End of Europe's Middle Ages

Thomas Aquinas

image from Aquinas manuscript

Born in 1225 to a noble family near Aquino, Italy, Thomas Aquinas received his early education at the Benedictine monastery of Monte Cassino. While an undergraduate at the University of Naples, he joined the Dominican order in 1243. His widowed mother was bitterly opposed to his affiliation with mendicantism and she confined Aquinas to the family castle for two years. When his mother finally relented and released him in 1245, Aquinas traveled to Paris to continue his studies with Albert Magnus, following the great teacher to Cologne in 1248.

Aquinas was ordained as a priest in 1250 and began teaching at the University of Paris in 1252. In 1256, he was awarded a doctorate of philosophy and recieved a professorial appointment at the university. In 1259, pope Alexander IV summoned him to Rome where he spent the next nine years as an advisor to the papal court.

Returning to Paris in 1268, Aquinas began working to reconcile Aristotle with Church doctrine, refining his ideas on the use of reason as a supplement to faith and revelation. He left Paris in 1272 to establish a new Dominican school in Naples and, while travelling to the Council of Lyon in 1274, Aquinas fell ill and died on March 7.

Heavy-set and slow-moving, Aquinas was nicknamed "The Dumb Ox" by his fellow students. Albert Magnus, however, recognised Aquinas' potential and foretold that this "dumb ox would one day fill the world with his bellowing." A brilliant philosopher, a popular lecturer, and an influential figure in the Church, Aquinas was one of the most important of the medieval theologians.

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The End of Europe's Middle Ages / Applied History Research Group / University of Calgary
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