|Saint Thomas Aquinas,
Doctor of the Church - 1225-1274
St. Thomas Aquinas was the pre-eminent philosopher and theologian of the Christian Middle Ages. Much of his work was aimed at refuting philosophers of his time who had been led by their study of the Arab scholar Averroes to question the Eucharist and other doctrines.
A number of images of St. Thomas Aquinas follow the program seen at left in Gozzoli's Triumph of St. Thomas Aquinas. Averroes lies vanquished under the feet of Thomas, who is assisted by Aristotle and Plato (on his left and right) and by the four Evangelists, who sit above him writing their gospels.
At the very top is Christ, whose words are printed in the space between the Evangelists: Bene scripsisti de me Thomma, "You have written well of me, Thomas." A late version of the Golden Legend says these words were spoken to Aquinas by Christ as he contemplated the crucifix one night in prayer (image). Another episode in the same work has St. Peter and St. Paul come one night while Aquinas is praying and help him to understand the scriptures (image).
The legend's emphasis on St. Thomas Aquinas's prayerfulness probably explains the phrase on the left leaf of the saint's book in the image at left. The same phrase appears in many other images of Aquinas: Veritatem meditabitur guttur meum et labia mea detestabuntur impium, "my mouth will meditate on truth, and my lips will detest the impious man" (Proverbs 8:7).
Aquinas was a Dominican, so he is normally shown in the black and white habit of that order with a distinct tonsure and often a shining sun on his breast as an emblem of his role as teacher of doctrine. Some portraits show a dove near his ear, symbolizing inspiration, and sometimes he holds a pen.
Feast day: March 7, changed in the 20th century to January 28
The Triumph of St. Thomas Aquinas 1349
"The Apotheosis of St. Thomas Aquinas" - 1631
Possible Aquinas santo - 1713
Life of Thomas in Caxton's translation of the Golden Legend: html or pdf