Romanticism pp 161-176 | Cite as

Félicité de Lamennais: Words of a Believer

  • John B. Halsted
Part of the The Documentary History of Western Civilization book series (DHWC)


Félicité Robert de Lamennais (1782–1854) was in his youth a thoroughly reactionary opponent of the French Revolution. His central concern in religion was with the problem of authority. In 1808, in a study of the state of the French Church, he was urging the need for a religious revival and for the enhancement of the social importance of the clergy. In 1811 he began teaching mathematics at a Church college, and was ordained a priest in 1816. His four-volume Essai sur L’Indifferencé en Matière de Religion appeared between 1817 and 1823. He argued for an approach to religion other than the rationalist (as had Schleiermacher and Chateaubriand) and placed new emphasis upon the apologetic value of the common consent of mankind—which he felt was expressed by the papacy. Against skepticism and tolerance he offered ultramontane Catholicism, a position that settled ill with the Gallican majority of the French clergy. Lamennais and such followers as Montalembert and Lacordaire moved increasingly toward favoring the separation of Church and State, offering in their journal, L’Avenir, the surprising combination of political liberalism and ultramontanism. The combination was opposed in Rome as well as in France. Lamennais suspended the journal, and his views were condemned in the papal Encyclical Mirari vos. Deserted by the papacy, he turned for authority again to the common consent of mankind, preaching more radical democracy in Words of a Believer (1834), which ended his connection with the Catholic Church. In the Assembly of the Second Republic to which he was elected after the Revolution of 1848, he sat on the extreme left. By then he had come to propound a faith in the future of Humanity.


Political Liberalism Human Skull Religious Revival Black Marble Great Terror 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1969

Authors and Affiliations

  • John B. Halsted

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