Quote. Ralph V. Turner. ‘Descendit Ad Inferos’ […]. 1966.

Pope Gregory wrote scores of letters that circulated widely throughout Christendom, and there is one among them in which he discussed Christ’s descent into hell. He wrote to two officers of the church at Constantinople regarding their preaching that Jesus had released from punishment all those in hell who acknowledged him as God. Gregory wrote that he wanted them to believe far differently, for the truth was that Christ delivered only those who had believed that he would come and had observed his commandments. He advised them, “Only hold the true faith taught by the Catholic Church: that the Lord on his descent into hell only released from its confines those who in their fleshly existence had been guarded by his grace in faith and in good works.” This emphasis upon good works had been lacking in Augustine’s exposition on the salvation of the ancients; but absent from Gregory’s work was Augustine’s doubt over the location of the ancient elect, for he was confident that they waited in hell for Christ’s coming. However, the Pope shared with St. Augustine the belief that if Christ had preached to all the souls in hell, it would have given sinners an unjust advantage over the faithful.
Gregory buttressed his teaching with the authority of Philastrius, a IVth-century bishop who had compiled a catalogue of heresies, Diversarum Hereseon Liber. He had labelled as heretics those, such as Clement and Origen, who say that Christ revealed himself to all the souls in hell and granted salvation to those who acknowledged him there. St. Gregory noted that St. Augustine had concurred in this condemnation. In sum, Gregory’s view was that Christ descended into hell to free those ancients who had believed that he would come and had spent their lives in faith and good works. Whether he felt that this limited salvation to the Jews or included pagans as well is left uncertain in his writings.

Ralph V. Turner. ‘Descendit Ad Inferos’: Medieval Views on Christ’s Descent into Hell and the Salvation of the Ancient Just. Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 27, No. 2 (Apr. – Jun., 1966), pp. 178-179.

Charpentier. Etudes sur les Peres de l’Eglise. 1853.

Etudes sur les Peres de l’Eglise (1853)

Author: Charpentier, Jean Pierre, 1797-1878
Volumes: 2
Subject: Littérature chrétienne primitive; Pères de l’Église
Publisher: Paris : Veuve Maire-Nyon
Language: French
Call number: br67.c463
Digitizing sponsor: University of Toronto
Book contributor: University of Ottawa
Collection: universityofottawa; toronto

Charpentier. Etudes sur les Peres de l'Eglise. 1853. Volume 1. by Patrologia Latina, Graeca et Orientalis

Charpentier. Etudes sur les Peres de l'Eglise. 1853. Volume 2. by Patrologia Latina, Graeca et Orientalis

De Montfaucon. Sancti Athanasii Archiepiscopi Alexandrini Opera dogmatica selecta. 1853.

Sancti Athanasii Archiepiscopi Alexandrini
Opera dogmatica selecta (1853)

Author: Athanasius, Saint, Patriarch of Alexandria, d. 373; Montfaucon, Bernard de, 1655-1741; Thilo, Johann Karl, 1794-1853; Goldhorn, David Johann Heinrich
Publisher: Lipsia, Weigel
Language: Ancient Greek; Latin
Call number: AFE-6935
Digitizing sponsor: University of Toronto
Book contributor: Robarts – University of Toronto
Collection: robarts; toronto

Volume I of the Bibliotheca Patrum Graecorum Dogmatica. Ad optimorum librorum fidem edendam. Joannes Carolus Thilo, ed..

Montfaucon. Sancti Athanasii Archiepiscopi Alexandrini Opera dogmatica selecta. 1853. by Patrologia Latina, Graeca et Orientalis on Scribd

Quote. Roger Collins. ‘Visigothic Spain 409-711’, “Books and Readers: The Legacy of Africa”. 2004.

