St Thomas Aquinas (4)

Ornamental initial D at the beginning of Book III On Providence
Pembroke Coll. MS 37, f. 45v
Aquinas, Summa contra Gentiles, Quaestiones disputatae
East Anglia, Bury St Edmunds?, ca 1350–1375

Image reproduced by kind permission of the Master and Fellows of Pembroke College

This book contains two works of St Thomas. The first, the Summa contra Gentiles was written either ca 1260–1264 or ca 1270–1273. It is concerned with presenting Christian theology in a form suitable for unbelievers and has been described as sort of manual of philosophical and theological arguments for demonstrating the truth of the faith to those who had not been instructed in its basic tenets or who had contradicted them. Some copies have the title ‘The Book on the Truth of the Catholic faith against the Errors of the Infidels’ (Liber de veritate catholicae fidei contra errores infidelium). It is in four books on God, Creation, Providence and Salvation. The page shown is the opening of Book III on Providence with in the left hand column the end of the list of its chapters ending with his most interesting account of reprobation, predestination and divine election (De reprobatione, predestinatione et electione divina). The second section of the book contains the Quaestiones disputatae, a series of questions and answers on various disputed theological concepts. Included in this book are those de veritate (truth) followed by those de virtutibus (the virtues), de unione verbi incarnati (the union of the Word incarnate), de spiritualibus creaturis (spiritual creatures) and de anima (the soul).

This manuscript belonged to the Benedictine library of Bury St Edmunds Abbey and has its pressmark on the first leaf. The style of the illuminated ornament initials and borders is undoubtedly English, probably of the third quarter of the fourteenth century.

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