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Title: Authority and power in the writings of St. Bernard of Clairvaux
Author: Chapman, A. L.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2006
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Abstract:
This thesis examines the vocabulary used to express the relationship between authority (auctoritas) and power (potestas) in the writings of St Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153). Bernard was influenced by the early Christian-distinction drawn by Pope Gelasius I in a letter to the eastern Emperor, Anastasius in 494 C.E. Gelasius I distinguished between auctoritas, the authority belonging to -the church and polestas, the power held by the emperor. Bernard of Clairvaux maintained a similar distinction between auctoritas and potestas and used auctoritas exclusively to describe the authority of God, the church, Holy Scripture, and those in ecclesiastical positions. Throughout his writings Bernard restricted auctoritas and did not use the term to describe the position, actions or functions of a king, the emperor or other secular rulers. Conversely, Bernard used potestas more broadly, with meanings ranging from the power of a king or secular ruler to the power of God, the power of bishops, and even the power of the devil. The number of textual occurrences bear out the difference in scope between the two terms. Potestas was used 331 times throughout Bernard’s texts compared with only 152 occurrences of auctoritas. This proves that Bernard moved beyond the simple division between the authority of the church and the power of the secular rulers as expressed in the Gelasian distinction. Chapter One explores the historical division between auctoritas and potestas with respect to classical sources, the Biblical texts, the Rule of St Benedict and other Christian writings. The distinction between auctoritas and potestas is therefore not unique to Bernard. A division between the terms can be seen in Roman political language and in early Christian writings. Chapter Two focuses on Bernard’s use of auctoritas and its relation to ecclesiastical order, hierarchy, monastic order, obedience and unity. Underlying Bernard’s rigid hierarchical structure is the concept of rectus ordo. Matters of faith, including ecclesiastical order, conversion of unbelievers, correction of the heretic and protection of the faithful, fall within the jurisdiction of auctoritas. Chapter Three delineates the function of an ecclesiastical minister as ministry (ministerium) rather than dominion (dominium), which is reserved for the princes or secular rulers of the world. For Bernard, auctoritas has a close connection to apostolic authority (apostolica auctoritas). In addition, auctoritas can be delegated to an individual for a specific purpose in matters requiring ecclesiastical adjudication. Chapter Four explores the relationship between the church and state in Bernard’s thought, with special focus on his concept of the two swords and issues relating to investiture. In addition to auctoritas, the church also possesses ecclesiastical potestas which is associated with the keys. One key is sacramental, which is the potestas to loose and bind sins in the act of forgiving sins; the other discretion (discretio) is a specific jurisdictional claim exclusive to the See of Peter.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID: uk.bl.ethos.597468  DOI: Not available
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