January 19 – John Baptist Tolomei

January 16, 2023

John Baptist Tolomei

Giovanni Battista Tolomei, S.J.

A distinguished Jesuit theologian and cardinal, born of noble parentage, at Camberaia, between Pistoia and Florence, 3 Dec., 1653; died at Rome in the Roman College, 19 Jan., 1726, and was buried before the high altar of the Church of Saint Ignatius. At the age of fifteen, after an early schooling at Florence, he studied law at the University of Pisa; on 18 Feb., 1673, he entered the Society of Jesus at Rome. He was master of eleven languages, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Chaldee, Syriac, Arabic, English, French, Spanish, Illyrian, and Italian. He began his public career at Rome by expounding the Sacred Scriptures on Sunday evenings in the Church of the Gesù. At the age of thirty he was elected in the General Congregation of the Jesuits as the procurator general of the order, which office he held for five years, relinquishing it to take the chair of philosophy at the Roman College. Here his lecture-room was thronged. His lectures were printed at Rome in 1696 under the title of “Philosophia mentis et sensuum”, and demonstrated that, while loyal to the principles and method of Aristotle, he welcomed every discovery of his time in the natural sciences and wove these into his course. The lectures were reprinted in 1698 in Germany and evoked the warmest encomiums from the Academy of Leipzig as well as from Leibniz. He later filled the chair of theology at the Roman College (now the Gregorian University) and renewed the courses in controversial dogma begun by Bellarmine a century before. These lectures in MS. filled six volumes in folio but were never printed. Successively Rector of the Roman College and of the German College, he was at the same time Consultor of the Congregations of Rites, of the Index, and of Indulgences, as well as being one of the appointed examiners of bishops. On 17 May, 1712, unexpectedly created cardinal by Clement XI, under the title of Santo Stefano in Monte Cœlio, he became chief adviser to the pontiff in matters theological, particularly in the preparation of the condemnation of the errors of Quesnel. As cardinal he assisted at the conclaves which elected Innocent XIII and Benedict XIII. His published works are the “Philosophia mentis et sensuum” (with the addition of natural theology and ethics, Rome, 1702), “De primatu beati Petri” (in the second series of the miscellany printed from the manuscripts in the library of the Roman College, Rome, 1867), and a little pamphlet containing “Daily Prayers for a Happy Death” (in Latin, Vienna, 1742; also in German, Augsburg, 1856).

HURTER, Nomenclator literarius, IV (Innsbruck, 1910); SOMMERVOGEL, Biblioth que de la compagnie de Jésus, VIII (Brussels, 1898).

Charles Macksey (Catholic Encyclopedia)


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