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Italian Dominican theologian Saint Thomas Aquinas was the foremost medieval Scholasticist and father of the Thomistic school of theology.
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Philosopher and theologian St. Thomas Aquinas was born in Lombardy, Italy, circa 1225. Combining the theological principles of faith with the philosophical principles of reason, he ranked among the most influential thinkers of medieval scholasticism. An authority of the Roman Catholic Church and a prolific writer, Aquinas died at the Cistercian monastery of Fossanova, Italy, on March 7, 1274.
Son to Landulph, the Count of Aquino, St. Thomas Aquinas was born in Lombardy at his family's castle in the kingdom of Naples, Italy, circa 1225. He had eight siblings, and was the youngest child. His mother, Theodora, was Countess of Teano. Although St. Thomas Aquinas' family members were the descendants of Emperors Frederick I and Henry VI, they were considered to be of lower nobility.
Before St. Thomas Aquinas was born, a holy hermit shared a prediction with St. Thomas Aquinas' mother, foretelling that he would enter the Order of Friars Preachers and become a great learner who achieved unequaled sanctity.
Following the tradition of the period, St. Thomas Aquinas was sent to the Abbey of Monte Cassino to train among Benedictine monks when he was just five years old. In Wisdom 8:19, St. Thomas Aquinas is described as “a witty child,” who “had received a good soul.” At Monte Cassino, the quizzical young boy repeatedly posed the question, “What is God?” to his benefactors.
St. Thomas Aquinas remained at the abbey until he was 13 years old, at which time the political climate forced him to return to Naples.
St. Thomas Aquinas spent the next five years completing his primary education at a Benedictine house in Naples. During those years, he studied Aristotle's work, which would later become a major launching point for St. Thomas Aquinas' own exploration of philosophy. At the Benedictine house, which was closely affiliated with the University of Naples, St. Thomas Aquinas also developed an interest in more contemporary monastic orders. He was particularly drawn to those that emphasized a life of spiritual service, in contrast with the more traditional views and sheltered lifestyle he had observed at the Abbey of Monte Cassino.
Circa 1239, St. Thomas Aquinas began attending the University of Naples. In 1243 he secretly joined an order of Dominican monks, receiving the habit in 1244. When his family found out, they felt so betrayed that he had turned his back on the principles to which they subscribed that they decided to kidnap him. St. Thomas Aquinas' family held him captive for an entire year, imprisoned in the fortress of San Giovanni at Rocca Secca. During this time they attempted to deprogram St. Thomas Aquinas of his new beliefs. St. Thomas Aquinas, however, held fast to the ideas he had learned at university, and went back to the Dominican order following his release in 1245.
From 1245 to 1252, he continued to pursue his studies with the Dominicans in Naples, Paris and Cologne. In 1250 he was ordained in Cologne, Germany, then returned to the University of Paris to teach theology.
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