Thomas of Tolentino

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Saint Thomas of Tolentino
Priest and  Martyr
Tolentino, Ancona, Papal States
Thane, Delhi Sultanate
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Beatified Pre-congregation; confirmed 1809 and 1894
Major shrine Tolentino, Italy; Quanzhou, China
Feast April 9

Thomas of Tolentino (Italian : Tommaso di [1] or da Tolentino; [2] c.1255  8 April 1321) was a medieval Franciscan missionary who was martyred with his three companions in Thane, India, for "blaspheming" Muhammad. His relics were removed to Quanzhou, China, and Tolentino, Italy, by Odoric of Pordenone. He is now venerated as a saint [1] by the Roman Catholic Church, with his feast day on April 9.

Italian language Romance language

Italian is a Romance language of the Indo-European language family. Italian descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire and, together with Sardinian, is by most measures the closest language to it of the Romance languages. Italian is an official language in Italy, Switzerland, San Marino and Vatican City. It has an official minority status in western Istria. It formerly had official status in Albania, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro (Kotor) and Greece, and is generally understood in Corsica and Savoie. It also used to be an official language in the former Italian East Africa and Italian North Africa, where it still plays a significant role in various sectors. Italian is also spoken by large expatriate communities in the Americas and Australia. Italian is included under the languages covered by the European Charter for Regional or Minority languages in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Romania, although Italian is neither a co-official nor a protected language in these countries. Many speakers of Italian are native bilinguals of both Italian and other regional languages.

Middle Ages Period of European history from the 5th to the 15th century

In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages lasted from the 5th to the 15th century. It began with the fall of the Western Roman Empire and merged into the Renaissance and the Age of Discovery. The Middle Ages is the middle period of the three traditional divisions of Western history: classical antiquity, the medieval period, and the modern period. The medieval period is itself subdivided into the Early, High, and Late Middle Ages.

Franciscans group of religious orders within the Catholic Church

The Franciscans are a group of related mendicant religious orders within the Catholic Church, founded in 1209 by Saint Francis of Assisi. These orders include the Order of Friars Minor, the Order of Saint Clare, and the Third Order of Saint Francis. They adhere to the teachings and spiritual disciplines of the founder and of his main associates and followers, such as Clare of Assisi, Anthony of Padua, and Elizabeth of Hungary, among many others.



Thomas was born in Tolentino [3] in the March of Ancona [4] within the Papal States around 1250 to 1260. [2] Becoming a Franciscan early in life, he developed a reputation for his strict adherence to its rule, particularly concerning his vow of poverty. [4] A fellow of St  Nicholas of Tolentino [2] and one of Angelo da Clareno's Spiritual Franciscans, [5] Thomas was jailed twice for his excessive condemnation of luxury. [2]

Tolentino Comune in Marche, Italy

Tolentino is a town and comune of about 20,000 inhabitants, in the province of Macerata in the Marche region of central Italy.

March of Ancona

The March of Ancona was a frontier march centred on the city of Ancona and, then, Macerata in the Middle Ages. Its name is preserved as an Italian region today, the Marches, and it corresponds to almost the entire modern region and not just the Province of Ancona.

Papal States Territories mostly in the Appenine Peninsula under the sovereign direct rule of the pope between 752–1870

The Papal States, officially the State of the Church, were a series of territories in the Italian Peninsula under the direct sovereign rule of the Pope, from the 8th century until 1870. They were among the major states of Italy from roughly the 8th century until the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia successfully unified the Italian Peninsula by conquest in a campaign virtually concluded in 1861 and definitively in 1870. At their zenith, the Papal States covered most of the modern Italian regions of Lazio, Marche, Umbria and Romagna, and portions of Emilia. These holdings were considered to be a manifestation of the temporal power of the pope, as opposed to his ecclesiastical primacy.

After being released through the intervention of Raymond Godefroy, a new minister general who sympathized with the Spiritualists, Thomas traveled with Angelo da Clareno, Marco da Montelupone, Pietro da Macerata, and Angelo da Tolentino [2] to mission in Lesser Armenia in 1289. In 1291, its King Haython II directed him to return to the courts of Rome, Paris, and London to seek help against his Muslim foes. [4] His efforts to raise a new crusade were unsuccessful and he returned east, [5] departing a second time to gather more missionaries. Returning with twelve companions in 1302, [2] he worked in Armenia and Persia. He debated Armenian Christians he considered heretics at Sis in 1305 [4] and participated in the Council of Sis that notionally reunited the Armenian and Roman Catholic churches in 1307. [2] While in Persia, two letters dated 1305 and 1306 arrived from John of Montecorvino, the Franciscan missionary to China, and Thomas again traveled to Europe, delivering the correspondence to Rome in 1307. While there, he addressed a public consistory of the pope and cardinals, praising John's work in China and asking for assistance in developing his mission. [4] He also discussed the matter with Clement V at Poitiers in 1308, after which an ecclesiastical hierarchy was established for the Roman Catholics in China. [2] The pontiff named John archbishop of Khanbaliq (now within modern Beijing) and seven Franciscan bishops and many friars were sent to join him. Only three of the bishops and a few friars, however, successfully completed the journey. Thomas seems to have then travelled a fourth time to Armenia and Persia. [4]

Minister General is the term used for the leader or Superior General of the different branches of the Order of Friars Minor. It is a term exclusive to them, and comes directly from its founder, St. Francis of Assisi. He chose this word over "Superior" out of his vision that the brothers of the Order were all to be equal, and that the friar supervising his brothers was to be a servant who cared for them, not one who lorded over them. The original term is minister generalis in Latin and is found in Chapter 8 of the Rule of St. Francis.

