St. Thomas Aquinas Essay, Research Paper
St. Thomas Aquinas
St. Thomas Aquinas was known as a saint, a doctor of
the church, and a man who made many contributions; not only
to Dante but to the entire period in which he lived, which
is known as the Middle Ages.
St. Thomas was born at Roccasecca, the family castle
near Naples, probably about 1225(Vann, 36). The precise
year of Thomas birth is uncertain(Waltz, 4). He was born
under the Italian sky to the county of Aquino and inherited
his distinguished name by his birthplace(Waltz, 1).
However, he later made the name more distinguished than
He was the youngest son of Landulf, Count of Aquino,
and Theodora, Countess of Teano. It was said that his
father was indeed a happy father and a valiant warrior and
also a diplomat, but above all he was the father of a fine
race (Waltz, 3). Thomas mother was known as a noblewoman
from Naples and was greatly praised for her piety(Waltz,3).
Thomas also had three known brothers; Aimo, Ronald, and
Landulf. More elders may have existed but it is hard to
distinguish those who were sons or brothers of
Landulf(Waltz, 4). Four or five sisters also existed;
Marotta, Theodora, Mary, the fourth is nameless since she
was struck by lightning as a child, and the fifth was
Thomas family was related to the Emperors Henry VI and
Frederick II, and to the Kings of Aragon, Castile, and
France. Calo relates that a holy hermit foretold his career,
saying to Theodora before his birth: “He will enter the
Order of Friars Preachers, and so great will be his learning
and sanctity that in his day no one will be found to equal
him” (Prummer, op. cit., 18)-(Encyc.Brit.Online, 1).
At the age of five, Thomas went to the Abbey school of
the Benedictines of Monte Cassino. Diligent in study, he
was early noted as being meditative and devoted to
prayer, and his educator was surprised at hearing the child
ask frequently: “What is God(Encyc.Brit.Online, 1)?” This
young question of Thomas is recognized by many of modern
literature and spiritual education. It is distinctive in the
biographies and recollections of St. Thomas Aquinas.
By about 1239 Thomas attended the University of Naples
while studying his literary studies in the Faculty of Arts.
He then entered the Order of Preachers in about 1243(Walz,
262). Some time between 1240 and August, 1243, he received
the habit of the Order of St. Dominic, being attracted and
directed by John of St. Julian, a noted preacher of the
convent of Naples. The city wondered that such a noble
young man should don the garb of poor friar(Encyc. Brit.
Online, 2). His mother, with mingled feelings of joy and
sorrow, hastened to Naples to see her son. The Dominicans,
fearing she would take him away, sent him to Rome, his
ultimate destination being Paris or Cologne. At the
exemplification of Theodora, Thomas’s brothers, who were
soldiers under the Emperor Frederick, captured the novice
near the town of Aquapendente and confined him in the
fortress of San Giovanni at Rocca Secca. Here he was
confined for nearly two years(Encyc. Brit. Online, 3).
The time spent in captivity was not lost. His mother
relented somewhat, after the first burst of anger and grief;
the Dominicans were allowed to provide him with new habits,
and through the kind offices of his sister he acquired some
books — the Holy Scriptures, Aristotle’s Metaphysics, and
the “Sentences” of Peter Lombard. After eighteen months or
two years spent in prison, he was set at liberty, being
lowered in a basket into the arms of the Dominicans, who
were delighted to find that during his captivity “he had
made as much progress as if he had been in a studium
generale” (Calo, op. cit., 24). Thomas immediately
pronounced his vows, and his superiors sent him to Rome.
John the Teutonic, fourth master general of the order, took
the young student to Paris and, according to the majority of
the saint’s biographers, to Cologne, where he arrived in
1244 or 1245, and was placed under Albertus Magnus, the most
renowned professor of the order (Prummer, op. cit.,
p.25)-(Encyc. Brit. Online, 3).
Thomas then interned in the castles of Montesangiovanni
and Roccasecca, which were of his own family, for two years.
For the next few years Thomas became a student at Cologne.
Here he studied Theology under Saint Albert the Great and
showed many signs of his future greatness in the world of
Theologian studies(Walz,41). A reference that incorporates
this period of Thomas s life is found in Dante s Paradiso:
Questo che m `e a destra pi`u vicino
Frate e maestro funni; ed esso Alberto
`E di Colonia, ed io Thomas d`Aquino.
My brother and my master, of Cologne,
neighbours me on my right: Albert his
and Thomas, called Aquinas, is my own.
Dante, Paradiso, X, 97-99 (tr. Bickersteth) (Waltz, 50).
The spirit on my right, once of
was my teacher and my brother. Albert
was his name,
and Thomas, of Aquinas, was my own.
