Paul Sabatier

1859-1928. French Calvinist scholar and pastor. After studying at Besançon and Lille, he enrolled at the Protestant faculty of the University of Paris where his brother, Auguste Sabatier,* and Ernst Renan* were among his teachers. After serving from 1885 to 1889 as vicar of the Protestant church in Strasbourg, he was expelled from Germany. Returning to France, he was a pastor from 1889 to 1894, resigning to devote himself to a life of scholarship. His historical interests caused him to travel to Assisi in Italy where he studied the life of Francis and the Franciscan Order. Later he became professor of Protestant theology at Strasbourg (1919) and continued teaching there until his death. His Life of St. Francis of Assisi (1893, ET 1894) was an immediate success and went into forty editions within his lifetime. The biography shows a sympathetic understanding of Francis, but Sabatier has been accused of molding him after the image of a nineteenth-century liberal. In addition, he studied and published early Franciscan sources and documents such as the Actus Beati Francisci et Sociorum Ejus (1902) and the Speculum Perfectionis (1898).

Sabatier also became involved (1904-14) in the modernist movement within the Roman Catholic Church, writing An Open Letter to His Eminence Cardinal Gibbons (1908) and delivering the Jowett Lectures on Modernism (1908). When World War I broke out, he wrote a defense of the spiritual ideals of the allies, A Frenchman's Thoughts on the War (1915) and served as interim minister for pastors who were in the armed forces. He made monumental contributions to Franciscan scholarship, and his Franciscan Studies (1932) reveal a much deeper understanding and sympathy for the medieval religious outlook than his earlier work.