In the seventh century the Spanish church appears intellectually outstanding. It produced a succession of authors of theological, literary, and liturgical texts that were unparalleled, at least in the West, at this time. Many of the writers were also leading figures in the political life of the period, especially the bishops of Seville and Toledo, and most of them were involved in the impressive series of ecclesiastical councils held in Spain during the course of the century. The works of several of them, most notably Isidore of Seville (died 636) and Julian of Toledo (died 690) subsequently circulated widely outside the Iberian peninsula, as would the Hispana collection of canon-law texts, in the compiling of versions of which both these bishops were probably involved. Other authors of the Visigothic period, such as Ildefonsus of Toledo (died 667) and the monastic founder Fructuosus of Braga (died c.670) may have been less well known outside the Iberian peninsula, but within it their writings remained influential for centuries. The largely anonymous liturgical legacy of the Spanish church of the Visigothic period was outstanding for both its literary and theological qualities, and continued in use until finally suppressed in favor of Romano-Frankish traditions in the late eleventh century.
The variety of texts produced in the century and a quarter between the conversion of Reccared and the Arab conquest included works of history, devotional and dogmatic theology, biblical studies, poetry, monastic rules, saints’ lives, polemics, and educational texts, in addition to canon law and liturgy. Many of these items were not original, in that they consisted of rearranged excerpts from the works of earlier writers, thought to be particularly authoritative. But the compiling of them required the existence of libraries containing substantial collections of books. It would be wrong to assume that the often rare and early texts thus used by the authors of the Visigothic period would have been easily available to them, or would have survived in the peninsula from the later Roman period. The evidence for the marked lack of intellectual activity in Spain in the intervening centuries would argue against such a view. What has been called “the Isidoran Renaissance,”from the central role played in it by Isidore of Seville, depended on the presence in Spain by the late sixth century of very specific literary resources. How they came to be there requires an explanation, and it is one that involves looking outside the Iberian peninsula to some contemporary events in Byzantium and Africa.
Around 578/9 a young man from Scallabis (modern Santarém), called John but of Gothic origin, returned home after spending seven years in Constantinople. According to the brief account of him by Isidore of Seville, he had gone there to study. It is noteworthy that despite the ongoing war between the Visigothic kings and the Byzantine forces in Spain, it was clearly possible for a Goth to travel to Constantinople without difficulty, and that Latin literary studies were still being cultivated there.
Isidore’s words are not the only proof that Latin learning was still actively promoted in Byzantium. A Latin poet, Flavius Corippus, who had written a verse panegyric on one of the imperial viceroys of his native province of Africa, was encouraged by his literary success to move to Constantinople in search of patronage. There he wrote another panegyric on the accession of Justin II in 565, which tactfully omitted any hint of opposition to the new emperor’s supposedly unanimous selection by senate, army, and people. Whether this gained him the rewards he sought is not known.
Other Latin authors were also present in Constantinople for rather different reasons. These were bishops from Africa and Italy who were being detained there for opposing the emperor’s theological policies. Several of them wrote works to send to their supporters in the West, urging continued resistance to the emperor’s theology. They also recorded the ill-treatment they had received, which they saw as a modern counterpart to the imperial persecution of the early Christian confessors and martyrs.

Roger Collins. ‘Visigothic Spain 409-711’, Chp. 6: “Books and Readers: The Legacy of Africa”, pp. 147-149. Blackwell Publishing, 2004.

Quote. John D. Niles. Bede’s Cædmon, ‘The Man Who Had No Story’. 2006.

When one examines Bede’s tale of Caedmon with Irish tale-type 2412B in mind, the resemblance of its plot to that structural pattern is quite evident. Equally obvious is that Bede’s tale departs from that type in regard to some important details. These points of divergence will be worth attention in due time, but first the tale as Bede tells it should be summarised. Since an exact and neutral précis of this account is required, rather than trying to provide one myself I will draw on Daniel Paul O’Donnell’s summary of Bede’s chapter.(FN[9]) His entire summary will be cited (with one incidental omission in paragraph 4) even though, as is important to keep in mind, the parallel I am adducing pertains only to the first two of his four paragraphs. Likewise, the text of Caedmon’s Hymn is included here, as in O’Donnell’s summary, even though it is only peripherally relevant to my claims:
1. According to Bede, Caedmon was an old lay herdsman in the religious community of Streanxshalch (Whitby Abbey). Although the singing of vernacular songs was a customary entertainment at the abbey, Caedmon himself never learned to sing, and, as a result, used to leave feasts before he could be called upon to do so. Having left such a gathering one night and returned to his stables, Caedmon fell asleep, whereupon he was addressed in his dream by “someone” (Bede uses the Latin indefinite pronoun quidam), who asks him to sing for him. Explaining that he cannot, and, indeed, that he has just left the feast for that reason, Caedmon at first refuses. When the visitor insists, however, he gives in. Asking for a subject, he is told, Canta […I principium creaturarum, “Sing […] about the beginning of created things.” Almost immediately he begins his famous Hymn, which Bede paraphrases in Latin for the benefit of his readers:

Nunc laudare debemus auctorem regni caelestis,
potentiam Creatoris et consilium illius,
facta Patris gloriae: quomodo ille,
cum sit aeternus Deus, omnium miraculorum auctor extitit,
qui primo filiis hominum caelum pro culmine tecti,
dehinc terram Custos humani generis oninipotens creauit.

