16.09.13, Fidora, ed., Guido Terreni, O. Carm. (†1342): Studies and Texts

Main Article Content

Andrew Jotischky

The Medieval Review 16.09.13

Fidora, Alexander, ed. Guido Terreni, O. Carm. (†1342): Studies and Texts. Textes et Études du Moyen Âge, 78. Barcelona: Fédération Internationale des Instituts d'Études Médiévales, 2015. pp. xiii, 405. ISBN: 978-2-503-55528-7 (paperback).

Reviewed by:
Andrew Jotischky
Lancaster University

The importance of the Catalan philosopher and theologian Guido Terreni (more properly, in Catalan, Guiu Terrena) has been recognized for almost a century, since the biographical study by the Carmelite Bartolomeu Xiberta brought his work to the attention of a scholarly audience. [1] Terrena taught in the theology faculty at the University of Paris, but was also, like his Carmelite confrère and former student the English theologian John Baconthorpe, an important member of the circle of theologians at John XXII's papal court. Like Baconthorpe, he became involved in debates over the Franciscan controversy on poverty, examining the writings of Peter John Olivi and Arnold of Villanova. He was also an advisor to John XXII on Marsilius of Padua's Defensor Pacis, and may therefore be regarded as having had a hand in the papal bull Licet iuxta doctrinam (1327), which condemned Marsilius's work. Born in ca. 1270, Terrena became a Carmelite at Rousillon, but studied at Paris under Godfrey de Fontaines and then began to teach at the Carmelite studium generale. The Carmelites John Baconthorpe and Sibert de Beka were among his pupils. Between ca. 1313, when he wrote his Questions, and ca. 1320, Terrena's work was centered on philosophical questions current at Paris. Although much of this work remains unedited, it has been studied by Chris Schabel, one of the contributors to this volume. [2] In 1318 Terrena became Prior-General of the Carmelite Order, but after three years he was elevated to the prelacy, becoming bishop of Majorca in 1321 before being transferred to Elne in 1332. Not surprisingly, marked differences can be seen in the preoccupations underlying his work after he assumed high office. In the 1320s and beyond, he became increasingly called upon to write about the theological dimensions of the issues with which John XXII was concerned. Not surprisingly perhaps, he developed a robust defence of authority in the Church as represented by the prelacy. For Terrena, the Church's perfection was ensured by papal authority. Christ was the model for the bishop, rather than the monk or friar, and the pope was supreme among bishops. Like his pupil Baconthorpe, Terrena was staunchly papalist in controversies over absolute poverty and the temporalities of the Church.

The present volume, the outcome of a conference held at the Institute of Medieval Studies at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona in 2013, comprises twelve essays on aspects of Terrena's philosophical, theological, and canonical work, followed by three newly edited texts of previously unpublished philosophical works by Terrena. The volume begins with a brief introduction to Terrena's life and work by Alexander Fidora, in which the main outlines of his career and recent scholarship are surveyed. Iacopo Costa then examines Terrena's early commentary on Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics, concluding that his reading of the text represents an extreme version of the theories of his teacher Godfrey de Fontaines on the human will. In a long essay, Ann Giletti then discusses Terrena's early views on the Aristotelian theory of the eternity of the world, held while he was teaching at the University of Paris. This leads to a more general discussion of how Terrena negotiated areas where Aristotelian natural philosophy appeared to conflict with Christian teaching. The main question, from a philosophical point of view, was how God, who is unchanging and eternal, could engage in a single finite act of creation in making the world. As Giletti shows, Terrena's resolution of the problem is based on his concept of infinity. Given that the conclusions he drew technically fell under the censure against the theory of the eternity of the world in place since 1277, the underlying question with which Giletti is concerned is how 'academic heresy' of this nature could be reconciled with his role as an examiner of heretical works such as those of Olivi. One conclusion would be that some heresies were more important than others, and that conformity with the Chuch's teaching on theological issues, which Terrena would amply demonstrate, did not invariably mean that thinkers ceased to be open to philosophical possibilities. In her closely-argued essay on Terrena and the final cause, Cecilia Trifogli examines his views on Aristoteleian causality and their reception, especially their critical reading by the secular master Thomas Wylton. Terrena's line of argument is that "the end" (i.e. the outcome) is a cause not in its proper and real nature but in so far as it has intentionality. Chris Schabel examines Terrena's views on predestination in the context of changing theological views, showing that he reacted critically against a trend in which theologians wished to place greater emphasis on human action. Schabel argues persuasively that Terrena, in returning to the traditional Augustinian view, anticipated the more extreme theologies of predestination of Gregory of Rimini and Thomas Bradwardine later in the fourteenth century.

