Who was Peter Auriol?

Peter Auriol (also called Aureol, Auriole, d’Auriole) was born around 1280 in the region around Cahors. Except for the fact that he joined the Franciscan order, we know basically nothing about his life before 1312, when he was lector at the Franciscan convent in Bologna. It was here that he authored his Tractatus de principiis, his only non-theological work. By the end of 1314, Auriol was in Toulouse, again teaching at the Franciscan convent, and it seems that his treatises on the Immaculate Conception stem from this time. In one or both of these cities, Auriol must have also been lecturing on the Sentences of Peter Lombard, because a draft of his voluminous Scriptum super primum Sententiarum — more than 1100 folio pages in its early modern printing (Rome, 1596) — was all but finished by autumn 1316, when Auriol arrived in Paris in order to qualify for his doctorate. Auriol read the Sentences at Paris 1316-18, and by late 1318 he was the Franciscan regent master in theology there. Auriol served as regent master in Paris until 1320 or ’21, lecturing on the Bible, and holding at least one Quodlibetal disputation. In 1321, he was elevated by his mentor, Pope John XXII, to the position of Archbishop of Aix-en-Provence, but Auriol died soon after, in early 1322.

The extant works of Auriol are predominantly theological in nature, and include several Biblical commentaries and a treatise on apostolic poverty (for a list of Auriol’s works see Primary Texts in Print). The most significant of his works, however, from a theological, philosophical, and historical point of view are his commentaries on the Sentences. Besides the Scriptum, we have reportationes of lectures that Auriol held on all four books of the Sentences, some of which have obviously been reworked by Auriol himself. A version of his commentary on books II-IV was published in Rome in 1605 (along with Auriol’s single Quodlibet), but the relation between these published texts and other versions found only in manuscripts, as well as the relation between the published Scriptum and the extant reportationes on book I of the Sentences, is complex, and historical study has been slow to get underway (see below, The Auriol Editing Project).

For more complete biographical information on Auriol, see:

  • A. Teetaert, “Pierre Auriol” Dictionnaire de Theologie Catholique 12,2 (1935), col. 1810-1881.
  • E. Buytaert’s “Introduction” to Peter Auriol, Scriptum super primum Sententiarum, vol. 1 (St. Bonaventure, NY, 1952)
  • K.H. Tachau, Vision and Certitude in the Age of Ockham: Optics, Epistemology and the Foundation of Semantics, 1250-1345 (Brill, 1988), esp. pp. 85-89.

NB: the members of the Peter Auriol editing team (on which see below) have made a conscious decision to refer to him as “Auriol”, which is the vernacular form of his name as attested to in medieval documents (medieval philosophical and theological manuscripts often have forms of “Aureoli”); on this point, see esp. N. Valois, “Pierre Auriol, frere mineur”, Histoire litteraire de la France 33 (Paris, 1906), pp. 479-527.