[Now we must praise the Maker of the heavenly kingdom, the power of the Creator and his counsel, the deeds of the Father of glory and how He, since he is the eternal God, was the Author of all marvels and first created the heavens as a roof for the children of men and then, the almighty Guardian of the human race, created the earth.]

2. When Caedmon awakes, he remembers everything that happened to him. He adds additional verses to his song and reports his vision and his new skill to his steward. Brought to the abbess, Caedmon describes his dream and sings his Hymn. He is then assigned a sacred text to translate into verse overnight by way of a test. When he proves himself able to do so, he is ordered to join the religious community.
3. In the course of his training, it is discovered that Caedmon’s gift extends to all holy subjects: upon hearing a passage of church history or doctrine, Bede tells us, Caedmon is able after a brief period to turn his lessons into carmen dulcissimum, “most melodious verse.” In addition to the Hymn, his works are said to include poems on a wide range of subjects: the creation of the world, the beginnings of mankind, the biblical Genesis, the flight from Egypt and entry into the promised land, the incarnation, passion, resurrection, and ascension of the Lord, the coming of the Holy Spirit, the teachings of the apostles, the terrors of hell, joys of heaven, and an account of God’s gifts to mankind.
4. The last part of Bede’s account concerns Caedmon’s exemplary life in the abbey. […] Bede reports that Caedmon was humble and obedient to the monastic rule and extremely zealous in his work against those who were not. After an illness of fourteen days, he is said to die like a saint: able to predict the hour of his own death, Caedmon asks to be moved to the hospice in which the terminally ill are lodged even though his own condition seems anything but serious. He gathers his friends and servants around him and asks if they have any outstanding quarrels with him. Told that they do not, he prays briefly, asks for the Blessed Sacrament, and finally expires just before nocturn.
Readers following my present argument may disregard paragraphs 3 and 4 of the preceding summary, which tell of Caedmon’s later career and death. This part of Bede’s history is steeped in the topoi of hagiography, as others have pointed out (Shepherd 1954; Wieland 1984; Stanley 1998). Paragraphs 1 and 2, however, mirror the structure of Irish tale-type 2412B. In the Irish tale, a man withdraws from company because he cannot sing or tell a tale; he has a remarkable experience of some kind; he returns to that same company to perform a song or story based on his strange experience; and he is recognised as a person who will always be known by that song or story (my italics). In Bede’s account, Caedmon withdraws from company because of embarrassment about his lack of poetic talent; that night he has a remarkable dream-vision and spontaneously produces a fully formed song; the next day he performs his song before the company of monks, to their amazement and delight; and thereafter he is recognised as the author of his Hymn, a work that preserves his fame even today.

John D. Niles. Bede’s Cædmon, ‘The Man Who Had No Story’ (Irish Tale-Type 2412B), Folklore, August 1, 2006, Vol. 117, Issue 2, pp. 143-144.

Quote. Alan Thacker. Bede and the Ordering of Understanding. 2006.

From the Scriptures, Bede moves on to hagiography, history and martyrology, hymns and epigrams, and natural science and computus, concluding with orthography, meter and grammar. Now there is nothing random or accidental in all this. For Bede, knowledge was highly interconnected. Its primary focus was the Christian Scriptures and the body of authoritative learned commentary on those Scriptures. It was natural therefore to begin with biblical exegesis, Hagiography and history follow since they demonstrated the teaching elucidated in abstract terms in the commentaries in action, in the theater or human affairs. The close connections in Bede’s mind between exegesis and history are particularly evident in the links between the late commentaries, such as De tabernaculo, De templo, and In Ezram et Neemiam, and the Historia ecclesiastica.
After history and historiography, the next significant section in Bede’s list of his writings focuses on his scientific treatises on chronology and the natural world. Computistical calculation of course had considerable practical implications for monks and liturgists, and Bede was, as we all know, an outstanding computist. At a deeper level, however, he was interested in chronology as revealing the structure of time, that structure which, as Faith Wallis has recently pointed out, represented the “continuity and patters” of divine providence. Both his chronological treatises therefore culminate in discussion of the ages of the world, of the progress of time from creation to the sixth and present age, the last of historical time that will usher in “the eternal stability and stable eternity” of the seventh and final age. That doctrine of the seven ages of the world, predicated on the seven days of creation, brings us of course back full circle to the creation myth of Genesis and biblical exegesis.
Such concerns are intimately connected with Bede’s analysis of the natural world. That world could only be understood through the lens of Genesis, and De natura rerum begins with a discussion derived from Augustine of the biblical creation story. What follows (in which the principal sources -Augustine, Pliny and Isidore- are carefully indicated) is designed to bring the ancients’ understanding of the world into a scriptural perspective.
Computus also naturally intersected with history. Both Bede’s treatises on time ended in world chronicles, dating events by annus mundi, the age of the world. In them, as Faith Wallis has pointed out, Bede was writing universal history with a universal dating system. In the Historia ecclesiastica, he is specific, focused upon the salvation history of a single nation -and here, in work solely devoted to the last age, he uses a different dating system, centered on the incarnation, thereby Cristianizing the structure of time.

