November 15

St. Albert the Great

St. Albert the Great

Also known as Albert Magnus or Albert of Cologne, St. Albert was bornsometime before 1200 and he died in 1280 in the Dominican convent inCologne. Facts about his life aren’t well documented, so most areassumptions. The exact year of his birth is not known but some sourcesclaim that he was 87 years old at the time of his death. That is why1193 is commonly given as his year of birth. He was probably born inLauingen since he referred to himself as Albert of Lauingen, but thereis also a probability that Lauingen could have just been his familyname. There is also a probability that he came from a religious family.

His Work as a Lecturer

St. Albert probably attended the University of Padua, where he receivedinstruction from Aristotle’s writings. He was a philosopher and CatholicFriar from Germany who filled the position of a lecturer at Cologne inGermany, and he taught for several years there. During his first tenureas a lecturer, he wrote his Summa de Bono. In 1245 he became the masterof theology under Geuric of saint Quentin who was the first Germany toachieve this distinction.

Following how things turned out, St. Albert went on to become a fulltime professor at the University of Paris. While he was there, he madeAristotle’s writings accessible to broader academic debates bycommenting on them. He also studied and commented on the teachings ofMuslim academics, and this brought him to academic debate. He answeredto what he deemed as errors of the Islamic philosopher Averroes.

In 1254 he became the provincial Dominican Order and fulfilled hisduties satisfactorily. He publicly defended the Dominicans from attacksby the regular faculty of the University of Paris. In 1259 he took partin the general chapter of the Dominicans at Velenciennes with others andthey established a program of studies for the Dominicans. They made thestudy of philosophy an innovation for those not sufficiently trained tostudy theology.

In 1260 he was made the bishop of Regensburg by Pope Alexander IV. Herefused to ride on a horse and walking long distances on foot, therebyenhancing his reputation of humility. He became affectionately known as“boots the bishop”. After resigning in 1263, Pope Urban asked him topreach at the eighth crusade in the German-speaking countries.

His Contributions

St Albert was the founder of Germany’s oldest university in Cologne, andhe was also known as the mediator between conflicting parties. Assomeone who was a scientist, a theologian, philosopher, ecumenist,astrologer, spiritual writer and diplomat, he molded the curriculum ofstudies of all Dominican students. During his time he was known asDoctor universalis. Some scholars even refer to him as the greatestGerman philosopher and theologian of Middle Age.

He had encyclopedic knowledge of topics such as logic, theology, botany,geography, astronomy, astrology, mineralogy, alchemy, zoology, musictherapy, physiology, phrenology, justice, law, friendship, and love.And, deeply studied and preserved Aristotle’s work. His knowledge ofnatural science was astonishingly accurate for the age. St. Albertinvented entire special sciences where Aristotle has not covered a topicand this knowledge of different fields earned him the title DoctorUniversalis.

Some reports from years after his death claim that St. Albert was amagician, but that confusion was fueled alchemy works that were falselyattributed to him in an attempt to increase prestige throughassociation.


The Catholic Church recognizes him as one of the 36 Doctors of thechurch and he is the patron saint of natural scientists, medicaltechnicians, philosophers and scientists. His feast day is on the 15thof November.

His relics are in a Roman sarcophagus in St Andreas Church in Cologne.

St. Albert was beatified in 1622 and canonized and proclaimed the Doctorof the church on the 16th of December 1931.

He is attributed with a Dominican habit, mitre, book and quill. A numberof schools have been named after him.

6 Interesting Facts About St. Albert the Great

  1. St Albert is reported to have had an encounter with the Blessed
    Virgin Mary who convinced him to enter the Holy Order.
  2. During his later days in life, St Albert had the sobriquet Magnus
    appended to his name.
  3. St Albert was the first to comment on the works of Aristotle
  4. St Albert is responsible for “the big verdict” which brought an
    end to the conflict between the citizens of Cologne and the
  5. St Albert and Aquinas’ thirty years of work allowed for
    Aristotle’s’ work to be in the Dominican schools’ curriculum.
  6. He discovered the element arsenic.

Prayer to St. Albert the Great

Let us pray, O God, who did richly adorn St. Albert with your heavenlygifts and decorated him with all virtues, grant that, following in hisfootsteps, we may persevere in your service until death and securelyobtain an everlasting reward. Through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord.Amen.