The sacred cosmos: A study of the twelfth century School of Chartres

Peter Charles Ellard, Fordham University


This dissertation is focused on the writings of William of Conches and Thierry of Chartres. It is a work of intellectual history that functions as a vehicle for the retrieval of the ideas formulated during the twelfth century within the School of Chartres. It argues that the Chartrians used the metaphysics of exemplarism and the doctrine of the world soul to demonstrate that the cosmos is sacred. This study demonstrates that Chartrian exemplarism reveals that the cosmos is an image of God and that God is exemplaristically present in all that is. This exalts the cosmos and recognizes its sacred character. It also reveals that every encounter that one has in his or her lifetime is a theophany. Further, the present study explains how the Chartrian doctrine of the world soul served as a way to understand the sacredness of the cosmos. It was used to help explain the creation of the cosmos, the movement of the planets and stars, the development of life on earth and the abilities of human reason. It was seen as the inherent natural energy and spark of life. When connected with the Holy Spirit, it was recognized as an intelligible and divine aspect of the cosmos and this divine presence in the cosmos rendered it sacred. It is perceived as the love by which all subsists. It is presented as a reflection of a God who does not merely love but who is love, and who is present in the cosmos as the metaphysical core of its being. This study also examines the Chartrian understanding of humanity and its ability to ascend, through a scientific study of the cosmos, to an experience and understanding of God. The study of the cosmos was a sacred endeavor. For William and Thierry, physics, biology, chemistry and astronomy are the domain of the theologian precisely because they lead one of knowledge of God, imitation of God, and worship of God. This study concludes with some suggestions for connecting the ideas of the Chartrians with contemporary theological discussions.

Subject Area

Theology|Religious history

Recommended Citation

Ellard, Peter Charles, "The sacred cosmos: A study of the twelfth century School of Chartres" (1999). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9926886.