Alan Thacker, “Bede and the Ordering of Understanding”, in ‘Innovation and Tradition in the Writings of The Venerable Bede’, ed. by Scott DeGregorio, pp. 47-49. West Virginia University Press, 2006.

Sedgefield. King Alfred’s Old English version of Boethius De consolatione philosophiae. 1899.

King Alfred’s Old English version of


De consolatione philosophiae


Author: Boethius, d. 524; Alfred, King of England, 849-899; Sedgefield, Walter John, 1866-?
Publisher: Oxford : Clarendon Press
Language: English
Call number: AJZ-5325
Book contributor: Kelly – University of Toronto
Collection: toronto

Sedgefield. King Alfred's Old English version of Boethius De consolatione philosophiae. 1899. by Patrologia Latina, Graeca et Orientalis

Quote. Einar Thomassen. Valentinian Ideas About Salvation as Transformation. 2009.

In his violent attack on the Valentinians in Book 31 of the Panarion, Bishop Epiphanius, amongst other grievances, also ridicules their views on resurrection:
They deny the resurrection of the dead, uttering some senseless fable about it not being this body that rises, but another one which comes from it and which they call “spiritual” (μὴ τὸ σῶμα τοῦτο ἀνίστασθαι, ἀλλ’ ἕτερον μὲν ἐξ αὐτοῦ, ὃ δὴ πνευματικὸν καλοῦσι). But [salvation belongs?] only to those among them who are spiritual, and to those called “psychic” –provided, that is, the psychics act justly. But those called “material”, “carnal” and “earthly” perish utterly and are in no way saved. Each substance proceeds to what emitted it: the material is given over to matter and what is carnal and earthly to the earth. (Pan. 31.7.6–7; trans. P. R. Amidon)
It is somewhat amusing that what Epiphanius here calls a “senseless fable” of the Valentinians in fact seems to be sound Pauline doctrine. The spiritual body that rises from the present one as a new and transformed being is precisely what Paul speaks about in 1 Cor 15:44: σπείρεται σῶμα ψυχικόν, ἐγείρεται σῶμα πνευματικόν. In other words, the Valentinians appear to have held a view of the resurrection that was more in agreement with Paul than was the doctrine professed by the heresy-hunting bishop.

Einar Thomassen. ‘Valentinian Ideas About Salvation as Transformation’. In “Ekstasis – Religious Experience from Antiquity to the Middle Ages”, 1 – ‘Metamorphoses’, p. 169. 2009.

Article. Il Vaticano II all’interno della «traditio ecclesiae»: La prospettiva patristica. Daniele Gianotti. 2012

Il Vaticano II all’interno della «traditio ecclesiae».
La prospettiva patristica.
Daniele Gianotti
Rivista di scienze religiose
(Molfetta), 26 (2012) 329-346


Il contributo si propone di indicare i tratti principali dell’influsso avuto sul concilio Vaticano II dal «ressourcement» patristico del Novecento. Dopo aver richiamato le discussioni in merito alla vigilia del Vaticano II e nei primi dibattiti conciliari, vengono indicati tre snodi centrali, nei quali il riferimento ai Padri della Chiesa ha giocato un ruolo importante: l’inizio della discussione sul de Ecclesia, l’adozione dello «schema Philips», il dibattito sulla collegialità episcopale. Nella parte conclusiva, vengono indicati alcuni aspetti più significativi dell’ecclesiologia patristica accolta dal Vaticano II.

Article available here.

Quote. Henry Chadwick. Boetius. 1981.

