Philosophy and Theology
Religion not only motivated the production of liturgical and devotional books, but also great works of theological and philosophical thinking. Medieval philosophy refers to four main traditions: Byzantine (Christian), the “Latin” West (Christian), Jewish, and Islamic.The terms philosophers, theologians, thinkers, and intellectuals are often used interchangeably to discuss the medieval authors who dealt with existential questions. The first medieval Christian authors took the works of the great pagan Greek and Roman philosophers and reinvented them within a Christian worldview. The resulting philosophy found God as the source of everything in the universe.
The foundations of the first universities in the twelfth century and the translations of many of Aristotle’s works into Latin for the first time were part of the renewal that later scholars used to dub these hundred years as the Twelfth Century Renaissance. Intellectuals like Thomas Aquinas used Aristotelian logic in a method of teaching and learning known as scholasticism to blend human reason with Christian faith.
There was a shift in thinking around the middle of the fourteenth century, owed in part to the catastrophic effects of the Great Plague of 1347-1353 (now popularly referred to as the Black Death). The focus of intellectual thought was now given to blind faith rather than reason.
Medieval philosophers wrote a lot of works to share their interpretation of ancient texts and their vision of the creation of the universe. They had followers and opponents who also wrote works in agreement or disagreement with their teachers.
Fragmenta Manuscripta includes fragments from philosophical texts with known and unknown authors. The items from the collection are included below. Click on the names of any single author to learn more about them.
These examples from the colleciton include philosophical texts with unknown and known authors. For more on the known philosophical authors represented in the collection, see Aristotle, Augustine of Hippo, Gregory the Great, Thomas Aquinas.
Featured Theological Text: The Death of the Virgin
The Virgin Mary was one of the most popular of all saints in the medieval period. By the thirteenth century, she had her own cult following in Europe, with many cathedrals founded in the name of “our lady” or notre dame. Although the New Testament provided an account of her life, it did not provide the details of her death. Theologians turned to the available information in the New Testament and wrote their own interpretations of Scripture. Theologians wrote about the Virgin’s Dormition, or sleep/death, and Assumption, her bodily ascent to heaven. They had differing opinions on whether Mary died before her Assumption, whether her body was taken into Heaven or if it was only her soul, and where on Earth she spent her last moments.
The Fragmenta Manuscripta collection includes two manuscript leaves with accounts of the Death of the Virgin (FM 191-192).
These examples from the collection are classified as theological fragments—some have known authors and others do not. These examples include commentaries on religious texts and explanations regarding the holy saints.
For known authors of theological fragments in the collection see Ambrose of Milan, Gregory the Great, Hugh of St. Victor, Isidore of Seville, Peter Lombard, Pseudo-Bonaventure and Ludolphus of Saxony.
Daley, Brian E, S.J. ““At the Hour of Our Death”: Mary’s Dormition and Christian Dying in Late Patristic and Early Byzantine Literature.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 55 (2001): 71-89.
Gracia, Jorge J.E. Gracia. “Philosophy in the Middle Ages: An Introduction.” In A Companion to Philosophy in the Middle Ages, ed. by Jorge J. E. Gracia and Timothy B. Noone. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, Ltd, 2002.
Marenobon, John. Medieval Philosophy: An Historical and Philosophical Introduction. London: Routledge, 2007.
McNamer, Sarah. "The Origins of the Meditationes vitae Christi." Speculum. 84, issue 4 (2009): 905–955.
McNamer, Sarah. Meditations on the Life of Christ: The Short Italian Text. Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 2018.
Shoemaker, Stephen J. Ancient Traditions of the Virgin Mary's Dormition and Assumption. Oxford University Press, 2002.
Shoemaker, Stephen J. Mary in Early Christian Faith and Devotion. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016.
Spade, Paul Vincent. “Medieval Philosophy.” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Summer 2018 Edition. https://plato.stanford.edu/cgi-bin/encyclopedia/archinfo.cgi?entry=medieval-philosophy
Pasnau, Robert, and Christina van Dyke (eds.). The Cambridge History of Medieval Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.