Giles of Rome O.S.A. (Ægidius a Colonna) was one of the most productive, remarkable and influential scholars active at the end of the 13th century.
He was an original, profound and courageous thinker. who even by his contemporaries was exceptionally esteemed.
He was a Scholastic theologian, philosopher, logician, archbishop, and general and intellectual leader of the Order of Saint Augustine.
He played a major role in the political events of his time.
As an extremely prolific author, his academic output included a very large body of writings that contains sixty very substantial works, not all of which were completed.
It includes a great variety of philosophical and theological writing.
Represented within it are commentaries on Aristotle, theological treatises, Scholastic questions, and sermons. His works were known for their clarity, thoroughness and originality of thought.
He was called Doctor Fundatissimus, (Latin for “Best-grounded Teacher”). He has exerted considerable influence through the centuries, and beyond the bounds of the Order of Saint Augustine.
A biography of Giles has three areas upon which to focus: his writings as a scholar, his work as an influential agent of the Pope, and his contribution to the Order of Saint Augustine.
Giles was born in Rome between 1243 and 1247. As a young Augustinian, Giles was sent to the original Augustinian studium generale
(international study house) in Paris
about the year 1260.
(Although not at the same location throughout, an Augustinian study house continuously existed in Paris from 1260 until the French Revolution in 1790.)
from 1269 to 1272 in Paris was a teacher and director of studies of Giles.
Giles in turn performed the same service for those members of his Order who studied in Paris between 1285 and 1293.
Giles said that Aquinas "put me on the path of truth." He is the most important of the immediate pupils of Thomas Aquinas.
Giles spent fifteen years in studies in Paris, and was the first member of the Order to earn the degree of Master of Theology.
A renowned scholar and the author of about twenty-five books on theology and philosophy, Giles became a professor at the University of Paris.
It was Giles of Rome O.S.A. who composed the prayer, Anima Christi: "Spiritus Christi, sanctifica me", (Soul of Christ, sanctify me..). It has often been by mistake attributed to later spiritual writers.
Before leaving Paris during or soon after 1277, he completed his De regimine principum
("On the Rule of Princes"), which is dedicated to the boy, Philip the Fair (1268-1314) - see portrait next page
At the age of seventeen in 1285, Philip would become the King of France. Philip reappears later in the life of Giles, but as an adversary.
Giles positively influenced the provision of education with this, his best-known work. It was a handbook on good government, and in medieval times it was translated into nearly all languages of Western Europe, and into Hebrew.
Contrary to the book, The Prince, by Nicolo Machiavelli (1469-1527) written 228 years later, the handbook by Giles urged kings to be compassionate.
He suggested that kings especially promote schools and provide learned persons to teach their subjects, if they wished to be worthy of the title of king rather than the title of dictator, despot or tyrant.
It was owing to his influence that the University of Paris recognised the courses that Augustinian students had previously taken in various study houses of the Order elsewhere in Europe.
(Continued on the next page.)