Dante, Paradiso, X, 97-99 (tr. Ciardi)
During his stay in Cologne, probably in 1250, he was
raised to the priesthood by Conrad of Hochstaden, archbishop
of that city. Throughout his busy life, he frequently
preached the Word of God, in Germany, France, and Italy. His
sermons were forceful, redolent of sanctity, full of solid
instruction, abounding in inclined citations from the
Scriptures(Encyc. Brit. Online, 5). In the year 1251 or 1252
the master general of the order, by the advice of Albertus
Magnus and Hugo a S. Charo (Hugh of St. Cher), sent Thomas
to fill the office of Bachelor (sub-regent) in the Dominican
studium at Paris. This appointment may be regarded as the
beginning of his public career, for his teaching soon
attracted the attention both of the professors and of the
students. He taught under the master Elias Brunet, who was
at the head of the school for externs form 1248-1256(Walz,
65). His duties consisted principally in explaining the
“Sentences” of Peter Lombard, and lecturing on books of
Scripture. The Great Commentary on the Sentences is the
youthful work of Thomas and was a result of his lectures as
a bachelor at the University of Paris(Walz, 66). His
commentaries on that text-book of theology furnished the
materials and, in great part, the plan for his chief work,
the “Summa theologica”. He received his degree to teach in
public, to preach, and to exercise the functions of a master
and was to be considered a graduate.
Thomas had not yet reached the age of thirty-five, as
prescribed by university regulations(Walz, 70). In that
case, conferring the degree was postponed, due to a dispute
between the university and the friars. However, after
delivering his principium, he received a professorial chair
as doctor and master in Theology, and became a regent of the
regular school(Walz, 71). From that point on, Thomas
devoted himself to his duties of a master and continued
lecturing and preaching.
In 1259 Thomas returned to Italy and became appointed a
preacher-general by the provincial chapter at Naples. He
continued his passionate lectures and sermons, and began
writing books and holding disputations. He wrote
theological works along with philosophical writings as well.
He wrote with the theory that God had chosen him to
investigate every truth, and gave him a clearer
understanding than any other man (Waltz, 103). He continued
teaching and spreading his view through his writing his
St. Thomas Aquinas died in 1274 at the castle of Maenza
where he fell ill while off for the Council of Lyons. His
journey fell short due to the illness which overtook him.
Many remarkable things happened upon Thomas death, it is
said that a blind man touched his lifeless body and regained
his sight. In addition, a holy hermit saw two blazing stars
overpass and take a single star with them to Heaven(Waltz,
167). Albert the Great is believed to have experienced
great revelations at the passing of St. Thomas,also. These
are mere examples of the power that Thomas d Aquino had
over patrons of the thirteenth century and the spirituality
that he symbolized. A passage from John Donne reads, And
therefore St. Thomas, a man neither of unholy thoughts, nor
of bold or irreligious or scandalous phrase or elocution(yet
I adventure nor so farre in his behalfe as Sylvestor doth),
that it is impossible that hee should have spoken any thing
against faith or good manners, forbeares not so say, that
Christ was so much the cause of his death, as he is of his
wetting which might and would not shut the windowe, when the
raine beats in(Ryan, 13).
It is shown how many felt about Thomas through
literature that has carried through until today. Dante
expresssed his admiration and spiritual loyalty in his
Paradiso, which clearly elaborates on St. Thomas Aquinas and
his reflection on Dante. Cantos X-XIII involve Aquinas and
his guidance. Dante portrays Thomas as the Dominican with
insight of God as the source of his wisdom. He speaks as
though God is speaking through him, and in Dante s paradise
he is greatly influenced by the wise words of St. Thomas
Aquinas. This is the case of many, today and long ago.
Thomas wrote on many subjects, one being free choice of man.
He writes, Without a doubt it must be said that man has
free choice. Faith demands that we hold this position,
since without free choice one could not merit or demerit, or
be justly rewarded or punished. There are clear indications
of this if one considers the occasions when man appears to
choose one thing freely and reject another. Finally,
reason, too, demands that we hold this position, and
following its dictates we examine the origin of free choice,
proceeding in the following manner(tr. Goodwin, 121).
With this as just an example of the work of Thomas
Aquinas, it is believed that his teachings were those from
above, and his insight on many subjects of life have come to
shape the views and reason of many men.
Since the days of Aristotle, probably no one man has
exercised such a powerful influence on the thinking world as
did St. Thomas. His authority was very great during his
lifetime. The popes, the universities, the studia of his
order were anxious to profit by his learning and prudence.
Several of his important works were written at the request
of others, and his opinion was sought by all classes. On
several occasions the doctors of Paris referred their
disputes to him and gratefully abided by his decision
(Vaughan, op. cit., II, 1 p. 544)-(Encyc.Brit.Online, 14).
His principles, made known by his writings, have continued
to influence men even to this day. The whole life of St.
Thomas was spent in a so noble and so spiritual way that
already many of his contemporaries had conceived the
greatest admiration and veneration for him. It was natural
that after his death his cult should begin(Walz, 186).
1. Aquinas, Thomas. Selected Writings of St.
Thomas Aquinas. Trans. Robert P. Goodwin. New York: The
Bobbs-Merrill Co., 1965.
2. Aquinas, Thomas. On Being and Essence.
Trans. Armand Maurer. Toronto, Canada: Pontifical Institute
of Medieval Studies, 1968.
3. Encyclopedia Britannica: Aquinas, Thomas St.
Internet Source. May 28, 1999. http://search. eb.con/bol/
4. Ryan, John K. The Reputation of St. Thomas
Aquinas among English Protestant Thinkers of the Seventeenth
Century. Wash, D.C.: The Catholic University of American
5. Vann, Gerald O.P. Saint Thomas Aquinas.
Great Britain: The Temple Press, 1940.
6. Walz, Father Angelus O.P. Sanit Thomas
Aquinas: A Biographical Study. Westminster, MD: The Newman