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Matteo of Aquasparta

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A celebrated Italian Franciscan, born at Aquasparta in the Diocese of Todi , Umbria, about 1235; died at Rome, 29 October, 1302. He was a member of the Bentivenghi family, to which Cardinal Bentivenga (d. 1290), also a Franciscan, belonged. Matteo entered the Franciscan Order at Todi, took the degree of Master of Theology at Paris, and taught also for a time at Bologna. The Franciscan, John Peckham, having become Archbishop of Canterbury in 1279, Matteo was in 1280 made Peckham's successor as Lecter sacri Patatii apostolici, i.e. he was appointed reader (teacher) of theology to the papal Curia. In 1287 the chapter held at Montpellier elected him general in succession to Arlotto of Prato. When Girolamo Masci (of Ascoli), who had previously been general of the Franciscan Order, became pope as Nicholas IV, 15 Feb., 1288, he created Matteo cardinal of the title of San Lorenzo in Damaso in May of that year. After this Matteo was made Cardinal Bishop of Porto, and p nitentiarius maior (Grand Penitentiary). He still, however, retained the direction of the order until the chapter of 1289. Matteo had summoned this chapter to meet at Assisi, but Nicholas IV caused it to be held in his presence at Rieti ; here Raymond Gaufredi, a native of Provence, was elected general. As general of the order Matteo maintained a moderate, middle course; among other things he reorganized the studies pursued in the order. In the quarrel between Boniface VIII and the Colonna, from 1297 onwards, he strongly supported the pope, both in official memorials and in public sermons. Boniface VIII appointed him, both in 1297 and 1300, to an important embassy to Lombardy, the Romagna, and to Florence, where the Blacks ( Neri ) and the Whites ( Bianchi ), that is, the Guelphs and Ghibellines, were violently at issue with each other. In 1301 Matteo returned to Florence, following Charles of Valois, but neither peace nor reconciliation was brought about. The Blacks finally obtained the upper hand, and the chiefs of the Ghibelline party were obliged to go into exile; among these was the poet Dante. In a famous passage of the "Divina Commedia" (Paradiso, XII, 124-26), Dante certainly speaks as an extreme Ghibelline against Matteo of Aquasparta. Matteo, however, had died before this. He was buried in the Franciscan church of Ara C li, where his monument is still to be seen.

Matteo was a very learned philosopher and theologian ; he was further a personal pupil of St. Bonaventure, whose teaching, in general, he followed, or rather developed. In this respect he was one of what is known as the older Franciscan school, who preferred Augustinianism to the more pronounced Aristoteleanism of St. Thomas Aquinas. His principal work is the acute "Quæstiones disputatæ", which treats of various subjects. Of this one book appeared at Quaracchi in 1903 (the editing and issue are discontinued for the present), namely: "Quæstiones disputatæ selectæ", in "Bibliotheca Franciscana scholastica medii ævi", I; the "Quæstiones" are preceded by a "Tractatus de excellentia S. Scripturæ" (pp. 1-22), also by a "Sermo de studio S. Scripturæ" (pp. 22-36); it is followed by "De processione Spiritus Sancti" (pp. 429-53). Five "Quæstiones de Cognitione" had already been edited in the collection called "De humanæ cognitionis ratione anecdota quædam" (Quaracchi, 1883), 87-182. The rest of his works, still unedited are to be found at Assisi and Todi. Among them are: "Commentarius in 4 libros Sententiarum" (autograph); "Concordantiæ super 4 ll. Sententiarum"; "Postilla super librum Job"; "Postilla super Psalterium" (autograph); "In 12 Prophetas Minores"; "In Danielem"; "In Ev. Matthæi"; "In Apocalypsim" (autograph); "In Epist. ad Romanos"; "Sermones dominicales et feriales" (autograph).

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