The preface to Boethius’ Institutio arithmetica implies an intention to write introductions to all four mathematical disciplines. Declarations of intent are not always fulfilled. At one time Augustine intended to write treatises on all seven liberal arts, but he completed only his projects on grammar, rhetoric, dialectic, something on geometry, and the six well­ known books on music. His Grammar was already lost from his own library at Hippo before he came to write his Retractations (i, 6) near the end of his life. A comparable misfortune seems early to have struck Boethius’ writings on geometry and, especially, astronomy.
Nothing by Boethius on astronomy has been transmitted by the medieval manuscript tradition, nor is any such work mentioned by Cassiodorus in his Institutiones. In the tenth century Gerbert of Aurillac, to be Pope Sylvester II from 999 to his death in 1003, speaks of Boethius as author of eight books on astronomy (astrologia) which he had seen in a manuscript at Bobbio. But the work (if really that by Boethius) failed to find copyists. Students preferred to find their astronomy in Macrobius’ commentary on Cicero’s Dream of Scipio or from Martianus Capella or from Cassiodorus. However, one likely model for Boethius’ treatise is the summary of Ptolemy’s Mathematike Syntaxis (the `Almagest’) composed by Proclus, a work which is still extant, though not edited since L. Allatius’ edition (Leyden, 1635). If Boethius’ work followed this precedent, he will have taken the earth as the static centre of a spherical cosmos, the Ptolemaic system assumed in his commentary on the Categories (212BC), and will have explained how the heavenly bodies move in relation to it; the solar year and its relation to the lunar months; the design and use of the astrolabe (an instrument in whose use Ammonius’ high skill is reported by Simplicius, In de Caelo, p. 462, 20); eclipses, fixed stars, the precession of the equinoxes; finally the courses of the planets. How far he comprehended Ptolemy’s trigonometry we cannot guess, and it is idle to speculate further. The allusion to Ptolemy’s astronomical geography in the Consolation of Philosophy (ii, 7, 4) as a work specially studied by Boethius is no doubt to be interpreted as an allusion to Boethius’ treatise on the subject.

Henry Chadwick. Boetius. ‘The Consolations of Music, Logic, Theology, and Philosphy’, II – Liberal Arts in the Collapse of Culture. Geometry and Astronomy, p. 102. Clarendon Paperbacks, 1981.

Quote. Robert M. Grant. Early Christians and Animals. 1999.

Isidore died before finishing his Etymologies, divided into twenty books by his friend Braulio, bishop of Saragossa. The title reflects his basic literary interests, and his method often leads him into fanciful word-derivations which he considers scientific. He discusses animals at the end of Book XI and in the whole of Book XII, and is less credulous than the author of the Physiologus. He has avoided many legendary anecdotes because he has analyzed narratives in the manner of Greek rhetoric, dividing them into three classes defined as historical fact, fiction, and myth.
For Isidore historical “facts” really took place, and even if “argumenta” (fictitious accounts) did not occur they could have occurred. Fables (myths) did not occur and cannot occur, however, because they are contrary to nature. The Physiologus, of course, had paid no attention to such distinctions, but Isidore was better trained in rhetorical analysis and more concerned with it. Though he discussed many of the fabled creatures found in the Physiologus, he did not often classify them as “animals.” Relying on Varro (through Augustine), he placed “monsters” and “fabulous portents” at the end of the eleventh book (or did his editor Braulio do this?), accepting the first group of portents as trustworthy (11.3.1–27), and even (like Pliny) citing Aristotle as an authority. These stories are placed under the heading “portents” and are different from the materials “on animals,” but they are also different from a few fabulous and fictitious accounts which can be explained away (11.3.28–39). Isidore definitely believes that transformations of men into beasts, or vice versa, are possible, and it seems surprising that he accepts the existence of vampires (11.4).
Henkel notes Isidore’s criticism, possibly after Augustine, of the tales about the weasel and the pelican and his references to the existence of hearsay. Isidore’s work is somewhat more “scientific” than the Physiologus, and Henkel rightly insists that medieval people did not regard the latter as a textbook of zoology. It is not what we should call scientific, however, for it is based on neither observation nor analysis but simply on rhetorical tradition.

Robert M. Grant. ‘Early Christians and Animals’, pp. 113-114. Routledge, 1999.

Revue de l’Orient Latin. 1893-1902.

Due to some changes and adjustments in our collections, the past November 23, 2012, some documents were deleted in various collections, some of them being deleted completely.

Between these, the 9 volumes of the ‘Revue de l’Orient Latin’ disappear, letting empty such collection.

We have re-uploaded all 9 volumes, and now they are again on line, and open to public read.

In the next days we will work on the ‘Scriptorum Veterum Nova Collectio‘, damaged too in such date.

Nota: the ‘Revue de l’Orient Latin’ were digitized by Gallica, and may be accessed directly through this link: