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He is sometimes known as the Prince of the Thomists. His Four Books of Defenses of the Theology of St. Thomas Aquinas can be said to have sparked a revival in Thomism.
Only scant details of his personal history are known. He was a Dominican affiliated with the province of Toulouse, and a general chapter of his order at Poitiers in 1407 assigned him to lecture on The Sentences at the University of Paris. He began in 1408 and achieved success.
The following year he finished the first part of his celebrated defensive on commentary on the theology of St. Thomas Aquinas. He passed examinations for degrees at the Sorbonne in 1411 and in 1415. After serving for some time as regent of studies at Toulouse, he repaired to Rodez where he laboured at his commentaries completing the three remaining parts in 1426, 1428 and 1433.
In the preface of a compendium of Capreolus's work by Isidore de Isolanis, it is stated that these manuscripts once narrowly escaped destruction by fire, a lay brother having saved them, to the joy of the author, who was then advanced in years. The same authority describes the erudite commentator as having a devotion to the Blessed Virgin.
Though following the order of The Sentences, the commentaries of Capreolus are a calm, learned, and penetrating exposition of the teaching of St. Thomas, as well as a comprehensive defence against sundry opponents and critics, including Scotus, Henry of Ghent, John of Ripa, Guido the Carmelite, Aureolus, Durandus, Gregory of Rimini, William of Ockham, and other Nominalists. Copious and apt citations show that the author mastered Aristotle and his Arabic commentator, Averroes; but a scrupulous fidelity to the Angelical Doctor, that earned for him the extraordinary appellation of "Soul of St. Thomas", is his chief characteristic.
There is nothing in the wide field of the doctrinal discussions of his time that Capreolus did not study and elucidate, in a style terse and vigorous. His work is one of the enduring achievements of Scholasticism.
The commentaries, bearing slightly variant titles, were published in four folio volumes at Venice, 1483, 1514, 1519, 1589. ln 1881, Bishop Borret of Rodez, who had made the life and works of Capreolus, the object of considerable research, suggested a critically revised edition of the commentaries, which was at length undertaken by the Dominicans. Its publication was begun at Tours in 1900 under the title: Johannis Capreoli Tholosani, Ordinis Praedicatorum, Thomistarum principis, Defensiones Theologiae Divi Thomae Aq.de novo editae cura et studio RR. PP. Ceslai Paban et Thomae Pegues. Early compendiums of the work by Paul Soncinas and by Sylvester Prierias were much used in their day.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company.