The Story Behind the Patron Saint of Science (St Albertus Magnus the Great)

Saint Albertus Magnus’ followed the instruction of the Blessed Virgin Mother and became the most significant German philosopher and theologian in the Medieval Period.

St. Albertus Magnus, the oldest son of a wealthy lord in Bollstadt, Germany, and was born in his family’s castle at Lauingen (now Bavaria, Germany) sometime in 1205 or 1206. Some sources state his birth as the year 1193, based on historical accounts that he lived for 87 years. He was educated at the University of Padua, where he studied Aristotle.

It was said that the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to St. Albertus Magnus, and told him to enter Holy Orders. He decided to join the Order of St. Dominic in 1223, after being drawn by the preaching of its Master General of the Order, Blessed Jordan of Saxony. He went to Cologne to complete his theological studies, and then to the University of Paris in 1245 to earn his masters in theology under Gueruc of Saint-Quintin. During his theological studies, he lectured in various universities under the Dominican Order, where he met his student, the 20-year-old St. Thomas Aquinas, and took him under his wing.

He is invoked as the patron saint of scientists, natural sciences, medical technologists, philosophers, and theology students. The Archdiocese of Cincinnati, Ohio, in the United States of America, is under the patronage of St. Albertus Magnus. The name “Magnus” means “great.” Here are 14 important facts behind the history of St. Albertus Magnus.

#1 Saint Albertus Magnus Died from Illness
St. Albertus Magnus died on November 15, 1280, in the Monastery of the Holy Cross in Cologne, Germany, due to his deteriorating health.

His tireless service to the Church through the years had taken a heavy toll on his health. In 1278, he had begun to manifest forgetfulness, a decline in his mental faculties, failing eyesight, and fatigue. He spent the remaining years of his life in the convent of the Dominican Order in Cologne until he died. He was 87 or 88 years old at that time.

#2 Saint Albertus Magnus Was Canonized on December 15, 1931
St. Albertus Magnus beatified in 1622. He was canonized (became a saint) on December 15, 1931, by Pope Pius XI in Vatican City, Rome. On that same day, Pope Pius XI made him a “Doctor of the Church.”

#3 Saint Albertus Magnus Is Venerated as the Most Significant German Philosopher and Theologian of the Medieval Period
Pope Pius XII made St. Albertus Magnus the patron saint of scientists on December 16, 1941. St. Albertus Magnus had many interests, but particularly enjoyed contemplating the relationship between faith and science. He even had two scientific discoveries named after him (see #12 below). He has been venerated since as early as the 14th century and many say he is the most significant German philosopher and theologian of the Medieval Period (also known as the Middle Ages).

#4 Saint Albertus Magnus’ Symbol and Iconography Show Him as a Bishop
St. Albertus Magnus appears in statues, paintings, and engravements as a Dominican bishop holding a crosier (hooked staff) or giving sermons from a pulpit. Other images portrayed him debating with St. Thomas Aquinas. Other symbols attributed to St. Albertus Magnus include a large book, a globe, a professor’s cap, a cross over the sun, or the moon and the earth, which symbolizes his theological and scientific knowledge.

#5 Saint Albertus Magnus’ Feast Day Celebration Is on November 15th
His feast day is on November 15, the date of his death. On St. Albertus Magnus’ feast day, the citizens of Belgium also celebrate the King’s Feast. This tradition began after the death of King Albert I of Belgium.

#6 Saint Albertus Magnus’ Remains Are in Cologne, Germany, and Presumably the Vatican
His remains (except for his right arm bone) are in the Church of St. Andrew in Cologne, Germany, enclosed in a 3rd-century Roman sarcophagus in a crypt underneath the altar.

St. Albertus Magnus’ remains were moved several times. They were interred in the Dominican convent of Cologne, and when the grave was opened three years later, his body was incorrupt (had not decayed). In 1482, when the tomb was reopened, only a skeleton remained. At that time, the Saint’s right arm bone was sent to Pope Sixtus IV. It appears the arm bone is still in possession of the papacy, presumably in the Vatican or in Vatican City. In 1804, St. Albertus Magnus’ tomb was reopened, and his remains (except his right arm bone) were moved to the Church of St. Andrew ahead of the Napoleonic invasion. There they sat in a glass viewing case, until World War II, when the church was damaged. His remains were then moved again from the glass viewing case to their present location under the altar.