Angelo da Clareno Italian franciscan, heretic

Angelo da Clareno, also known as Angelo Clareno, was the founder and leader of one of the groups of Fraticelli in the early 14th century.

Pietro da Macerata was a Franciscan missionary to Lesser Armenia in the late 13th century. He was sent with Angelo Clareno and four other monks by Raymond Gaufridi sometime after 1289. However, the hostility of the "fratres communes" forced Pietro da Macerata and Clareno to return to Italy, where they were refused by every abbey they approached. They met pope Celestine V at L'Aquila - he split them from the Franciscans and set up a new order of "pauperes Eremitae", to be resident in Celestine monasteries. Pietro then changed his name to "Fra Liberato"

There is a gap until 1320, during which Thomas may have labored in India or China. [5] In 1320, Thomas left from Hormuz with his fellow Franciscans Bl. James of Padua and Peter of Siena, the Dominican Jordan of Severac, and the layman Demetrio da Tifliz. [2] A Georgian or Armenian, Demetrius was proficient at languages and served as the group's interpreter. [4] A storm forced the party to land at Thane [5] on the island of Salsette Island [2] near Mumbai in India, [4] en route and were greeted by local Christians of the Church of the East. [2] [lower-alpha 1] Jordan left them to preach at Bharuch, reaching Sopara (see Sopara in history) before he heard Demetrius and the Franciscans had been arrested. [6] The family with whom they were staying had fallen into a quarrel and the husband had beaten his wife. When she went to the qadi to report this abuse, she had mentioned the four clerics as witnesses and they were called before him. Thomas, James, and Demetrius had gone to the court while Peter remained behind to look after their things. Having begun a discussion of religion, the qadi had asked them their opinion of Muhammad and Thomas replied bluntly that he was "the son of perdition and had his place in Hell with the Devil his father". At this, the Muslims around the court called for their death for blasphemy. [7] Some accounts claim they were scourged and tortured before their execution [5] by beheading on April 8, 1321. [lower-alpha 2] Peter was killed three days later. [4]

Hormuz, Iran City in Hormozgan, Iran

Hormuz is a city and capital of Hormuz District, in Qeshm County, Hormozgan Province, Iran.

Blessed James of Padua was a 14th-century Franciscan missionary. He was beheaded alongside Thomas of Tolentino, Peter of Siena and Demetrius of Tiflis at Thane by Muslims en route to evangelizing Sri Lanka and China. They were beatified by pope Leo XIII in 1894 as the Four Martyrs of Thane, with their memorial on 9 April.

Blessed Peter of Siena was a 14th-century Franciscan missionary and martyr. He is venerated in the Roman Catholic Church as one of the Four Martyrs of Thane, on April 9.


The local Christians may have buried Thomas and his companions [7] but Jordanus Catalani, arriving too late to save them, removed their bodies to the church at Supera with the help of a Genovese youth. [6] In 1323 [4] or 1326, [5] Odoric of Pordenone passed through the region. Having learned about Thomas and his companions, he took their relics with him to Quanzhou in Fujian. Thomas's skull he took with him to Khanbaliq and thence back to Europe, where he bestowed it on the Franciscan chapter in Tolentino [4] in 1330. [8] It was later moved to the town's cathedral [4] by a Pisan merchant in the late 14th century, who erected a chapel there in the martyr's honor with the approval of Boniface IX. It is now kept in the central cathedral in a silver bust. [2]

Republic of Genoa former state on the Apennine Peninsula between 1005–1797

The Republic of Genoa was an independent state from 1005 to 1797 in Liguria on the northwestern Italian coast, incorporating Corsica from 1347 to 1768, and numerous other territories throughout the Mediterranean.

Odoric of Pordenone 14th-century Italian Franciscan friar, missionary, and explorer

Odoric of Pordenone, OFM (1286–1331), also known as Odorico Mattiussi or Mattiuzzi, was an Italian late-medieval Franciscan friar and missionary explorer. His account of his visit to China was an important source for the account of John Mandeville. Many of the incredible reports in Mandeville have proven to be garbled versions of Odoric's eyewitness descriptions.

Quanzhou Prefecture-level city in Fujian, Peoples Republic of China

Quanzhou, alternatively known as Chinchew, is a prefecture-level port city on the north bank of the Jin River, beside the Taiwan Strait in Fujian Province, People's Republic of China. It is Fujian's largest metropolitan region, with an area of 11,245 square kilometers (4,342 sq mi) and, as of 2010, a population of 8,128,530. Its built-up area is home to 6,107,475 inhabitants, encompassing the Licheng, Fengze, and Luojiang urban districts; Jinjiang, Nan'an, and Shishi cities; Hui'an County; and the Quanzhou District for Taiwanese Investment. Quanzhou was China's 12th-largest extended metropolitan area in 2010.

