Does the Catholic Church officially consider the end of the Patristic era to have occurred with the death of St. John Damascene in the eighth century? I have read that some consider St. Bernard of Clairvaux who died in the twelfth century to have been a Church Father. If so, are there any Church Fathers of the Catholic Church between St. John Damascene and St. Bernard, or is indeed, St. John Damascene the last one? Thank you.

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    Is labeling someone a Church Father or not is theologically significant in Catholicism? If not, that seems to make this Q a moot point. I thought it's more of which church fathers and which of their teachings were given priority by a respective tradition (Catholic vs. Orthodox vs. Protestant). Sep 29, 2023 at 15:44
  • The unanimous agreement of the Church Fathers on a matter of Faith and morals is a rule for Divine Tradition; that is, infallible teaching. I am writing a book in which I would like to explain the previous sentence. Hence, it would be helpful for this project if I could ascertain when exactly the Church considered the Patristic age to have ended. Maybe there is no such official designation, as I have seen both the eighth and twelfth centuries mentioned by reliable sources.
    – DDS
    Sep 29, 2023 at 17:10

1 Answer 1


On the End of the Patristic Era as Considered by the Catholic Church?

There is no clear cut definition on the end of the patristic era. It is generally considered to end with St. Bede the Venerable in the West and St. John Damascene, in the East.

Patristics or patrology is the study of the early Christian writers who are designated Church Fathers. The names derive from the combined forms of Latin pater and Greek patḗr (father). The period of the Church Fathers, commonly called the Patristic era, is generally considered to run from the end of New Testament times or end of the Apostolic Age (c. AD 100) to either AD 451 (the date of the Council of Chalcedon) or to the Second Council of Nicaea in 787. - Patristics

It is generally held that the Patristic Era ended with the last of the Western Fathers (Latin), St. Bede the Venerable (673-735), and the last of the Eastern Fathers (Greek) St. John Damascene (675-749). Seeing that St. John Damascene was the last Church Father, it is generally permitted to conclude that the Patristic Era ended with his death in 749.

John of Damascus was the last of the Greek Fathers. His genius was not for original theological development, but for compilation of an encyclopedic character. In fact, the state of full development to which theological thought had been brought by the great Greek writers and councils left him little else than the work of an encyclopedist; and this work he performed in such manner as to merit the gratitude of all succeeding ages. Some consider him the precursor of the Scholastics, whilst others regard him as the first Scholastic, and his "De fide orthodoxa" as the first work of Scholasticism. The Arabians too, owe not a little of the fame of their philosophy to his inspiration. The most important and best known of all his works is that to which the author himself gave the name of "Fountain of Wisdom" (pege gnoseos). This work has always been held in the highest esteem in both the Catholic and Greek Churches. Its merit is not that of originality, for the author asserts, at the end of the second chapter of the "Dialectic", that it is not his purpose to set forth his own views, but rather to collate and epitomize in a single work the opinions of the great ecclesiastical writers who have gone before him. A special interest attaches to it for the reason that it is the first attempt at a summa theologica that has come down to us. - St. John Damascene

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