BARTHOLOMEW OF BOLOGNA (Bartholomaeus de Bononia)—philosopher and theologian, d. after 1294.

Initially Bartholomew was educated in Bologna where he probably entered the Franciscans. Later he studied in the faculty of arts in Paris. Around 1270, and certainly before 1278, he was magister regens of the Franciscan school in Paris. On October 7, 1282 he returned to Bologna to direct the Franciscan school in the place of Matthew of Aquasparta. From 1285 to 1288 or early 1289 he was the provincial of the Bologna Franciscan province. Bartholomew did not die in 1289, as some have thought, since his name appears in certain testament settlements as late as July 16, 1294, the year of Ubaldo de Bonis Consiliis’ last testament.

Bartholomew of Bologna’s major work is De luce (critical edition, I. Squadrini, Tractatus de luce fr. B. de Bononia, Antonianum 7 (1932), 201–238, 337–376, 464–494 with the addition of Sermo in Nativitate Domini). He also wrote a series of Quaestiones disputatae (“de primo principio et creatione, de fide, de anima, de B. M. Virgine”) and Sermones (critical edition, M. Mückshoff, Die Quaestiones disputatae de fide des B. von Bologna O. F. M., “Beiträge” 24, 4, Mr 1940 and A. Deneffe, H. Weisweiler, Gualteri Cancellarii et B. de Bononia O. F. M., Quaestiones ineditae de Assumptione B. V. Mariae, in: Opuscula et Textus, 9, Mr 1952).

In developing his own theory of light, Bartholomew relied on the tradition of the Franciscan school, especially on the teaching of Robert Grosseteste, St. Bonaventure, and Roger Bacon. According to them, the light that can be known by the senses is a symbol of God’s light that illuminates every man. They attempted to connect the doctrine of light with the metaphysics of light and the theology of divine illumination. Bartholomew’s treatise, De luce is a commentary on biblical texts that compare God’s essence and action to the essence of light. The work begins with a digression from the words: “Ego sum lux mundi: qui sequitur me, non ambulat in tenebris, sed habebit lumen vitae” (“I am the light of the world. Who follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life”—J 8, 12). Bartholomew stated that the metaphor of light serves to explain God’s action and nature. Just as there is a difference in the definitions of the quality of light (lux), dispersed light (lumen), radiation (radius), and brightness (splendor), so there is a difference between God and created things. When God calls himself “lux” rather than radiation (radius), dispersed light (lumen), or brightness (splendor), God is saying to us that He is the true source that illuminates all the rational creatures of the world, and that He is not one of the innate lights that owe their being to God’s illumination. Thus the essential and proper characteristic features of brightness (splendor), radiation (radius) or dispersed light (lumen) do not belong to Christ, but only the term “lux”, since only He is Light. Bartholomew states that material light is the first in the genus of sensible objects, and the immaterial light, which is God, is the first in the higher genus of spiritual or intelligible things. Material light is the highest in its genus, since not only is it visible in itself, but it also becomes the cause for our seeing other things. Likewise God is intelligible in Himself, and at the same time He is the reason for the intelligibility of all things. God and light are the first in their orders, and all other things are more or less intelligible depending on the position they occupy in relation to the true principle of intelligibility or visibility. We should note that Bartholomew of Bologna did not use the term “participation” in the sense of sharing in the same essence, nor does he derive the visibly perceptible light from the divine or intelligible light. In other words, Bartholomew thought that the intelligible and the sensory world are separate and distinct, and he makes a precise distinction between the divine light and material light. Thus the conception that beings are connected by necessity with the first cause was foreign to him. That conception was accepted by Greco-Arab necessitarianism and it has no place for the theory of creation from nothing or for a division between the world and God. Bartholomew divided the hierarchy of lights into two genera. He preserved the distinctness or separation between the Creator and creatures and established an analogical relation between spiritual light and corporeal light. Although he recognized an analogy between different kinds of light, he used neo-Platonic language in his reflections. In one of his texts he stated that all created things depend on Christ, just as “lumen, radius, et splendor” depend on “lux”. The image he presents suggests the emanation of all things from the Son, but it is obvious that Bartholomew was using a sensible example to explain theological truths. It should be emphasized that Bartholomew was more specific than other authors in his consideration of the analogical similarity between created and uncreated light; he accepts a certain parallel between the properties of the two kinds of light.

