History of Saint Thomas Aquinas

Brief Biography

Thomas AquinasThomas Aquinas was born in a hilltop castle in Roccasecca in central Italy in 1225. At the age of five, his studies began at the abbey of Monte Cassino. When the monastery became a battle site— Thomas was transferred by his family to the University of Naples. It was here that he came into contact with the "new" Aristotle and with the Order of Preachers or Dominicans, a recently founded mendicant order. He became a Dominican over the protests of his family and eventually went north to study, perhaps first briefly at Paris, then at Cologne with Albert the Great, whose interest in Aristotle strengthened Thomas's own interest. He returned to Paris, completed his studies, became a Master and for three years and occupied one of the Dominican chairs in the Faculty of Theology. The next ten years were spent in various places in Italy, with the mobile papal court, at various Dominican houses, and eventually in Rome. In 1274, on his way to the Council of Lyon, he fell ill and died in the Cistercian abbey at Fossanova, which is near Roccasecca.


The writings of Saint Thomas cover almost every conceivable topic in more than fifty works. He is best known for his Summa Theologiae that explores all aspects of creation including the role of God, angels, and human beings. His writings continued until he had a mystical experience at the end of his life that made him think that all he had done as "mere straw." At the time of his death in 1274, he was under suspicion by some Church authorities and in 1277 a commission appointed by the Bishop of Paris condemned some of his views. The condemnation was lifted, and he was canonized. Since his death there have been many forms of Thomistic thought in the subsequent centuries and his influence on Catholic intellectual life remains immeasurable.

Saint Thomas was made a Doctor of the Church at the First Vatican Council (1869-1870). The term Doctor of the Church designates a saint of eminent learning and great sanctity.

Some Important Secondary Sources:

Biographies and Introductions 
  • Chesterton, G. K. St. Thomas Aquinas. New York: Doubleday, 1956.
  • Chenu, M-D. Toward Understanding Saint Thomas. Chicago: Henry Regnery Co., 1964.
  • Coppleston, Frederick C. Aquinas. Baltimore: Penguin Pelican, 1955.
  • Davies, Brian. The Thought of Thomas Aquinas. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993.
  • Gilson, Etienne. The Christian Philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas. New York: Random House, 1956.
  • Jordan, Mark D. The Alleged Aristotelianism of Thomas Aquinas. Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 1992.
  • Kenny, Anthony. Aquinas. New York: Hill and Wang, 1980.
  • Kerr, Fergus. After Aquinas: Versions of Thomism. Blackwell, 2002.
  • O’Meara, Thomas. The Theology of Thomas Aquinas. Notre Dame, 1997.
  • Maritain, Jacques. Angelic Doctor: Life and Thought of St. Thomas Aquinas. New York, 1931.
  • Martin, Christopher. The Philosophy of Thomas Aquinas. Routledge, 1988.
  • Martin, Christopher. Thomas Aquinas. Edinburgh University Press, 1998.
  • McInerny, Ralph M. St. Thomas Aquinas. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1982.
  • Nichols, Aidan. Discovering Aquinas: An Introduction to His Life, Work, and Influence. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans Publishing, 2003.
  • Pasnau, Robert and Christopher Shields. The Philosophy of Aquinas. Westview, 2003. 
  • Pieper, Josef. Guide to St. Thomas Aquinas. NY: Pantheon, 1962.
  • Stump, Eleanor. Aquinas. Routledge, 2005.
  • Torrell, Jean-Pierre. Saint Thomas Aquinas. Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1996.
  • Torrell, Jean-Pierre, O.P. Aquinas’s "Summa": Background, Structure, and Reception. Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University Press, 2005.
  • Weisheipl, James A. Friar Thomas D'Aquino: His Life, Thought, and Works Torrell, Jean-Pierre, O.P. Aquinas’s "Summa": Background, Structure, and Reception . Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University Press, 2005.
  • Weisheipl, James A. Friar Thomas D'Aquino : His Life, Thought, and Works . Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1983. Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1983.


Most of Thomas Aquinas' writings can be found at:

For an excellent list of internet sites regarding research, articles, and centers of Thomistic studies see: www.thomasinstituut.org/thomasinstituut/scripts/index.htm