Peter Olivi

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Peter John Olivi (Petrus Ioannis Olivi (Pietro di Giovanni Olivi, Pierre Jean Olieu, Pierre de Jean Olivi, Pedro Juan Olivi, Petrus Johannis Olivi)1248 - 1298) was a Franciscan theologian who, although he died professing the faith of the Roman Catholic Church, became a controversial figure in the arguments surrounding poverty at the beginning of the fourteenth century. In large part, this was due to his view that the Franciscan vow of poverty also entailed usus pauper (i.e., 'poor' or 'restricted' use of goods); while contemporary Franciscans generally agreed that usus pauper was important to the Franciscan way of life, they disagreed that it was part of their vow of poverty. His support of the extreme view of ecclesiastical poverty played a part in the ideology of the groups coming to be known as the Spiritual Franciscans or Fraticelli.


A Franciscan and theological author, born at Sérignan, Diocese of Béziers, 1248-9. At twelve he entered the Friars Minor at Béziers, and later took the baccalaureate at Paris. Returning to his native province, he soon distinguished himself by his strict observance of the rule and his theological knowledge.

When Nicholas III prepared his Decretal "Exiit" (1279), Olivi, then at Rome, was asked to express his opinion with regard to Franciscan poverty (usus pauper). Unfortunately there was then in the convents of Provence a controversy about the stricter or laxer observance of the rule. Olivi soon became the principal spokesman of the rigorists, and met with strong opposition on the part of the community. At the General Chapter of Strasburg in 1282 he was accused of heresy, and henceforward almost every general chapter concerned itself with him. His doctrine was examined by seven friars, graduates of the Sorbonne University of Paris (see Anal. Franc., III, 374-75), and censured in thirty-four propositions, whereupon his writings were confiscated in 1283.

Olivi cleverly defended himself in several responses (1283-85), and finally the General Chapter of Montpellier (1287) decided in his favour. The new general superior, Matthew of Aquasparta, sent him as lector in theology to the convent of Santa Croce in Florence, whence Matthew's successor, Raymond Gaufredi, sent him as lector to Montpellier. At the General Chapter of Paris in 1292 Olivi again gave explanations, which were apparently satisfactory. He spent his last years in the convent of Narbonne and died, surrounded by his friends, after an earnest profession of his Catholic Faith (published by Wadding ad a. 1297, n. 33) on 14 March, 1298.



Peace was not obtained by his death. His friends, friars and seculars, showed an exaggerated veneration for their leader, and honoured his tomb as that of a saint; on the other hand the General Chapter of Lyon in 1299 ordered his writings to be collected and burnt as heretical.

The General Council of Vienne in 1312 established, in the Decretal "Fidei catholicæ fundamento" (Bull. Franc., V, 86), the Catholic doctrine against three points of Olivi's teaching, without mentioning the author; these points referred to the moment Christ's body was transfixed by the lance, the manner in which the soul is united to the body and the baptism of infants. In 1318 the friars of his order went so far as to destroy Olivi's tomb, a desecration, and in the next year two further steps were taken against him: his writings were absolutely forbidden by the General Chapter of Marseilles, and a special commission of theologians examined Olivi's "Postilla in Apocalypsim" and marked out sixty sentences, chiefly joachimistical extravagances (see Joachim of Flora. For text see Baluzius-Mansi, "Miscellanea", II, Lucca, 1761, 258-70; cf. also Denifle, "Chartularium Universitatis Parisiensis", II, i, Paris, 1891, 238-9) . It was only in 1326 that those sentences were really condemned by John XXII, when the fact that Emperor Louis IV the Bavarian used Olivi's writings in his famous Appeal of Sachsenhausen in 1324 had again drawn attention to the author.

Father Ehrle considers (Archiv, III, 440) that Olivi was not the impious heretic he is painted in some writings of the Middle Ages, and states (ibid., 448) that the denunciation of his theological doctrine was rather a tactical measure of the adversaries of the severe principles of poverty and reform professed by Olivi. For the rest, Olivi follows in many points the doctrine of St. Bonaventure.