Bartholomew did not stop at the metaphysical plane. He also presented certain elements of a theory of knowledge that was based on the theory of light. He stated that the truth is in God before it is in things, and that things exist first in God as eternal and ideal exemplars. Thus he appealed to the doctrine of exemplarism that was accepted in the Franciscan school. Here we are dealing with a relation of exemplarity, a relation which becomes a basis of cognition for man. Bartholomew wrote that the eternal seal (Christ) in which the whole universe ideally shines, impresses in our intellectual faculty a trace similar to this universe. God is the source that illuminates all creatures that are endowed with intellect. This illumination descends in seven ways or modes. In order to explain this, É. Gilson suggests looking to optics, which recognizes seven ways of participation of material light. Furthermore, for a body to be able to receive light, the proper material conditions are necessary. Analogously, Bartholomew of Bologna mentions spiritual conditions necessary for our intellect to be able to receive divine illumination in this life and the future life. Thus the virtues of faith, humility, obedience, sanctity, and love are a preparation for the reception of divine illumination.

In his cosmological thought, Bartholomew looked to the views of Robert Grosseteste. He accepted the image of the universe common in the Middle Ages that includes spheres of four elements and celestial spheres that are contained on in the other. According to this cosmological conception we have a greater concentration of the radiation of beams of light in the sphere of fire than in the sphere of the moon, a greater concentration in the air than in the fire, and a greater concentration in the water than in the air. Yet the focus of beams on the earth is the greatest, because the earth is found in the lowest position. Furthermore, Bartholomew accepts the idea that heavenly bodies influence other bodies. He argues as follows. Higher bodies act on lower ones by the mediation of light. Bodies come into being according to the natural order as a result of the connection of the elements that exist in nature. The Greatest Artist, God, prepares the celestial bodies to bring the elements together in the right way. Essentially, light is the factor that connects elements that are contrary by nature. This power is more focussed on earth than in other elements. Thus on earth a greater number and variety of things can come into being. Speaking of the construction of the body, Bartholomew notes that its transparency depends on the greater or lesser density or concentration of light (the less light, the more transparent).

It is noteworthy that Bartholomew of Bologna accepted the conception of “natural place” in cosmology. The spheres of the elements are concentric circles located around the center of the world, and according to the conception of Anaxagoras the center of the world is the same as the center of the earth. The sphere of the earth would be a sphere possessing a center, that is, a sphere around which other concentric spheres would be arranged: water, air, and—the outermost—fire. Parts of one element that are found far from their natural place want to return to that place and thereby initiate so-called natural motion. Heavy bodies fall to the bottom, while light bodies, e.g., fire, rise upward.

Bartholomew of Bologna carried on the tradition of the Franciscan school, combining the views of Robert Grosseteste and St. Bonaventure on the role of light in the structure of all reality and applying a neo-Platonic doctrine of light to the needs of Christian revelation. His thoughts on light are on three planes: metaphysical, epistemological, and cosmological. The key to understanding Bartholomew’s philosophy is the idea of order based on the theory of light. This is an order that includes both earthly and heavenly reality, so for Bartholomew it was impossible to speak about God without also speaking about man and about nature. Bartholomew tried to adapt the doctrine of light to the requirements of theology.

E. Longpré, B. da Bologna, un maestro fracescano del secolo XIII, Studi francescani 9 (1932), 365–384; P. Glorieux, Répertoire des maitres en théologie de Paris au XIII siècle, P 1934, II 108; C. Piana, Le questioni inedite “De glorificatione Beatae Mariae Virginis” di B. da Bologna e le concezioni del Paradiso dantesco, L’Archiginnasio 33 (1938), 247–262; Gilson HFS 308–309; J. A. Mazzeo, Light Metaphysics, Dante’s “Convivio” and the Letter to Can Grande Della Scala, Traditio 14 (1958), 191–229; G. Federici-Vescovini, Studi sulla prospettiva medievale, Tn 1965, 25–26; C. Piana, Chartularium studii bononiensis S. Francisci (seac. XIII–XVI), Fi 1970, 4–6; K. Hedwig, Sphaera lucis. Studien zur Intelligibilität des Seienden im Kontext der mittelalterlichen Lichtspekulation, “Beiträge” 18, Mr 1980, 173–174; J. Lizun, La dottrina della luce in B. da Bologna O. Min. (+1294 ca.), R 1993; idem, Metafizyka światła według B. z Bolonii (XIII) [Metaphysics of light according to Bartholomew of Bologna], W nurcie franciszkańskim [in the Franciscan current] 8 (1999), 131–142.

Józef Lizun

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