BERENGAR DE TOURS (Beringerius Turonensis)—theologian and philosopher, b. around 998 in Tours in France, d. 1088 on the island of Saint Cosme near Tours.
Berengar studied in the abbey school in Tours, then studied the trivium, quadrivium, and the works of ancient Latin writers under the direction of master Fulbert in the cathedral school in Chartres where he acquired the name grammaticus. In 1209 he began to teach grammar and rhetoric in the school of St. Martin in Tours, and in 1040 he became chancellor of the school. He sat in the chapter of the Collegiate of St. Martin in Tours and was archdeacon in Angers. Berengar was known in his time for the many controversies to which his views gave rise, which he renounced and made professions of the faith, e.g. at a synod in Rome in 1079.
Berengar’s works chiefly concerned questions about the Eucharist and were polemical in character. A pamphlet against Leo IX is mentioned, which has been lost and was condemned at a synod in Rome in 1059. A very important work was a treatise from around 1067 called De Sacra Coena that discusses a work by Lanfranca of Pavia (the Bec school) called De corpore et sanguine Domini. He wrote other works of discussion connected with processes at synods. and a noteworthy polemical correspondence directed at his colleagues from studies in Chartres and at known personages (including letters to his main rival Lafranca, to Adelman de Liège, Anfrois de Préaux, Ascelin, Hugh de Langres, Paulinus of Metz, King Philip I of France, and Pope Gregory VIII; there are also letters written by Berengar acting as secretary from well-known persons that are included in their writings), glosses on the Epistles of St. Paul, and poems.
Critical editions of his works are Beringerii Turonensis de Sacra Coena adversus Lanfrancum, ed. A. F. and F. T. Vischer (B 1834); Beringerii Turonensis de Sacra Coena adversus Lanfrancum, ed. W. H. Beekenkamp (Hg 1941). The most recent edition, Beringerii Turonensis, Rescriptum contra Lanfrancum, edited by R. B. C. Huygens (Turnhout 1988) includes a copy of the manuscript. Berengar’s letters have been published by H. Sudendorf, B. Turonensis oder eine Sammlung ihn betreffender Briefe (H-Gotha 1850); C. Erdmann, N. Fickermann, Briefsammlungen der Zeit Heinrich IV (Wei 1950); letters to Lanfranc: L. d’Achery, Beati Lanfranci opera omnia (P 1648 and PL 60); synodal writings in: E. Materne, U. Durand, Thesaurus novus anecdotorum (IV, P 1717).
Berengar of Tours employed dialectic and fundamental philosophical concepts to explain the theological truths that are profound mysteries of the Catholic faith. His dialectic was based on the logica vetus that had as its sources Aristotle’s works Categories and Peri hermeneias, Porphyry’s Isagoge, Cicero’s Topics, and Boethius’ commentaries and other logical writings. His approach of subjecting supernatural truths to the rules of logical reasoning marked him as one of the representatives of the group of dialecticians of the eleventh century.
Berengar of Tours thought that the gift of reason makes man in the likeness of God and that man should use this gift everywhere, and this included thinking about problems connected with the Eucharist. He used here interchangeably the concepts of matter and form, substance and accident, most often replacing them with the concepts “accidentio”—“subjectum” and “quod in subjecto est”—“subjectum”. He thought that in the light of reason it is impossible for accidents to exist independently from substance (without substance). If the accidents of bread and wine (in the form of taste, shape, and color) exist after consecration, then also a substance that is the foundation of these accidents must also remain, for if this changed (as a result of consecration), the accidents would change as well. This argument, according to Berengar, is the basis for concluding that the result of consecration is only the addition of a new form, the body and blood of Christ, to the existing form of bread and wine. Berengar’s conclusion de facto denied the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist as it denied the substantial change of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. Berengar did not thinking of Christ’s real existence as an existence independent of physical accidents (falling under the senses).
Ultimately, the Eucharist, while it is the sacrament of the body and blood of Christ, contains the body and blood in a sacramental manner. Berengar introduced a distinction between sacramenta (bread and wine) and res sacramentorum (the body and blood of Christ). After consecration on the altar it is not so much the body and blood of Christ as the sacraments of body and blood, also described as signum (sign) of body and blood, pignus (proof, guaranty), figura (shape, image), similitudo (likeness) of body and blood. Therefore in communion one receives Christ by thought, spiritually (spiritualiter) by the power of the sacrament (virtus sacramenti). Berengar referred to the eucharistic symbolism of Liber Johannis Scoti, which was regarded as Erugena’s work, while in reality the author was Ratramnus, an abbot of Corbeil.
From the theological point of view, Berengar’s doctrine was quickly condemned by synods in Rome (1059, 1078, 1079) and other synods as impanation (impanatio from: in—in, panis—bread; etymologically impanatio means “entry into bread”, hence “bread here remains only bread”). The Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 confirmed and defined the proper truth recognized by the Church about the real change during the consecration of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, describing it with the concept of transsubstantiatio (transubstantiation). Berengar’s thought on the Eucharist was revived in Protestantism, and we may also see his influence among certain contemporary theologians who attempt to reject the dogma of transubstantiation in favor of transignification or transfinalization.
From the philosophical point of view, Berengar’s thought revealed the need to make a clear distinction between reason and faith, between philosophy and theology, to establish their relation to each other, and to define precisely the aim, object, and investigative methods in a field of study.
P<> 149, 150; R. B. C. Huygens, B. de Tour, Lanfrac et Bernold de Constas, Sacris erudiri 16 (1965); idem, Textes latins du XI au XIII siècle, Studi medievali 8 (1965) n. 3 (passim); idem, A propos de B. et son traité de l’eucharistie, Revue bénédictin 86 (1966); Jean de Montclos, Lanfranc et B. La controverse eucharistique du XI siècle, Lv 1971 (bibliogr.).
Maria J. Gondek