Primary sources

  • Commentarius super Sententias
  • De 12 gradibus humilitatis
  • De conditionibus et proprietatibus amoris Dei
  • De honestate contractus sensus
  • De laudibus et de laudantia Beatae Virginis
  • De legalibus
  • De obitu dicti Fratris Petri
  • De oratione vocali
  • De paupertate, adversus Thomam (Inc.: 'Advertendum autem hic diligenter quod Thomas ...')
  • De perfectionibus summi pastoris
  • De perlegendis libris philosophorum (De perlegendis philosophorum libris tractatus, De Perlegendis Philosophorum Libris)
  • De septem temptationibus
  • Defensiones
  • () Epistulae
    • Epistola/Littera quam misit Parisius recribendo Fratri Raymundo Gaufredi et sociis eius nondum Generali Ministro
    • Epistula ad Conradum de Offida OFM
    • Epistula ad filios Caroli II regis Sicilae (Epistola ad regis Siciliae filios, Inc.: 'Christi Iesu devotione praecipua ...')
    • Epistula ad fratrem R.
  • Exercens
  • Expositio in Threnos
  • Expositio super Dionysii de angelica hierarchia
  • Expositio super regulam fratrum minorum
  • Expositiones Evangeliorum per annum
  • Gradus amoris
  • Impugnatio XXXVII articulorum adversus opiniones doctorum quorundam quorum ipse supprimere voluit
  • Informatio ad virtutum opera (Informatio Petri Johannis ad Virtutum Opera)
  • Lectura super Actus Apostolorum (In Acta Apostolorum)
  • Lectura super Apocalipsim (Postilla in Apocalypsim)
  • Lectura super Canticum (Super Canticum canticorum, Expositio in Canticum Canticorum)
  • Lectura super Epistolam ad Corinthios (Postilla in I ad Corinthos)
  • Lectura super Epistolam ad Romanos
  • () Lectura super Epistolas canonicas (Postilla in epistolas canonicas)
  • Lectura super epistulam Iudae
  • Lectura super primam epistulam Iohannis
  • Lectura super primam epistulam Petri
  • Lectura super secundam epistulam Iohannis
  • Lectura super secundam epistulam Petri
  • Lectura super tertiam epistulam Iohannis
  • Lectura super Ezechielem (Postilla in Ezechielem)
  • Lectura super Genesim (Postilla super librum Geneseos)
  • Lectura super in libros Regum (Postilla in libros Regum)
  • Lectura super Iob (Postilla in Iob)
  • Lectura super Iohannem (Postilla in Ioannem)
  • Lectura super Isaiam (Postilla in Iesaiam)
  • Lectura super Lamentationes Hieremie (Postilla super Lamentationem Jeremiae)
  • Lectura super Lucam (Postilla in Lucam)
  • Lectura super Marcum
  • Lectura super Matthaeum (Postilla super Matthaeum)
  • () Lectura super Prophetas minores
  • Lectura super Abdiam
  • Lectura super Aggaeum
  • Lectura super Amos
  • Lectura super Habacuc
  • Lectura super Ioel
  • Lectura super Ionam
  • Lectura super Malachiam
  • Lectura super Michaeam
  • Lectura super Nahum
  • Lectura super Osee
  • Lectura super Sophoniam
  • Lectura super Zachariam
  • Lectura super Proverbia (Postilla super Proverbia)
  • Lectura super Psalmos (Postilla super Psalterium)
  • Mémoire justificatif (Inc.: 'Reverendis in Christo fratribus fratri Arlotto ...')
  • Miles armatus (Cavalier armat)
  • Modus quomodo quilibet potest referre gratias Deo de beneficiis ab eo receptis (Quomodo quilibet potest referre gratias Deo de beneficiis ab eo receptis)
  • Monitio ad amorem divinum obtinendum
  • () Opera varia
  • Quaestio de animis separatis
  • Quaestio de realitate habitus
  • Opus super dictis Senecae
  • Postilla in Exodum
  • Principia generalia in Sacram Scripturam
  • Quaestio de angelicis influentiis (Quaestio de illuminatione angelorum)
  • Quaestio de connexione virtutum
  • Quaestio de mendicitate
  • Quaestio de oboedientia
  • Quaestio de renuntiatione papae Coelestini V
  • Quaestio de scientia divina
  • Quaestio de signis voluntariis (Quaestiones de signis voluntariis, Quaestion Quid ponat ius vel dominium)
  • Quaestio de trinitate
  • Quaestio de usu paupere
  • Quaestio de veritate indulgentiae Portiunculae
  • Quaestio de voto regulam aliquam profitentis
  • Quaestio: Utrum motus localis dicat aliquid absolutum supra mobile ipsum quod movetur localiter
  • Quaestiones circa matrimonium
  • Quaestiones de Deo cognoscendo
  • Quaestiones de incarnatione et redemptione
  • Quaestiones de perfectione evangelica (De perfectione evangelica)
  • () Quaestiones de quolibet (Quodlibeta, Quaestiones quodlibetales)
  • Quodlibet I (Inc.: "Quaeritur ergo primo an Deus ...")
  • Quodlibet II (Inc.: "Deinde in secundo quodlibet quaesita sunt primo 9 textualia e Veteri Testamento; ac deinde 9 alia ...")
  • Quodlibet III (Inc.: "Deinde in tertio quodlibet quaeruntur XIII, ...")
  • Quodlibet IV (Inc.: "Deinde in quarto quodlibet quaesita sunt XX de praeceptis, ...")
  • Quodlibet V (Inc.: "Deinde in quinto quodlibet queruntur 14 moralia ...")
  • Quaestiones de romano pontifice
  • Quaestiones de Sancto Ioseph
  • Quaestiones de virtutibus
  • Quaestiones logicales (Quaestiones logicae)
  • Quaestiones quattuor de Domina
  • Quaestiones textuales
  • Quod regula Fratrum Minorum Excludit Omnem Proprietatem
  • () Responsiones
  • Amplior declaratio quinti praecedentis epistulae articuli qui est de divina essentia (Responsio Tertia)
  • Responsio ad aliqua dicta (Responsio Secunda Fratris Petri Ioannis Olivi ad Aliqua Dicta)
  • Responsio ad litteram magistrorum (Responsio Quam fecit Petrus Ioannis ad Litteram Magistrorum Praesentatam Sibi in Avinione)
  • Responsio Petri Johannis in capitulo generali (Responsio Quarta Petri Ioannis in Capitulo Generali, Responsio in capitulo generali quando fuit requisitus quid de usu paupere sentiret)
  • () Sermones (Sermones duo de S. Francisco)
  • De paenitentia
  • De septem sentimentis Christi Jesu
  • Solemnis confessio (Solemnis confessio facta ante obitum, Dernière profession de foi)
  • Summa quaestionum super Sententias (Quaestiones in libros Sententiarum, Quaestiones in secundum librum Sententiarum)
  • Super Ecclesiasten
  • Tractatulus de fugiendis, desiderandis, meditandis
  • Tractatus "Quoniam multum placet mihi"
  • Tractatus cerimonialium
  • Tractatus de contractibus, de usuris et de restitutionibus (De Usuris et Restitionibus)
  • Tractatus de emptione et venditione (De Emptionibus et Venditionibus)
  • Tractatus de Eucharistia (Tractatus de sacramentis)
  • Tractatus de paupertate minorum
  • Tractatus de plantatione paradisi
  • Tractatus de quantitate
  • Tractatus de remediis contra temptationes spirituales (Remedia contra tentationes spirituales hujus temporis)
  • Tractatus de usu paupere
  • Tractatus de Verbo
  • Tractatus de virtutibus et vitiis
  • VIII gradi de vera penitenza (Trattato provenzale di penitenza)
  • Visionis mysticae narratio