The next group of essays concerns the interface between theology and ecclesiology. The question of how far theologians might go in disagreeing with doctrines promulgated by episcopal authorities is the starting point of Gianluca Briguglia's short but pertinent essay "Truth, Error, Authority: Notes on Godfrey of Fontaines, John of Paris, Giles of Rome, Marsilius of Padua, Guido Terreni." Terrena is concerned with the question of what happened when theological thought outstripped or progressed beyond and therefore conflicted with previously formulated doctrine. Clearly this was especially significant in the context of papal infallibility, and here Terrena was careful and subtle enough to allow for change without compromising the "gold standard" of authority, by arguing that while a pope's deliberation on a matter of faith cannot be revoked by a successor, it may be clarified--which is effectively what John XXII did with Nicholas III's ruling of Franciscan poverty. Popes may make mistakes, but only as private individuals, not when making ex cathedra rulings. Celia López Alcalde's brief study of Terrena's Confutatio errorum quorundam magistrorum focuses on questions of textual transmission and editing, showing the significance of this work in the papal response to Marsilius of Padua's Defensor Pacis. The context of the Confutatio in terms of doctrinal debate and papal history is also the subject of Almudena Blasco Vallés' useful study; this is especially useful in providing background for the essay by José Meirinhos' essay on the response by Alvarus Pelagius and Guiu Terrena against Marsilius. In the 1320s and 1330s the legitimacy of the Church's ownerhship of temporal goods, a question that arose initially out of the Franciscan controversies over poverty, came under scrutiny by imperialist thinkers. Terrena, with Pelagius, was one of the theologians who were asked by John XXII to examine the propositions of Marsilius with a view to formulating a bull to condemn them. The bull Licet iuxta doctrinam is in part indebted to this examination. Presumably Terrena was asked to perform this function as a result of his work of 1323, De perfectione vitae, in which he had attacked the Spiritual Franciscan doctrine that Christ and Apostles had owned nothing. The Apostles had the right to make use of goods earned, because anyone who has power to refrain from use must also in first place have proper right and proprietorship over such goods. In his examination of Marsilius, however, Terrena left these arguments to Pelagius, while he concentrated instead on opposing the proposition in the Defensor Pacis that the Emperor can legitimately claim ownership of the goods of the Church.

In the latter part of his career Terrena turned his attention to canon law. Rafael Ramis-Barceló's essay on the classification of ius divinum and ius natural adds a canonical context to the debates over poverty and authority. For Terrena, natural law offered additional resources to combat extreme Franciscan views on poverty. Thomas Turley then studies Terrena's important commentary on Gratian, the Commentarium super Decretum of 1340. Here Terrenus aimed at an alignment of legal commentary with theology, in the course of which he revised Huguccio's view of papal authority in line with his own previous thinking on the subject. Turley characterizes Terrena's view as "restrained papalism" based in patristic teaching.

Finally, two essays deal with Terrena's views of the non-Latin world. First, Irene Bueno examines and compares Alvaro Pelagius' and Terrenus' thinking about the errors of Greek Orthodox and eastern Christians. Although Terrenus sometimes confused the doctrines of one eastern Church with another, his Summa de haeresibus et earum confutationibus (1348-1342) proved influential at a time when Greek and Armenian theologians were becoming a noticeable presence at the papal curia. Cándida Ferrero Hernández examines a Vatican manuscript of the same text that includes a fragment on the twenty-five errors of the Muslims, thereby providing a new source for our understanding of how anti-Islamic polemic was developing in papal circles at a time when crusading seemed to be losing direction.

The texts for which editions are offered in Section II are Terrena's Question on the eternity of the world and part of his commentary on Aristotle's Physics, edited by Ann M. Giletti; his Question on final causality (Quodlibet III, q.2), edited by Cecilia Trifogli; and large parts of his commentary of Gratian's Decretum, on the subject of predestination, edited by Chris Schabel. In all, this is a valuable and highly welcome addition to current scholarship on an important theologian, bishop and curialist of the fourteenth-century Church. --------


1. B. M. Xiberta, Guiu Terrena, Carmelita de Perpinyà (Barcelona: Institució Paxtot, 1932).

2. C. Schabel, "Carmelite Quodlibeta," in Theological Quodlibeta in the Middle Ages. The Fourteenth Century, ed. C. Schabel (Leiden: Brill, 2007), 493-543.

Article Details