A seventeenth-century design (Collection Gaignières, BnF) featuring Geoffroi le Bel, based on an enameled plaque now in Musée de Tessé, Le Mans © BnF

William of Conches: Opera omnia

William, born in Conches (Normandy), was one of the most famous masters of the schools which flourished in Northern France during the first half of the twelfth century. His teaching activity extended from 1120 to 1154. According to one of his most illustrious disciples, John of Salisbury, who later became bishop of Chartres (1176–1180), William was the most talented grammarian (grammaticus) after Bernard of Chartres. For many years historians have agreed that William taught at the Cathedral School of Chartres, an opinion which has been questioned recently. We must recognize that the life of William remains obscure and that direct proofs of his teaching in Chartres are lacking. Nevertheless we know that he taught for a certain time in an episcopal school, near a cathedral dedicated to our Lady, that he got angry with the bishop and finally took refuge at the court of Geoffroy Plantagenet, duke of Normandy. We have good reasons to think that the church dedicated to our Lady, where William taught, was Our Lady of Chartres.

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