St. Thomas came of the ruling family of Aquino, was educated as a child at Monte Cassino, and later studied at Naples. To his family's disappointment he entered (1244) the new Dominican order. In 1245 he began to study in Paris with Albertus Magnus, whose favorite pupil he became, and in 1248 he accompanied Albertus to Cologne. From there, Thomas went again (1252) to Paris, where he gained a great reputation and became professor of theology. He was leader of the friars in the controversy that occurred when the seculars sought to limit the friars' privileges at the university. After 1259 he spent several years in Italy as professor and adviser at the papal court.
His return to Paris (1269) was probably precipitated by the furor over Siger de Brabant and his Averroistic reading of Aristotle. The doctrinal struggle with Siger resulted in victory for Thomas and the triumph of his position. In 1272 he left Paris for Naples to organize a house of studies. Two years later when he and his companion, Brother Reginald, were at Fossanuova, on the way to the Council of Lyons, where he was to be a papal consultant, St. Thomas died.
He was canonized in 1323 and was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1567. His tomb is in the Basilica of St. Sernin at Toulouse. Feast: Mar. 7. In art St. Thomas is usually associated with a sacramental cup (representing his devotion to the sacrament) or a dove (representing the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) or depicted with a sun on his breast.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.