This year (2024) we are right in the middle of 3 significant anniversaries related to St. Thomas Aquinas and Pope Francis launches three years of celebrations in his honor: 700 years since canonization (July 18, 2023), 750 years since his death (March 7, 2024), and 800 years since his birth (2025).

There are more than a dozen biographies written of St. Thomas Aquinas. What is the latest scholarship on his birth date? Most encyclopedias will only say ca. 1225 (Wikipedia and SEP), 1224/1225 (Britannica). Here's what the 1912 Catholic Encyclopedia article says:

From Tolomeo of Lucca . . . we learn that at the time of the saint's death there was a doubt about his exact age (Prümmer, op. cit., 45). The end of 1225 is usually assigned as the time of his birth. Father Prümmer, on the authority of Calo, thinks 1227 is the more probable date (op. cit., 28). All agree that he died in 1274.

But the above quote must have been based on scholarship that may have been superseded. I'm looking for 2-3 proposed dates and the reasoning behind each, citing late 20th century scholarship up to today.

  • 2
    Regarding his birth year---perhaps some of the discrepancies can be attributed to how a particular location determined when the new year began. I can think of at three possibilities: January 1, March 25, and December 25. There is one more but I forgot what it is. This is why, for example, George Washington's birth year in his family's bible was recorded as 1731/32. Then, of course, there was the institution of the Gregorian calendar in in 1582 which, in Catholic countries, saw October 4 (I recall) immediately followed by October 15.
    – DDS
    Commented Jun 13 at 16:19
  • Oh, the other possibility for a new year must have been March 1, given that Sept-Dec were the seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenths months respectively.
    – DDS
    Commented Jun 13 at 16:28
  • @DDS March 1 as New Year was mostly a Roman thing and even that was pre-Julian Calendar. Easter was used in some places and Christmas in a few.
    – eques
    Commented Jun 14 at 14:05

1 Answer 1


Jean-Pierre Torrell, O.P., is the contemporary expert in St. Thomas’s biography. He writes, on Saint Thomas Aquinas: The Person and His Work p. 1:

The date of Thomas’s birth has been calculated approximately on the basis of the date of his death. His first biographer informs us that he died the morning of 7 March 1274, in his forty-ninth year.1 This may mean that Thomas had already lived more than forty-eight years, but had not reached his forty-ninth birthday. But the same author also adds: “Having finished the forty-ninth year of his life, he began in his fiftieth the jubilee of eternal glory.” His birth, therefore, should be placed in 1225.

Bernard Gui, who wrote several years later, gives parallel confirmation that Thomas died when he had completed forty-nine years and begun his fiftieth year.2 In a slightly earlier text, Tolomeo of Lucca echoes an uncertainty: “He died at the age of fifty, but some say forty-eight.”3 There seems to be agreement today on 1224/25, but other secondary sources do not allow the complete exclusion of 1226 or even 1227.4

  1. Ystoria 65, p. 395 (Tocco 65, p. 138). [English transl. p. 209]

  2. Gui 39, p. 205. It may nevertheless be asked if Gui does not take too seriously the mystical speculations of Tocco, for whom, after seven sabbatical years (7×7 = 49), Thomas would finally have entered into eternal rest for his fiftieth year.

  3. Tolomeo XXIII 10: “Obiit autem L [50] vitae suae; alii vero dicunt XLVIII [48].”

  4. Thus Tugwell (p. 201) chooses 1226 (C. Vansteenkiste, RLT [Rassegna di letteratura tomistica (new series of the “Bulletin thomiste”), Naples] 24 [1991] 11, points out the problems with this position); Scandone (pp. 8–9) presents the different source data; cf. WN [A. Walz, Saint Thomas d'Aquin, French adaptation by P. Novarina, Philosophes médiévaux 5, Louvain-Paris, 1962.], p. 16, and P. Mandonnet’s research, which is still sound in its conclusions if not always in its details, “Date de naissance de S. Thomas d'Aquin,” RT [Revue thomiste] 22 (1914) 652–64.

There’s also the (apocryphal / oral-only?) tradition that he died short of 50 years old, because Plato said a man must be at least 50 years old to attain wisdom (Republic bk. 7, toward the end*); and St. Thomas, being so wise, thanks to divine illumination, was able to attain it before 50.

*“when they have reached fifty years of age, then let those who still survive and have distinguished themselves in every action of their lives and in every branch of knowledge come at last to their consummation”

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