St. Thomas’ Reception in Byzantium

Even though St. Thomas Aquinas is often considered to be an embodiment of western theological tradition, already in centuries immediately after his death his thought influenced some theologians of the eastern Christianity. Some contemporary academics tend even to speak of “Byzantine Thomism”, although Christopher Upham notices that:

[…] this is certainly too triumphalist, since those who appropriated Aquinas in the Eastern Church were rarely, if ever, unequivocal proponents of his theological doctrines. With this caveat in mind, however, it is obvious that Aquinas received serious attention from Eastern Orthodox theologians during the late Byzantine renaissance of the fourteenth and first half of the fifteenth century[1].

The project Thomas de Aquino Byzantinus, carried out by the University of Patras and National Hellenic Research Foundation, is devoted precisely to Aquinas’ influence on Byzantine theologians. As part of the project, the researchers preprare critical editions of historical translations of St. Thomas’ works into Greek and of commentaries to Aquinas by Byzantine thinkers and theologians (more information on the project’s website). Also, an international conference Thomas latinus – Thomas graecus. Thomas Aquinas and His Reception in Byzantium took place in Athens in December 2017 (some information on this event may be found in popular articles here and here).

The project is directed by John A. Demetracopoulos, a professor of the University of Patras, who specializes in Greek and Latin philosophy and theology of the Middle Ages, with particular focus on their mutual relations. He publishes mainly in Greek, but on the internet you may find also his papers in English, concerning Aquinas’ influence on Byzantine thought:

  • Thomas Aquinas’ Impact on Late Byzantine Theology and Philosophy: The Issues of Method or „Modus Sciendi” and „Dignitas Hominis”, in: Knotenpunkt Byzanz. Wissensformen und kulturelle Wechselbeziehungen, eds. A. Speer, Ph. Steinkrüger, De Gruyter 2012, pp. 333-410 (available here, file: „Demetracopoulos_Dignitas_hominis_in_Byzantium.pdf”).
  • Demetrios Cydones’ Translation of Bernardus Guidonis’ List of Thomas Aquinas’ Writings and the Historical Roots of Byzantine Thomism, in: 1308. Eine Topographie historischer Gleichzeitigkeit, eds. A. Speer, D. Wirmer, De Gruyter 2010, pp. 827-881 (available here, file: „Bernardus Guidonis and Demetrius Cydones – Demetracopoulos.pdf”).

Is is also worth to read an interview with project’s participant, fr. Christian Kaapes, where he discusses, among others, main premises of Thomas de Aquino Byzantinus research, and to look into his paper The Dominican Presentation and Byzantine Reception of Thomas Aquinas in Byzantium.

The issue of Aquinas’ reception in Orthodoxy in general is a field of expertise of Marcus Plested of the Theological Faculty of the Marquette University. In 2012 at Oxford University Press he published a book Orthodox Readings of Aquinas (longer excerpts are available at Google Books). On the internet you can find also his paper Light from the West”: Byzantine Readings of Aquinas, in: Orthodox Constructions of the West, eds. J.E. Demacopoulos, A. Papanikolaou, Fordham University Press 2013, pp. 58-70. Also his lectures on the topic are available online:


[1] Christopher Upham, The Influence of Aquinas, in: The Oxford Handbook of Aquinas, eds. B. Davies, E. Stump, Oxford University Press 2012, p. 513.