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Saint Thomas Aquinas

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  2,967 Ratings  ·  191 Reviews
G.K. Chesterton's brilliant sketch of the life and thought of Thomas Aquinas is as relevant today as when it was published in 1933. Then it earned the praise of such distinguished writers as Etienne Gilson, Jacques Martain, and Anton Pegis as the best book ever written on the great thirteenth-century Dominican. Today Chesterton's classic stands poised to reveal Thomas to a ...more
Paperback, 167 pages
Published January 15th 1974 by Image (first published 1933)
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This is my second complete read of G.K.Chesterton’s classic treatment of the “Angelic Doctor” – as St. Thomas is sometimes referred to – and I do not plan on it being the last. In fact, I suspect subsequent reads to be even more fruitful than this one which was a significant improvement on my introduction to the work back in the 1990’s.

As St. Thomas is considered one of the greatest minds to have ever lived and his biographer, Chesterton, not a slacker himself when he puts pen to paper, the rea
Douglas Dalrymple
Mar 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
Chesterton has only a few things to say about Aquinas, really, but that’s the way it is with all his books: the ostensible subject is most of the time fondly neglected for the atmosphere surrounding it. And while from most writers behavior of this sort would be intolerable, from Chesterton, somehow, it’s better than tolerable; because almost no one else is this fun to read.

Chesterton’s Aquinas is no vague hypothesizer of miniature angels traipsing about in Nana’s sewing kit, but the champion of
Joe Dantona
Aug 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This isn't a biography; it is an adventure story!

Of course, Chesterton would have scoffed at calling this small book a biography in any case. But what it severely lacks in biographical data (which, of course, was not the author's aim) it makes up for in immense creative use of certain significant events in the great saint's life. Between dinner with St. Louis and his arguments against the Augustinians, to choosing the life of a poor Dominican monk instead of following the rich life of an abbot s
Tom LA
Feb 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I listened to the audiobook. This was my first Chesterton, and I surely am going to read as many of his other books as i can. Such a natural gift for writing in a spontaneous colloquial tone and a cheerful, clever wit that never switches off.

The book is a brief outline of St. Thomas Aquinas' life, a bit of a high-level comparison with St. Francis, and, in the last few chapters, a broad but passionate look at St Thomas' theology, its sublety, its power, and an attack on Martin Luther, who, among
May 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Chesterton has spoiled me with this enchanting story of the remarkable personality of St. Thomas Aquinas.
Sharon Barrow Wilfong
Jun 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Chesterton is always a roller coaster ride to read. I read somewhere that he dictated all of his writing to a secretary with no revising. While this does prove what an amazing genius Chesterton is, it also helps to understand why you feel as though you are racing around inside his head, plucking one idea out of another.

His turns of phrases are fantastical and are so well stated, sometimes hard to understand, but mostly proverbs that leave you thinking, "Yes! That is very true and I never thought
Mar 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
I am a huge Chesterton fan, and I've been wanting to read more about the men and women of faith who have come before us. This seemed the perfect book to fit the bill. I WISH, however, that I was far more well-read than I am, and that I had actually read St. Thomas Aquinas' work first. I own a copy of Summa Theologica, but it's rather daunting, and I have to admit that I've never taken the time to delve into it. Chesterton assumes you already know the work - this book, although it claims to be a ...more
Apr 27, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Chesterton at his most anti-pomo. The last two or three chapters alone worth the price of admission. Devastating, absolutely devastating. They are also the chapters that do the bulk of explaining Thomistic philosophy; beyond that most of it is autobiography, but for that reason, might even be good for the high school student.

That said, Chesterton gives some amazingly good descriptions of Luther the Augustinian monk; that's my guy. Of course, he's wrong, quite wrong, that Luther was against the u
Jonathan B
Jan 24, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: biography
I started reading "Aquinas: A Beginner's Guide" by Edward Feser around the same time as this. Though I haven't finished Feser's book yet (I'm a little more than halfway through), I like his book much better than Chesterton's. It seems like Chesterton spends too much time talking about stuff that isn't very important to Aquinas or his philosophy or his theology. Had he spent less time going after Luther (just one of his many "rabbit trails"), he could have spent more time explaining the philosoph ...more
David Saxon
I've now read Heresy, Orthodoxy, and Saint Thomas Aquinas, desperately trying to enjoy Chesterton. He is so oft-quoted and admired. His writing is witty, elegant, and powerful (rhetorically). Unfortunately, I find myself rarely agreeing with him. His Catholicism dominates his reasoning. This was especially true of Aquinas. Chesterton presents Aquinas' recovery of Aristotle as a rescue of the Incarnation and the goodness of God manifest in creation from the negativity and hyper-spirituality of Au ...more
I did not know much about Aquinas before I read this book. I should not have started with this one.

