Carolingian prelate and reformer
Archbishop of Lyons (816-835, 837-840)
Born c.770 Died 840
Agobard became coadjutor to Leidrad, archbishop of Lyons, in 813, and on the death of the latter succeeded him in the see (816). We know nothing of his early life nor of his descent. He pursued the same vigorous policy as his predecessor, who had been one of Charlemagne's most active agents in the reformation of the Church. He was strongly opposed to the schemes of the empress Judith for a redivision of the empire in favour of her son Charles the Bald, which he regarded as the cause of all the subsequent evils, and supported Lothair and Pippin against their father the emperor Louis I. Deposed in 835 by the council of Thionville, he made his peace with the emperor and was reinstated in 837.
Agobard occupies an important place in the Carolingian renaissance. He wrote extensively not only theological works but also political pamphlets and dissertations directed against popular superstitions. These last works are unique in the literature of the time. He denounced the trial by ordeal of fire and water, the belief in witchcraft, and the ascription of tempests to magic, maintained the Carolingian opposition to image-worship, but carried his logic farther and opposed the adoration of the saints. The basis for this crusade was theological, not scientific; but it reveals a clear intellect and independent judgment. In his purely theological works Agobard was strictly orthodox, except that he denied the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures. Agobard was reverenced as a saint in Lyons, and although his canonization is disputed his life is given by the Bollandists, Acta Sanctorum, Jun. ii. 748.
Bibliography. Agobard's works were lost until 1605, when a manuscript was discovered in Lyons and published by Papirius Masson, again by Baluze in 1666. For later editions see Potthast, Bibliotheca Historica Medii Aevi. The life of Agobard in Ebert's Geschichte der Litteratur des Mittelalters (1880), Band ii., is still one of the best to consult. For further indications see A. Molinier, Sources de l'histoire de France, i. p. 235.
Being the entry for AGOBARD in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, the text of which lies within the public domain.