FIOR (Franciscan Institute Outreach - Malta)

10. Franciscan Schools of thought (3)

10.20. The Friars Minor arrived in Dover, England, in 1224. By 1229 they already had a student house in the university town of Oxford, as Thomas of Eccleston states in his Chronicle of the early years of the Friars Minor in England. Oxford had been a centre of studies ever since the time of Henry II in 1137. In the 13th century it was renowned as a university town. In 1285 the Franciscan School became a "studium generale". Other famous schools included that of Cambridge, founded in 1236-39 and also declared a "studium generale". The Franciscan School of Oxford gave more importance to natural science and logic than to speculative philosophy.

a. Robert Grossatesta (1170-1253)

10.21. The founder of the Franciscan School of Oxford was Robert Grossatesta. He was not a Franciscan friar. He was a lecturer of the first friars who studied in Oxford. His name in Latin, "Grossum caput", literally means, a large head. He was probably born in 1170 at Stradbroke, in Suffolk. He was educated by the Benedictines of the Abbey of Eye, who introduced him to philosophy and theology with the help of the works of St. Anselm of Canterbury. In 1208 Grossatesta was nominated Master of the School of Oxford, a title which was equivalent to that of Chancellor. It was as Chancellor that Grossatesta was of great help to the Franciscans. He built for them a student house in Oxford, which became the centre of studies for the Franciscan Order in England. He lectured the friars from 1229 to 1235, and even left them the legacy of his voluminous library. In 1236 he was nominated bishop of Lincoln. Roger Bacon is witness to the great genius that was Grossatesta, who was familiar with Greek, Hebrew and Arabic, and could thus easily comment upon the greatest philosophical works of classical times, as well as upon the mediaeval translations of Aristotle made by the Arabic philosophers. Grossatesta died in 1253. He is author of various philosophical works, including "De luce seu de inchoatione formarum", "De unica forma omnium", "De veritate propositionis".

b. Thomas of York (+1260)

10.22. We have no information regarding the life of Thomas of York, except from the letters of his companion in studies, Adam Marsh. Thomas entered the Franciscan Order in 1242. He studied in Oxford until 1256, and later on became the rector of the Franciscan School of Cambridge. He died in 1260 and is author of a work called "Sapientiale", in which he tried to reconcile Greek philosophy with Christian wisdom.

c. Roger Bacon (1214-1292)

10.23. Bacon is considered to be one of the most interesting philosophers of the Middle Ages. He was born in 1214 in Ilchester, Somerset. His importance as a philosopher consists in the application of experimental science and mathematics. Bacon was a true philosopher in his search for truth, but he founded his assertions more on the empirical than on the speculative order. He was convinced of the truth of his assertions and could criticise the other philosophers of his times, especially those in Paris, who shunned the study of natural sciences and mathematical truths. Bacon studied in Oxford in 1247-1250, and had Adam Marsh and Robert Grossatesta as his lecturers. In 1251 he transferred to Paris where he taught for a number of years, criticising the insistence of the Paris school upon the Book of Sentences and its disregard for the knowledge of languages and natural science. In 1257 Roger Bacon entered the Franciscan Order. As a friar he had to suspend teaching on account of his convictions. In 1266 Pope Clement IV asked Bacon to send him his writings, but unfortunately the Pope died in 1268 and Bacon fell under heavy suspicions that he was practising astrology. The Minister General Girolamo d'Ascoli Piceno summoned him to Paris and in 1278 Bacon was imprisoned for his views. It is probable that he remained in prison until 1292, the year of his death. In the Franciscan School of Oxford Bacon was known as one of the "moderni Oxoniensi" (modern scholars of Oxford). His major works include the "Opus maius", "Communia naturalium", "Compendium studii theologici", "Compendium studii philosophici", "Moralis philosophia".

d. John Peckham (1215/20-1292)

