Albert was born in Swabia, Germany in 1206. His father being the Count of Bollstadt, Albert was born in the family castle at Lauingen.
He studied at the University of Padua and in the year 1223 became a Dominican despite his family’s opposition. He taught at Cologne, Hildesheim, Freiburg-im-Breisgau, Regensburg, and Strasbourg. His reputation for his learning and intellect was widespread. He received a doctorate at the University of Paris in 1245 where he later taught. Among his students was Thomas Aquinas, who became a close friend.
In 1254, Albert was named provincial of his order and went to Rome to serve as personal theologian to the pope. Albert resigned his provincialate in 1257 to devote himself to study, and later, along with Peter of Tarentasia and Thomas Aquinas, drew up a new study curriculum for the Dominicans.
Against his wishes, he was appointed bishop of Regensburg in 1260, but resigned two years later to resume teaching at Cologne. He was active in the Council of Lyons in 1274, working for the reunion of the Greek Church with Rome. He brilliantly defended Aquinas and his position against Bishop Stephen Templer of Paris and a group of theologians at the university there in 1277. The following year, a memory lapse progressed into two years of poor mental and physical health, which led to his death in Cologne on November 15. He was canonized and declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XI in 1931.
Albert was one of the great intellects of the medieval Church. He was among the first and greatest of natural scientists. His knowledge of biology, chemistry, physics, astronomy, and geography (one of his treatises proved the earth to be round) was so amazing that he was often accused of using magic. He wrote profusely on logic, metaphysics, mathematics, the Bible, and theology. A keen student of Arabic learning and culture, his and Aquinas’s adaptation of Aristotelian principles to systematic theology and their attempts to reconcile Aristotelianism to Christianity caused bitter opposition among many of their fellow theologians. Because of his genius, he was known as “the Universal Doctor” among his contemporaries.
Thank you, Father in heaven, for the gift of genius that you have given to many great saints and theologians such as St. Albert. Through their great works, the Church has gained much knowledge. We give thanks that these saints used their gifts of wisdom to enlighten the world — and not for their own selfish gratification or gain. To God goes the glory. Amen.
Other Saints We Remember Today
St. Leopold “The Good” (1136), father of 18 children, refused the imperial crown