Catholic Encyclopedia – Saint Ivo of Chartres

(Yvo of Chartres; Yves of Chartres)

One of the most notable bishops of France at the time of the Investiture struggles and the most important canonist before Gratian in the Occident, born of a noble family about 1040; died in 1116. From the neighbourhood of Beauvais, his native country, he went for his studies first to Paris and thence to the Abbey of Bee in Normandy, at the same time as Anselm of Canterbury, to attend the lectures given by Lanfranc. About 1080 he became, at the desire of his bishop, prior of the canons of St-Quentin at Beauvais. He was then one of the best teachers in France, and so prepared himself to infuse a new life into the celebrated schools of Chartres, of which city he was appointed bishop in 1090, his predecessor, Geoffroy, having been deposed for simony. His episcopal government, at first opposed by the tenants of Geoffroy, ranged over a period of twenty-five years. No man, perhaps, is better portrayed in his writing than is Ivo in his letters and sermons; in both he appears as a man always faithful to his duties, high-minded, full of zeal and piety, sound in his judgments, a keen jurist, straight-forward, mindful of others’ rights, devoted to the papacy and to his country, at the same time openly disapproving of what he considered wrong. This explains why he has been sometimes quoted as a patron of Gallican Liberties and looked upon by Flaccus Illyricus as one of the “witnesses to the truth” in his “Catalogus”. Very often Ivo was consulted on theological, liturgical, political, and especially canonical matters. Of his life little more is known than may be gathered from his letters. As bishop he strongly opposed Philip the First, who wished to desert Bertha, his legitimate wife, and marry Bertrade of Anjou in 1092; his opposition gained him a prison cell. In the Investiture struggle then raging in France, and especially in Germany, Ivo represented the moderate party. Though he died too early to witness the final triumph of his ideas with the Concordat of Worms in 1122, his endeavours and his doctrines may be said to have paved the way for an agreement satisfactory to both sides. His views on the subject are fully expressed in several of his letters, especially those of the years 1099, 1106, and 1111; these letters are still of interest as to the question of the relationship between Church and State, the efficacy of sacraments administered by heretics, the sin of simony, etc.
Works

The printed works of Ivo of Chartres may be arranged into three categories; canonical writings, letters, and sermons.

Canonical writings

The canonical works constitute the “Decretum” in seventeen books and the “Panormia” in eight books, the latter being undoubtedly the work of Ivo himself, with material taken from the former. Both of these were composed before 1096, but the “Panormia” enjoyed a far greater success than the “Decretum”; we immediately find it at Durham and elsewhere in England, at Naumburg in Germany, etc. One of the improvements of this collection on the works of Burchard of Worms consists in this: that Ivo gives a far greater number of canons, adding to those of Burchard canons taken from Italian sources. As may be easily seen, theology and canon law are not yet precisely marked off from one another” – a defect which holds also for previous collections; the chapters on the Trinity, Incarnation, and especially the sacraments are worth seeing in this connection. But the most important feature of Ivo’s work is perhaps his preface, “Prologus”, which give new rules for solving the old problem of the discrepancies occurring in the texts of the Fathers and the councils.

Letters

The letters of Ivo, 288 in number, from which we gather nearly all that we know of his life, are in the edition of Migne together with those of his correspondents. Many are of a special interest as to the political and religious questions of the time; not a few are answers to difficulties referring to moral, liturgical, or canonical matters; some discuss problems of dogmatics. The popularity of these letters was very great, as may be gathered from the fact that they appear in the catalogues of many monastic libraries; numerous manuscripts are still extant.

Sermons

The twenty-five sermons are sometimes treatises on liturgical, dogmatic, or moral questions and bear witness to the great piety and science of Bishop Ivo. The “Micrologus” which has been attributed to him belongs to Bernold of Constance. Other works, such as the “Tripartita” (collection of canons), “Commentary on the Psalms”, etc., are still unprinted.

Influence of writings The influence of Ivo’s works may be seen in the writings of nearly all the theologians and canonists of his day and for some time afterwards: Alger of Li├Ęge and Hugh of St. Victor, not to mention others, depend largely on the materials put together in the “Decretum” and “Panormia”; and Hugh has also borrowed from Ivo’s sermons on Holy orders, dedication of churches, etc. The connection of ideas between the “Prologus” and the scheme of Abelard’s “Sic et Non” or Gratian’s “Concordantia” is obvious. The saint’s feast is kept, since 1570, on 20 May; it is not known when he was canonized.

- Joseph de Ghellinck. “Saint Ivo of Chartres.” The Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 8. 1910. 18 September 2014. .