One reviewer stated this is not a typical biography. I agree. Maybe because of that and not knowing much about Aquinas, I could not really get engaged with the book. I am not going to rate it because GK Chesterton is a Catholic icon. However, if I did, I would give it 2 stars... Just OK.
Apr 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is certainly not a biography but more of a love letter to a revival of Thomism against modernism. Chesterton's biting sarcasm can grow tiresome, but one clearly picks up on his affection for Aquinas. The latter sections of he book are helpful for grasping the basics of Aquinas's ontology. Good introductory reading for Aquinas before digging into a monster like the Summa.
Taylor Marshall
Nov 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is, hands down, the best biography of Thomas Aquinas ever written. I recommend that all students of Saint Thomas Aquinas read this bio by Chesterton!
Marcos Junior
Aug 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: religi-o, filosofia, 2015

Entrega o que promete

Etienne Gilson, talvez o maior tomista do século 20, recebeu com assombro o despretensioso livro de um certo polêmico jornalista inglês. Conta-se que Gilson, depois de o ler, não conseguiu conter palavras para expressar sua admiração:

Considero-o, sem a menor possibilidade de comparação, o melhor livro jamais escrito sobre Santo Tomás… Chesterton foi um dos pensadores mais profundos de todos os tempos…

Pois li o dito livro de Chesterton sobre São Tomás. Na verdade, li duas vez
Kirk Lowery
I must admit that I had high expectations of this book. G. K. Chesterton has a huge reputation as a writer. Since he was a devout Catholic, I expected an excellent book on Thomas. I was disappointed.

First, the author does not give a coherent narrative of Thomas' life. He makes many references to events and people of the 13th century (a good thing), but he expects the reader to already know about them. You will get a great deal more out of this book if you have already read an encyclopedia articl
Jon Stout
Jun 26, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: religion
G. K. Chesterton’s biography of Thomas Aquinas is so defensive and sarcastic in tone that it does not seem realistic. Chesterton’s arguments repeatedly take the form that St. Thomas was neither this extreme (Platonic, mystic, Buddhist, Hegelian) nor that extreme (Aristotelian. Manichean, Muslim, pragmatic), where the extremes range all over the board, including many never known by St. Thomas. The saint always occupies the middle ground of common sense and the essence of Christianity, according t ...more
Sherwood Smith
Chesterton is interesting even when I disagree. I picked up this book in hopes of a clearer picture of who Aquinas was. As it happens, very little is known about the details of his life, though he was related to half the big guns of the 1200s. He wanted to be a friar, rather than a monk (with an abbey and maybe higher as his assured post)--nowadays most won't discern the difference, but it seems to be akin to someone chosing to work in a soup kitchen, when the relatives want to make you the CEO ...more
Feb 27, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: spirituality
This is a perfect book for someone like me: a lapsed but still interested Catholic who could never keep Aquinas and Augustine straight. Chesterton packs more theology and philsophy into this slim volume, and makes it much more accessible, than any massive tome on same subject. I don't think I've ever read any thing that combines brevity and challenging ideas like this book. It's confirms my belief that all such books should be written by intelligent laymen instead of academic specialists. And he ...more
Bobbi Martens
Sep 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Chesterton may not make the life of Aquinas crystal and simple like we might expect a biographer to do, but he does illuminate much about the character and the philosophy of the man and make it very graspable. At the end of this book, I am not floundering for a light switch or buried under heaps of heavy intellectual thoughts. Chesterton has made me think clearly and in a new way in more than one place, and has made me smile in dozens; and he done so while teaching me about one of the greatest m ...more
Mar 01, 2013 rated it liked it
Sometimes very hard to follow. This was my first Chesterton book. He's incredibly smart and from what I've read about him, a very versatile and deep author. However, as much good information as he put in this book, he got very rambly and off-topic, and it took him a while to bring the topic around to being relevant to St Thomas, making it hard (for me at least) to follow. You might need to do some homework before you read this book...
Fr.Bill M
Jul 22, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most "accessible" treatments of the Great Catholic theologian ever written, and Chesterton's insights into his character and his impact on the development of Christianity and Western culture are invaluable. Read this before reading anything else about Aquinas.
Rick Davis
I like the fact that even when Chesterton gets his facts wrong (as he does often when dealing with Augustine or anything about the Reformation) his ideas are still right. This was also a great book for getting random insights into Dante, who relied heavily on St. Thomas.
Jul 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Gilbert Keith Chesterton—semi-officially known as “the oft-quoted G. K. Chesterton”—would have us believe this little volume is a sketch or an outline of Thomas Aquinas’ life and thought. It’s difficult for me, however, to classify this book as anything even roughly resembling a biography. Chesterton clearly places Aquinas in thirteenth-century Italy and France; otherwise, however, he mentions only one specific date or year in the entire book (and not until page 141!). There’s no real chronology ...more
Sep 27, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: christian
Chesterton's biographical sketches of people are really beyond compare. I can't imagine a better read about Aquinas. His lumbering, slow, and massive person was clearly observed juxtaposed with Chesterton's wry wit and sparkling scenes. St. Thomas's interruption of the French king's party in Paris even made me want to stop talking and stare at him in surprise (and I wasn't even talking!). I also appreciate the examination of Aristotelian thought against that of the Platonists who thrived just be ...more
Mar 26, 2016 rated it did not like it
Chesterton begins with a disclaimer that the book is a general panorama of the life, ideas, and writings of St. Thomas. He should have put the pen and paper down after the disclaimer. This book falls very very short of any hagiography and is plagued by agenda, opinion, and cheap shots at institutional threats to the Catholic Church. G.K. inserts snarky introductions and comments that characterize the tone of a hot tempered layman defending his religion, especially in chapter 7 The Permanent Phil ...more
Nov 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014

