In This Article Honorius Augustodunensis

  • Introduction
  • Reference Works and Collected Essays
  • Historical Context
  • Life
  • De Animae Exsilio et Patria/The Liberal Arts

Medieval Studies Honorius Augustodunensis
by
Karl Kinsella, Lesley Smith
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 April 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396584-0201

Introduction

Honorius Augustodunensis (b. c. 1080–c. 1140), also referred to as Honorius of Autun in some secondary literature, was a canon and monk, as well as a prolific writer with a strong corpus of didactic and liturgical works. He flourished during the reign of the German Emperor Henry V (b. 1086–d. 1125), but his life was probably spent in both England and southern Germany or Austria. Honorius has been described as one of the 12th century’s most enigmatic figures; but he is still recognized for the strong influence he exerted on subsequent writers. Despite this large corpus, now known to consist of approximately thirty texts (but almost certainly more), Honorius has received relatively little scholarly attention. Scholarship on Honorius’s life is dominated by three main questions: the place to which the epithet “Augustodunensis” applies, the location of extant manuscripts, and the few clues in his works that may identify his location at particular points during his life. Twenty-first-century speculation provides the following outline of his life; however, this is open to change depending on how the evidence is interpreted. Honorius was born in Germany or Savoy and joined the cathedral school at Augsburg; there he may have been known as “Heinricus” or “Henricus.” At the end of the 11th century, for reasons unknown, Honorius was transferred to Canterbury cathedral and joined a community of Benedictine monks, where Archbishop Anselm (b. c. 1033–d. 1109) would become a highly influential figure in Honorius’s early intellectual development. During his career in England, Honorius most likely spent time in Worcester, Winchester, and Rochester while keeping in contact with the monks at Canterbury. Following the death of Anselm, Honorius left England to return to Germany— most likely to Regensburg and the Alte Kappel there. In c. 1133, Honorius (or Heinricus as he was still known) left the Alte Kappel to join the Benedictine order at either Lambach in Austria or St. James in Regensburg, where he bequeathed to the order a large number of his own texts. It is at this point, late in his career, that Heinricus took the name of Honorius, although it is not clear why he made this decision. Honorius’s legacy was extensive, with manuscripts containing his works found in large numbers throughout Europe. The relatively easy Latin and accessible formats of his works ensured his immense popularity during the 12th century. This legacy suffered in the later Middle Ages, as his relatively simple works were superseded by more sophisticated writings on the same topics.

Reference Works and Collected Essays

Honorius can be found in some reference works on the Middle Ages, especially those that focus on theological or intellectual history. Most emphasize his obscure history and the difficulties scholars have had uncovering details of his life. Le Fèvre 1937 has been and remains an important resource for scholars wanting a short overview of Honorius’s life and work, but Flint 1988 is an extended work that should be taken into account as well. Schultz 1986 provides a short entry for Honorius and is significant because it contradicts the wider consensus that Honorius knew Anselm of Canterbury directly. Flint 1988 is a valuable series of published articles dealing with a wide range of details about Honorius’s life, work, and manuscript witnesses to his texts; some of these conclusions were modified in Flint 1995 (cited under Life). Turner 2003 is an easily accessible resource that takes Endres 1906 (cited under Life) as its main source of information on the life of Honorius. Honorius’s extensive use of imagery in his texts is given some context in Rudolph 2006, but a more extensive discussion of particular set of images may be found in Heslop 2005 (cited under Secondary Literature: Song of Songs Commentaries/Marian Theology).

  • Le Fèvre, Yves. “Honorius Augustodunensis.” In Le Dictionnaire de Spiritualité: Ascétique et Mystique: Doctrine et Histoire. Vol. 7. Edited by Marcel Viller, 730–737. Paris: G. Beauchesne, 1937.

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    Le Fèvre’s entry considers the life, works, and influence of Honorius in three separate sections. The discussion of Honorius’s influence on later authors is particularly useful. A popular reference used for information about Honorius’s life, especially before Flint 1995 (cited under Life).

  • Flint, V. I. J. Ideas in the Medieval West: Texts and their Contexts. London: Variorum, 1988.

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    A collection of older articles that considers a range of topics. Additional material is given in these papers, including a handlist of manuscripts, translation of excerpts, and detailed analysis of manuscripts containing Honorius’s works. Papers in this volume are indicated throughout this bibliography.

  • Rudolph, Conrad, ed. A Companion to Medieval Art: Romanesque and Gothic in Northern Europe. Oxford: Blackwell, 2006.

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    Briefly discusses Honorius’s reference to Gregory the Great’s defense of images as “literature for the illiterate.” Suggests that Honorius’s modification of Gregory’s terms influenced subsequent authors.

  • Schultz, Janice. “Honorius Augustodunensis.” In Dictionary of the Middle Ages. Vol. 6. Edited by Joseph R. Strayer, 285–286. New York: Scribner, 1986.

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    Schultz focuses on Honorius’s works and provides a comparison with contemporary theology. In contrast to later works about Honorius, Schultz does not accept that Honorius knew Anselm of Canterbury personally.

  • Turner, William. “Honorius of Autun.” In The New Catholic Encyclopedia. 2d ed. Vol. 7. Edited by Berard L. Marthaler, 88–89. Detroit: Thomson Gale, 2003.

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    Provides an overview of Honorius’s stance on particular issues, including the morality of the clergy, the nature of evil, and man’s role in salvation history. Describes Honorius as a “modest collaborator with the great 12th-century theologians” (p. 89).

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