Dominican Theological Education

An excerpt from the article “More Notes on the Education of the Fratres communes in the Dominican Order: Elias de Ferreriis of Salagnac’s Libellus de doctrina fratrum,” by M. Michèle Mulchahey, published in A Distinct Voice: Medieval Studies in Honor of Leonard E. Boyle, O.P., Ed. Jacqueline Brown and William P. Stoneman (University of Notre Dame Press, 1997).

In its mature fourteenth-century form, the course of a Dominican priory schola came to consist, at least ideally, in two daily lectures, one on the Bible, one on the Sentences; a daily repetition over both of these; a weekly disputation, if possible; and a weekly repetitio generalis over everything that had been covered during the week. In his Instructiones de officiis Ordinis, written after he had retired as general of the order in 1265, Humbert of Romans supplies a vivid picture of the schola and its classes in the mid-thirteenth century. Humbert describes a formal curriculum structured around the three great texts that were also read in university theology faculties, the Bible, the Sentences, and the Historia scholastica of Peter Comester, although he clearly expected they would be handled by conventual lectors in a simple and straightforward manner. Humbert suggests continuing lectures on all three of the great textbooks, and, in keeping with the instructions of the order’s primitive Constitutions, he sees one of the primary duties of the conventual lector to reside in explaining the literal, historical sense of Scripture–hence the interest in the Historia scholastica. That the schedule and type of lectures outlined by Humbert were standard in Dominican schools is manifest in the order’s educational legislation: almost a dozen enactments from the third quarter of the thirteenth century to the first quarter of the fourteenth repeat virtually the same prescriptions for the schola seen in Humbert’s Instructiones. In 1271, for example, young Dominicans were encouraged to attend regularly two types of lectures in their convents, the “lectiones ordinarias,” presumably over the Bible, and the “lectiones Sentenciarum.” In 1300 the chapter general reminded the friars that both the Bible and the Sentences were required elements in the convent curriculum; it was stressed at the same time that all four books of the Sentences, “totus textus” were to be covered in class.