Father Gabriel, Notre Dame medievalist, dies at age 97

by Michael O. Garvey


Abbot Astrik L. Gabriel, director and professor emeritus in the University of Notre Dames Medieval Institute, died Monday (May 16) in Dujarie House atHolyCrossCollege.He was 97 years old.

BornDec. 10, 1907, inPecs,Hungary, Dr. Gabriel was educated in schools there before entering religious life with the Order of Canons of Premontre, or the Norbertines, in 1926.After three years of theological studies in the Norbertine seminary in Jaszo, he studied the history of medieval higher education at Pazmany Peter University of Sciences inBudapest, at theSorbonneUniversityinParis, and at theUniversityofBudapest, from which he received a doctoral degree in 1936 and where he taught medieval studies until 1947 when he fled his Soviet-dominated homeland.Accepting an invitation from the philosopher Etienne Gilson, he took refuge as a guest professor for one academic year at the Pontifical Institute for Medieval Studies inTorontobefore joining the Notre Dame faculty in 1948.

At Notre Dame, as director of the Medieval Institute from 1952to 1975, Dr. Gabriel wrote numerous books and articles on medieval university life.He also oversaw the Frank M. Folsom Ambrosiana Microfilm and Photographic Collection, an unprecedented microfilm reproduction of all the manuscripts and drawings of the Biblioteca Ambrosiana inMilan.Notre DamesAstrikL.GabrielUniversitycollection, named in his honor and including numerous books he himself donated, is among the worlds richest library collections concerning the history of universities.Besides books, monographs, journals, copies of doctoral dissertations, and photocopies of articles, the collection includes many photographs of university foundations and regalia, wax replicas of seals, and more than 4,000 microfilms of medieval manuscripts.

An unmistakable presence on campus and in the restaurants ofSouth Bend, Dr. Gabriel spoke English with a thick Hungarian accent, a booming voice and the imperious tone of an extinguished aristocracy.He loved good food, fine wine and talkative companionship.“A Hungarian,he would thunder,is a person who can get into a revolving door behind you and emerge ahead of you.”The image was all the more vivid to his colleagues and many friends.

During his Notre Dame tenure, Dr. Gabriel also served as a visiting professor atHarvardUniversityand twice as a member of the Institute for Advanced Study atPrincetonUniversity.A corresponding member of the French, Bavarian and Hungarian Academies of Sciences, he was decorated by the governments of France (officer in the Palmes Académiques and knight and officer in the Légion d’Honneur) and Italy (Commander of the Order of Merit) and in 1976 received the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice from the Holy See. The French academy awarded its Thorlet and Dourlans Prizes for his books, “History of Ave Maria College” and "Chartularium Auctarii of theUniversityofParis.

Visitation will be held at8:30 a.m.Friday (May 20) in Notre Dames Basilica of the Sacred Heart followed by a funeral Mass at9:30 a.m.

Dr. Gabriel is to be buried at Daylesford Abbey inPaoli,Penn., on May 24.

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