Saint Albert the Great was never a king, he was neither wealthy nor powerful. He was a Dominican friar who remains to be referred to as ‘The Great’ for a different reason.
There is no detail about his background. It is believed that he was born some time before 1200, and as he referred to himself as ‘Albert of Lauingen’ it is presumed that he was from this little town that still exists today in Bavaria, in the South of Germany.
Albert was well educated as a young men, his father being a military lord in the army of the Emperor Frederick ll of Germany. Eventually he continued his education in the University of Padua where he became acquainted with the writings of Aristotle, an ancient Greek scientist and philosopher ( a person who studies about the meaning of life, reason, knowledge, values, mind, language) ad in no time he was lecturing for the Dominicans in Cologne and the surrounding regions, becoming well-known for his intellectual qualities in the academic circles of the day. St. Thomas Aquinas himself a renowned philosopher and theologian was one of his students.
While continuing with his deep interest in the philosophy of Aristotle, he also engaged in the teachings of the Muslim Scholars who had leading influence in Europe with regards to science, medicine and scholarship. Together with other leaders of the Dominican Order, he set up study programs and a University in Rome, still run today by the Dominicans and known as ‘The Angelicum’.
In 1254 he was chosen as Provincial (administrator) of the Dominican Order and in 1260, he was appointed Bishop of Regensburg, but he resigned three years later as he felt that he could not fit in the role.
He returned to the academic field, this time as mediator in disputes between individuals, between the bishop and the people of Cologne and on occasions as advisor for the Pope.
He died in November 1280.
So why is he called ‘The Great’?
During his lifetime he wrote volumes addressing various topics: geography, astronomy, chemistry, philosophy, law, friendship. He remains well-known for his teachings and for the establishment of study programs, of Colleges and University Studies.
He remains to be called ‘Great’, because for his time he was “ the teacher of everything there is to know”.