Secondary sources

  • Anzulewicz, H.: "Quaestiones quodlibetales"; in: Eckert, Michael; Herms, Eilert; Hilberath, Bernd Jochen; Jüngel, Eberhard: Lexikon der theologischen Werke, Stuttgart 2003, 611/612.
  • Ciceri, Antonio: Petri Iohannis Olivi Opera. Censimento dei manoscritti, Grottaferrata (Editiones Collegii S. Bonaventurae Ad Claras Aquas) 1999 [Collectio Oliviana, 1].
  • Franciscan Authors, 13th - 18th Century a Catalogue in Progress (
  • Franciscan Authors, 13th - 18th Century. A Catalogue in Progress (
  • Franciscan Authors, 13th - 18th Century: A Catalogue in Progress (
  • Glorieux, La Littérature Quodlibétique II, 1935, 205f.
  • Glorieux, La Littérature Quodlibétique II, 1935, 208.
  • Glorieux, La Littérature Quodlibétique II, 1935, 208ff.
  • Glorieux, Palémon: La littérature quodlibétique II, 1935, 207.
  • Glorieux, Palémon: La littérature quodlibétique II, 1935, 210f.
  • Glorieux, Répertoire des Maitres en Théologie de Paris au XIIIe Siècle, Vol.II, S.128
  • Glorieux, Répertoire des Maitres en Théologie de Paris au XIIIe Siècle, Vol.II, S.129
  • Glorieux, Répertoire des Maitres en Théologie de Paris au XIIIe Siècle, Vol.II, S.130
  • Glorieux, Répertoire des Maitres en Théologie de Paris au XIIIe Siècle, Vol.II, S.131
  • Glorieux, Répertoire des Maitres en Théologie de Paris au XIIIe Siècle, Vol.II, S.132
  • Glorieux, Répertoire des Maitres en Théologie de Paris au XIIIe Siècle, Vol.II, S.133
  • Glorieux, Répertoire des Maitres en Théologie de Paris au XIIIe Siècle, Vol.II, S.134
  • Nickl, Peter: "Einleitung", in: Petrus Johannis Olivi: Quaestio an in homine sit liberum arbitrium. Über die menschliche Freiheit, übers. u. eingel. v. P. Nickl, Freiburg i. B. 2006 [Herders Bibliothek der Philosophie des Mittelalters, Band 8].
  • Weijers, Olga: Le travail intellectuel à la Faculté des arts de Paris: textes et maîtres (ca. 1200-1500), VII, Turnhout (Brepols) 2007 [Studia Artistarum, 15].


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