10.24. Born in Sussex, England, John Peckham received his education in Oxford. In 1250 he joined the Franciscan Order, and in 1257 was sent to Paris, where he became a doctor of theology and a lecturer between 1269-1271. He was a regent master of the Franciscan School of Paris, and held famous disputations with Thomas Aquinas. He returned to Oxford and became "lector" of the friars. In 1274-1277 he was Minister of the English Franciscan province, and later on a "magister sacri palatii" in the Roman Curia. On 28 January 1279 he was elected archbishop of Canterbury, and occupied the famous episcopal see until he died on 8 December 1292. His major philosophical works include the "Quaestiones quodlibeticae", "Quaestiones disputatae", "Super magistrum sententiarum".

e. Richard of Middletown (+1300/1309)

10.25. We know nothing about the young years of Richard of Middletown, or about his entry into the Franciscan Order. It seems that he came from a family of Northumberland. He studied in Oxford and went to Paris in 1279. In 1283 he was nominated as a member of the theological commission for examining the works of Pierre Jean Olieu. In 1284 he became regent master in Paris. In 1296 he became a tutor to St. Louis of Toulouse, the son of Charles II Anjou of Sicily. His year of death is uncertain, between 1300 and 1309. His authentic works include a Commentary on the Book of Sentences, "Quodlibeta tria", "Quaestiones disputatae", "De gradu formarum".

f. John Duns Scotus (1265-1308)

10.26. John was born in Duns, in Berwickshire, Scotland. His paternal uncle was Elias Duns, vicar general of the Franciscan vicariate of Scotland. John attended the school of Haddington and in 1278 he went to his uncle's friary in Dumfries, where he entered the Franciscan Order in 1281. He studied the Arts in 1281-1283, Philosophy in 1282-1285 and Theology in 1287-1290. He was ordained a priest by the bishop of Northampton on 17 March 1291. Most probably he lectured in the Franciscan "studium" of this town. In 1293-1297 he was in Paris, where he became bachelor of arts and commented the Book of Sentences of Peter Lombard. He lectured in Oxford, and his notes have been handed down to us through the "reportationes", or notes taken by his students, in the "Opus Oxoniense", or "Ordinatio". It is probable that Scotus also taught in Cambridge. In 1302 he was back in Paris in order to be installed as "magister". During this period he refused to sign a petition on the part of the secular masters of Paris in favour of the king of France against Pope Boniface VIII. As a consequence he had to leave Paris. Between 1303-1304 he lectured in Oxford and Cambridge. In 1304 Gonsalvus of Valboa, Minister General of the Order and one of his masters at the university, recommended Scotus to the university of Paris. In 1305 Scotus was back in Paris as a regent master. He continued teaching in Paris and Oxford in the period 1305-1308, and became famous as a theologian for his courageous assertion concerning the Universal Primacy of Christ and the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary. In 1308 Scotus was transferred to Köln, Germany, to lecture in the "studium" of the Order. He died in this city on 8 November 1308. He is known as the subtle doctor. His works include the "Quaestiones subtilissimae super libros Metaphysicorum Aristotelis", and the "Opus Oxoniense", also known as "Ordinatio" or "Reportata Parisiensia". His works are published in the critical edition of the Scotistic Commission of the Antonianum, in Rome. Scotus' philosophical ideas include that of the univocity of being and the principle of individuation.

g. William of Ockham (1280/90-1349)

10.27. William was born in Ockham, Surrey, near London, between 1280-1290. He probably studied theology in Oxford between 1309-1315. He lectured as a Scripture scholar in 1315-1317, and commented he Book of Sentences in 1317-1319. Ockham became a master of theology, but he never occupied the official chair of a regent master. In 1324 he was summoned to Avignon by John XXII, because he was accused by the Chancellor of the university of Oxford of teaching dangerous doctrine. The Pope nominated a commission to examine Ockham's works. The commission never condemned Ockham, who remained in the friary of Avignon between 1324-1328. In this place he took part in the famous controversy regarding poverty between John XXII and Michele da Cesena. In 1328, together with Bonagrazia di Bergamo, Ockham and the ousted Minister General fled from Avignon and found refuge in the court of Louis of Bavaria. After this he was excommunicated, but in 1347 Ockham reconciled himself again with the Church. He died in Munich in 1349. The critical edition of his works is published by the Franciscan Institute of St. Bonaventure University, NY.

© copyright FIOR-Malta
Text by Fr. Noel Muscat ofm



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