the Alberta Manga flower was named for him; it is native to South Africa, and colloquially referred to as the Natal Flame Bush.

Major Works

Opera Omnia, volume 1 (Latin)

Of Cleaving to God

An incomplete corpus of Magnus’ work can be found here.

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