Richard of St Victor was an Augustinian Canon at the Abbey of St Victor, Paris. He died in 1173 having become prior in 1162 and written widely on many areas of theology. His extant books indicate knowledge of teaching from the Early Christian Fathers, spirituality, biblical commentaries, and doctrine concerning the Trinity. He was well respected for his personal knowledge of contemplative prayer which he demonstrated in two works – the Twelve Patriarchs (Benjamin Minor) and the Mystical Ark (Benjamin Major). These two works take biblical themes and use them to describe the stages in contemplative prayer. However, Richard was also considered to be a great theologian and produced a work of spiritual theology – De Trinitate – in which he explores the internal relationship of the Holy Trinity. In this work he uses his understanding of human love to develop his doctrine of the Trinity. He explains that the love between Father, Son and Holy Spirit is like that of two humans who love each other and whose love is complete at the birth of a child. This work was valued in the Middle Ages, as is attested by the fact that there are two copies in Worcester Cathedral Library in the thirteenth-century F32 at folios 293-313v, and F149 folios 113-155. F32 has some omissions in the text, is heavily used and annotated, and appears to be copied from F149, which was used as its exemplar. F149 is written in a single hand using French gothic quadrata bookhand, and initials and chapter numbers are written and decorated with blue and red ink.
In addition to holding two copies of this great work, Worcester Cathedral Library also holds thirteenth-century copies of Richard’s Liber Exceptionum II (Book of Selections) in F50, ff 91v-92v and sermons in Q77, ff 110rv-121v. Liber Exceptionum contains information needed to train monks and is full of references to teaching from the Early Church Fathers. Q77 was presumably written by Worcester monks, and consists of a collection of quires. Originally there were thirteen separate quires or groups, and some appear to have been used for preaching in the pulpit. Parts of the book are made from parchment off-cuts and the irregular shape of some pages shows the natural shape of the animal skin.
A modern English translation of Richard’s De Trinitate was published in 2011, (see the Bibliography) making the text more accessible for those who wish to read, and learn more about, Richard’s doctrinal theology. In producing this book Ruben Angelici has attempted a fairly literal translation of Richard’s Latin. Angelici’s introduction to the work outlines Richard’s theology, and also indicates its importance for today.
Richard of St Victor, On the Trinity, trans., Ruben Angelici (Eugene, Oregon: Cascade Books, 2011).
Chase, Steven, Contemplation and Compassion – The Victorine Tradition (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 2003).
Thomson, R. M., A Descriptive Catalogue of the Medieval Manuscripts in Worcester Cathedral Library (D. S. Brewer on behalf of the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral, 2001).