Died At Age: 53
Also Known As: Giovanni di Fidanza
Born Country: Italy
Born in: Bagnoregio, Italy
Famous as: Theologian
father: Giovanni di Fidanza
mother: Maria di Ritella
Died on: July 15, 1274
place of death: Lyon, France
education: University of Paris
Who was Bonaventure?
Saint Bonaventure was an Italian theologian, philosopher and minister general of the Franciscan order. Throughout his life, he wrote several works on spiritual life and is also known for recodifying his order’s constitution. He had something of a near-death experience as a child and was saved from an untimely death by the prayers of Francis of Assisi. He entered the Franciscan Order at the age of 22. After taking his vows, he was sent to Paris, where he completed his studies under the celebrated doctor named Alexander of Hales. Though Alexander of Hales passed away after some time, Bonaventure continued his studies under John of Rochelle, his successor. During this time, he also became a friend of renowned philosopher Thomas Aquinas. Eventually, he received his degree of Doctor, along with Aquinas. Both Bonaventure and Thomas Aquinas were also friends with the holy King, St Louis. Bonaventure was chosen General of his Order, and was able to restore peace, as there were lots of internal conflicts. He died in 1274. Shortly before his death, he also abdicated his office of General of the Franciscan Order.
Childhood & Early Life
Bonaventure was born Giovanni di Fidanza in 1221, in Bagnoregio, near Viterbo, in the Papal States, to Giovanni di Fidanza and Maria di Ritella.
Not much is known about his childhood except that he had a near death experience as was saved by the prayers of St Francis of Assisi.
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At the age of 22, he joined the Franciscan order, and given the name Bonaventure. He next went to Paris, and studied under Alexander of Hales.
Alexander of Hales passed away after some time, after which Bonaventure studied under John of Rochelle, who was Alexander’s successor. Eventually, he received the title of Doctor. During this time, he was also acquainted with the famous philosopher Thomas Aquinas.
After Bonaventure successfully defended his order against the anti-mendicant party’s reproaches, he got elected as Minister General of the Franciscan Order. He soon became known for integrating the Franciscan mode of the mendicant life, with his study of theology.
He also taught the Bible as well as the Sentences, a medieval theology textbook by Peter Lombard. He also assumed control of the Franciscan school in Paris.
He also played an important role in procuring the election of Pope Gregory X. Therefore, the latter rewarded him with the title of Cardinal Bishop of Albano. Pope also insisted that Bonaventure be present at the second Council of Lyon in 1274.
Bonaventure earned popularity because he led the order on a moderate and intellectual course, making them the most prominent order of the Catholic Church, till the Jesuits came.
Bonaventure’s works include a ‘Commentary on the Sentences of Lombard’, which is in four volumes, and includes other works such as ‘Commentary on the Gospel of St Luke’, ‘The Mind’s Road to God’, ‘Brief Reading’, ‘Reduction of the Arts to Theology’ and ‘The Tree of Life’. However, the German philosopher Dieter Hattrup argued that ‘Reduction of the Arts to Theology’, wasn’t actually a work of Bonaventure.
’The Commentary on the Sentences’, which he wrote at the age of 27, is considered his most important work. Most of his other theological and philosophical works are also somewhat dependent on it. Bonaventure wrote on almost all the subjects which were treated by the Schoolmen. Most of them deal with faith in God, Christ as well as theology. His philosophy also shows influence of Augustine of Hippo. He also added Aristotelian principles to the Augustinian doctrine.
In 1484, years after his death, he was formally canonized, by Pope Sixtus IV, a Franciscan, and along with Thomas Aquinas, he was ranked as the greatest of the Doctors of the Church. During the middle ages, he was also regarded as one of the greatest philosophers. Modern scholars also consider him as one of the foremost men of his times, who defended human as well as divine truth. He is also known to be an outstanding exponent of mystical as well as Christian wisdom.
Death & Legacy
Bonaventure died on 15 July 1274, while he was assisting at the Second Council of Lyons. At the council, his death was viewed as a great loss. The same day, he was buried in a Franciscan church where the Pope was also present.
The Catholic Encyclopedia published in 1913, has citations that suggest he was poisoned. However, in the 2003 edition of the New Catholic Encyclopedia, no mention of this was made.
In the US, plenty of schools, churches and places, have been named in the honor of Saint Bonaventure. Some of them are St. Bonaventure University, a Franciscan University, in Allegany, New York, St Bonaventure High School, in Ventura, California, and St Bonaventure Monastery, which is a complex of religious buildings, located in Detroit, Michigan.
In other countries, several places have been named after him as well. They include the Town of Bonaventure, in Quebec, Canada, the Bonaventure chapel in Philippines, and St Bonaventure’s Catholic School, which is in Forest Gate, London, in the UK.