Doctor Seraphicus



BONAVENTURE (c. 1217-74), Franciscan theologian, ‘Doctor Seraphicus’. Giovanni di Fidanza probably became a Franciscan in 1243. He taught at Paris. In 1257 he was elected Minister General and he did much to settle internal dissensions in the order. He was mainly responsible for the election of Gregory X in 1271 and in 1273 he was made a Cardinal. He took part in the Council of Lyons in 1274.

As a theologian he had less sympathy with Aristotelian doctrines than did St. Thomas Aquinas. In his Itinerarium Mentis in Deum he emphasized the folly of all human reason when compared with the mystical illumination which God sheds on the faithful Christian. He had a lasting influence as a spiritual writer.

Bonaventure, St (c.1217–74). Franciscan theologian, ‘Doctor seraphicus’. An Italian by birth, Giovanni di Fidanza studied in the Faculty of Arts in the University of Paris. Probably in 1243 he entered the Franciscan Order and then studied theology under Alexander of Hales. In 1248 he began to teach publicly; in 1253–4 he became doctor in theology; he continued teaching until 1257, with a short interruption due to the quarrel between the secular masters and the mendicant orders. On 2 Feb. 1257 he was elected Minister General of his order, and in this capacity he took a prominent part in settling the internal dissensions by which the order was then rent. He first codified its statutes in the ‘Constitutions of Narbonne’ in 1260. His Life of St Francis was approved by his order in 1263 as the official biography of their founder, and in 1266 a general chapter at Paris decreed the destruction of all other ‘legends’ of the saint. In 1271 he was mainly responsible for securing the election of Gregory X to the Papacy. In 1273 he was created Cardinal Bp. of Albano. He took a prominent part in the events of the Second Council of Lyons in 1274 and died while it was still sitting. Feast day, 15 (until 1969, 14) July.

As a theologian he remained faithful to the tradition which derived from St Augustine and was reasserted by St Anselm, and had only limited sympathy with the new Aristotelian doctrines, though he acknowledged that Aristotle’s description of the facts was often correct. As against St Thomas Aquinas, who gave a far more ready hearing to the new doctrines, St Bonaventure held that the creation of the world in time could be demonstrated by the light of reason. He emphasized that all human wisdom was folly when compared with the mystical illumination which God sheds on the faithful Christian; and this essentially mystical theory of knowledge he set forth in his ‘Itinerarium Mentis in Deum’. His most extensive and systematic work is his ‘Commentary on the Sentences’ of Peter Lombard. He denied the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the BVM. As a spiritual writer he had a great and lasting influence.

Crit. edn. of his Works by the Franciscans of Quaracchi (10 vols.; sep. index to vols. 1–6, Quaracchi, 1882–1902). Opera Theologica Selecta, ed. idd., Editio Minor (5 vols., ibid., 1934–64) [vols. 1–4 contain his comm. on the Sentences, vol. 5 various smaller works]. A different recension of the Collationes in Hexaëmeron from that in the complete works was ed. by F. Delorme, OFM (Bibliotheca Franciscana Scholastica Medii Aevi, 8; ibid., 1934). Modern Eng. tr of his works by J. de Vinck (5 vols., Patterson, NJ, 1960–70); also of his ‘Itinerarium Mentis in Deum’, ‘Lignum Vitae’ and Life of St Francis by E. Cousins (Classics of Western Spirituality [1978]). B. Distelbrink, Bonaventurae Scripta Authentica, Dubia vel Spuria critice Recensita (Subsidia Scientifica Franciscalia, 5; Rome 1975). E. Gilson, La Philosophie de Saint Bonaventure (Études de Philosophie Médiévale, 4; 1924; 2nd edn., 1943, repr., 1978; Eng. tr., 1938). J. Ratzinger, Die Geschichtstheologie des heiligen Bonaventura (1959; Eng. tr., Chicago [1971]). J. G. Bougerol, OFM, Introduction à l’Étude de Saint Bonaventure (Bibliothèque de Théologie, 1st ser., Théologie dogmatique, 2 [1961]). J. F. Quinn, The Historical Constitution of St Bonaventure’s Philosophy (Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, Studies and Texts, 23; Toronto, 1973). S. Bonaventura 1274–1974: Volumen commemorativum anni septies centenarii a morte S. Bonaventurae … cura et studio Commissionis Internationalis Bonaventurianae (5 vols., Rome [1974]); A. Pompei (ed.), San Bonaventura Maestro di Vita Francescana e di Sapienza Cristiana: Atti del Congresso Internazionale per il VII centenario di san Bonaventura da Bagnoregio, Roma, 19–26 settembre 1974 (3 vols., ibid., 1979). Z. Hayes, OFM, The Hidden Centre: Spirituality and Speculative Christology in St Bonaventure (New York [1981]). F. Van Steenberghen, La Philosophie au XIIIe siècle (2nd edn., Philosophes Médiévaux, 28; 1991), pp. 177–244. J. Hamesse, Thesaurus Bonaventurianus (Travaux publiés par le Centre de Traitement Electronique des Documents de I’Université Catholique de Louvain, 3; 1972 ff.). E. Longpré, OFM, in Dict. Sp. 1 (1937), cols. 1768–843, s.v.; R. Sbardella, OFM, in DIP 1 (1974), cols. 1504–12, s.v.; A. Gerken, OFM, in Lexikon des Mittelalters, 2 (1983), cols. 402–7, s.v.; J. M. Hammond in NCE (2nd edn.), 2 (2003), pp. 479–93, s.v.



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