Chesterton's writing is a wonder. You can see his brilliantly intelligent mind, I mean, good grief, some of the stuff just took too much out of me to try to understand, so I'd pass through with my eyes glazed, but some of it was so crisply simple that you could tell it took someone really smart to say it that way. And FUNNY.

I learned about the medieval era and mind, very nice indeed. I learned about Aquinas and I like him. I think I wondered if he were even a Christian before I read this, so I'

Christopher Rush
Feb 14, 2016 rated it liked it
I know this is a highly-respected work, and I do respect it. The union of Thomas Aquinas and G.K. Chesterton is a Dream Team-like pairing. Chesterton indeed sets out to do precisely what he aims to do: an anecdotal bird's-eye survey of key moments in Aquinas's life and thought combined with terse practical suggestions on what to do with Aquinas's philosophy. The issue, though, if such an issue exists, is Chesterton accomplishes his goal: he even admits it is not a thorough, authoritative treatme ...more
And BAM.
Chesterton writes like a waterfall or a thunderstorm; he is grand and brilliant and he doesn't take things slow. I could almost see him gesticulating as he wrote, shaking his head, waving his hands, making satirical expressions at the folly of the Materialists. He's one of the best and brightest, and he's got personality coming out of the ass.
A word on the book.
It's a trifle misleading--that is, it's hardly a biography. Chesterton could hardly do something confined solely to dates and f
Naomi Young
Like most Chesterton,I've read I think I've understood less than 10% of what was intended, but enjoyed the confusion, and feel an impulse to begin again at once, the better to get a little more. This is not so much a biography as a set of meditations, beginning with comparing the two friars Sts. Francis and Thomas; and concluding with a comparison of St. Thomas and Martin Luther. In between, there are anecdotes about Aquinas from which Chesterton spins off his commentaries and wild metaphors.

May 26, 2008 rated it really liked it
This was one of those books that sat on my shelf for two years before I finally picked it up. Once I actually started it, I could not put it down. This is a fantastic introduction to the philosophy of St. Thomas. If you never got around to taking a medieval philosophy class in undergrad, or if (like me) everything you know about St. Thomas' philosophy comes from reading Dante, here is your chance to catch up. Chesterton was writing for his era, but based on all of the science v. religion talk we ...more
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The Catholic Book...: 5. Quotes 17 9 Aug 28, 2017 12:53AM  
The Catholic Book...: 4. Questions - Chesterton 7 8 Aug 11, 2017 11:18AM  
The Catholic Book...: 2. Chesterton 9 8 Aug 10, 2017 12:14PM  
The Catholic Book...: 1. St. Thomas Aquinas - Understanding 6 13 Aug 09, 2017 06:52AM  
The Catholic Book...: Introduction 3 9 Aug 04, 2017 02:30AM  
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Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) was born in London, educated at St. Paul’s, and went to art school at University College London. In 1900, he was asked to contribute a few magazine articles on art criticism, and went on to become one of the most prolific writers of all time. He wrote a hundred books, contributions to 200 more, hundreds of poems, including the epic Ballad of the White Horse, fi ...more
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“St Thomas (Aqinas) loved books and lived on books... When asked for what he thanked God most, he answered simply, ‘I have understood every page I ever read’.” 25 likes
“[Buddhism and Christianity] are in one sense parallel and equal; as a mound and a hollow, as a valley and a hill. There is a sense in which that sublime despair is the only alternative to that divine audacity. It is even true that the truly spiritual and intellectual man sees it as sort of dilemma; a very hard and terrible choice. There is little else on earth that can compare with these for completeness. And he who does not climb the mountain of Christ does indeed fall into the abyss of Buddha.” 15 likes
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