#7 The Location of Saint Albertus Magnus’ Major Shrine Is in Cologne, Germany
The Church of St. Andrew in Cologne, Germany, managed by the Dominican Order, is the only major shrine of St. Albertus Magnus. His remains have been interred in the church’s crypt since 1954.

#8 Saint Albertus Magnus Was Called “Boots the Bishop”
Pope Alexander IV appointed St. Albertus Magnus as the Bishop of Regensburg in 1260. The Saint’s ascent in the church hierarchy did not affect his simple lifestyle, which was proper for a Dominican friar. During the fulfillment of his duties, he refused to ride on a horse and instead walked around his Diocese. Because he would travel by foot, his parishioners affectionately called him “Boots the Bishop.”

#9 Saint Albertus Magnus Was Credited for the Discovery of Arsenic
In 1250, St. Albertus Magnus discovered arsenic, a chemical element. It naturally occurs in many minerals found in nature. Even though arsenic compounds were already in use, it was St. Albertus Magnus who first isolated and identified arsenic by heating soap together with a mineral called orpiment, or arsenic trisulphide.

#10 Saint Albertus Magnus Was Rumored to Be Involved in Witchcraft
Despite the popularity and admiration enjoyed by St. Albertus Magnus, critics attempted to ruin his reputation. They spread rumors about his involvement in necromancy and magic, which the Saint strongly opposed. Others claimed that he made a satanic automaton out of brass that could speak by itself. Some legends said he created gold by “transmutation” and discovered the most sought-after philosopher’s stone. Much of the literature about alchemy attributed to St. Albertus Magnus, such as Secreta Alberti or the Experimenta Alberti, arose from confusion of authorship. His authentic writings did not delve much into alchemy. Such false attribution may have been intended to increase the popularity of these works by association with St. Albertus Magnus.

#11 Saint Albertus Magnus Ushered in the Development of Scholastic Philosophy
St. Albertus Magnus heavily influenced the growth of scholastic philosophy in the Medieval Age. He started the scholastic movement to reconcile faith and reason, which were previously viewed as diametrically opposed. He also succeeded in infusing Aristotelianism into the study of Christian theology, which was supplemented by his student, St. Thomas Aquinas.

#12 Saint Albertus Magnus’ Legacy Lives On
As a tribute to his legacy in the formation of scholastic discipline, several educational institutions have been named after St. Albertus Magnus in Germany, Nicaragua, the United States of America, and the Philippines. A church in Leopoldeshafen, Germany, and one in Gauteng, South Africa, were also named after the Saint. In 1932, a display typeface known as “Albertus” was created and named after St. Albertus Magnus. In addition, two scientific discoveries were named in honor of the Saint, a plant known as “Alberta magna” and an asteroid called “20006 Albertus Magnus.”

#13 Saint Albertus Magnus’ Has Five Names
Because of his impressive credentials and reputation during his tenure as a lecturer and servant of the Church, “Magnus” (which means “great”) was appended to St. Albertus Magnus’ name. The English translation of his name is St. Albert the Great. He is also known as St. Albert of Lauingen, St. Albert of Cologne (Albertus Coloniensis), St. Albert the German (Albertus Teutonicus), and Boots the Bishop.

#14 Saint Albertus Magnus Wrote 38 Volumes
In 1899, 38 volumes of his work were collected. St. Albertus Magnus published many spiritual writings on the sacraments, the Blessed Mother, and Sacred Scripture, as well as scholarly works in philosophy, theology, natural sciences, ethics, mathematics, and law. He was the first to interpret the majority of Aristotle’s writings, opening them up to a wider audience. His significant contributions extended to his ecclesiastical duties as a priest and, later, as a bishop of Regensburg (also known as Ratisbon) in Germany. His intellectual acumen was also devoted to the service of the pope, Alexander IV, and to the defense of the Catholic faith. His principal contributions to the Catholic Church’s theological reservoir include his Commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard and his defense of the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas after St. Thomas’ death in 1274.


St. Albertus Magnus lived a life of greatness, not because of his noble roots or reputation, but because of the sanctity of his life. His holiness is like a fuel to a lamp that burns for the love of God and for His Church. By his selfless offering of talent and knowledge, he has become an instrument for the salvation of many souls. May St. Albertus Magnus’ teachings pierce our hearts and minds and inspire us to find God in every aspect of our lives.

Author Bio
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.