Thomas and his companions have been unofficially reckoned beatified since the 14th century. [4] Jordan claimed to have miraculously healed the dysentery of his Genovese companion with one of Thomas's teeth. [6] Thomas's cult was approved by Pius VII in 1809 and again by Leo XIII in 1894. [8] He is venerated as a saint, [1] sometimes together with his companions [4] as the Four Martyrs of Thane, on April 9. [1]

Beatification recognition accorded by the Catholic Church of a dead person

Beatification is a recognition accorded by the Catholic Church of a dead person's entrance into Heaven and capacity to intercede on behalf of individuals who pray in his or her name. Beati is the plural form, referring to those who have undergone the process of beatification.

Miracle An event not explicable by natural or scientific laws

A miracle is an event not explicable by natural or scientific laws. Such an event may be attributed to a supernatural being, magic, a miracle worker, a saint, or a religious leader.

Dysentery inflammation of the intestine causing diarrhea with blood

Dysentery is an inflammatory disease of the intestine, especially of the colon, which always results in severe diarrhea and abdominal pains. Other symptoms may include fever and a feeling of incomplete defecation. The disease is caused by several types of infectious pathogens such as bacteria, viruses and parasites. Nowadays, dysentery is mostly known because it was featured in the game Oregon Trail, which spawned the "you have died of dysentery" meme.

See also


  1. Another account exists which claims they had arrived at Diu intending to missionize at Columbum and had travelled to Thane on foot. [6]
  2. Some sources mistakenly list the date as April 9 [2] or the year as 1322. [3]

Related Research Articles

Thane Place in Maharashtra, India

Thane is a metropolitan city in Maharashtra, India. Thane city coincides entirely within Thane taluka, one of the seven talukas of Thane district; also, it is the headquarter of the namesake district. With a population of 1,841,488 distributed over a land area of about 147 square kilometres (57 sq mi), Thane city is the 16th most populated city in India with a population of 1,890,000 according to the 2011 census. The city is also called "City of Lakes" as the city is surrounded by 35 lakes.

The Fraticelli or Spiritual Franciscans were extreme proponents of the rule of Saint Francis of Assisi, especially with regard to poverty, and regarded the wealth of the Church as scandalous, and that of individual churchmen as invalidating their status. They were thus forced into open revolt against the whole authority of the Church and were declared heretical in 1296 by Boniface VIII.

Gonsalo Garcia Friar Minor, martyr and saint

Gonsalo Garcia, O.F.M., was a Franciscan lay brother from Portuguese India, who died as a martyr in Japan and is venerated as a saint, one of the Twenty-six Martyrs of Japan so venerated. The first Indian born to attain sainthood was born in the western coastal town of Baçaim, later Bassein in English (now known as Vasai, an exurb of the city of Mumbai. During his lifetime, the town was under Portuguese colonial rule.

John of Montecorvino or Giovanni da Montecorvino in Italian (1247–1328) was an Italian Franciscan missionary, traveller and statesman, founder of the earliest Roman Catholic missions in India and China, and archbishop of Peking.

Nicholas Pieck Dutch Franciscan friar and martyr

Nicholas Pieck, O.F.M., "Nicolaas" or "Claes Pieck" in Dutch, was a Franciscan friar who was one of a group of Catholic clergy and lay brothers, the Martyrs of Gorkum, who were executed for refusal to renounce their faith in 1572.

Raymond de Gaufredi, sometimes anglicized as Raymond Godefroy, was Minister General of the Francican Order from 1289 to 1295.

Francesco da Fabriano - born Francesco Venimbeni - was an Italian Roman Catholic professed member from the Order of Friars Minor. He was a noted writer on various theological and biblical matters and was known for his great breadth of theological knowledge that characterized his religious life.

Order of Friars Minor male order in the Catholic Church

The Order of Friars Minor is a mendicant Catholic religious order, founded in 1209 by Francis of Assisi. The order adheres to the teachings and spiritual disciplines of the founder and of his main associates and followers, such as Clare of Assisi, Anthony of Padua, and Elizabeth of Hungary, among many others. The Order of Friars Minor is the largest of the contemporary First Orders within the Franciscan movement.

Mark of Montelupone or Marco da Montelupone was a medieval Christian missionary.

Angelo of Tolentino was a 13th-century Franciscan missionary.

Demetrius of Tiflis or Demetrio da Tifliz was a 14th-century Christian layman and martyr from Georgia or Armenia. He is venerated in the Roman Catholic Church as one of the Four Martyrs of Thane, on April 9.



  1. 1 2 3 4 "9 Aprile: S. Tommaso di Tolentino", Martirologio, Vatican City: Holy See, retrieved 9 November 2016. (in Italian)
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 Nardi, Elisabetta, "Beato Tommaso da Tolentino", Santi Beati e Testimoni, retrieved 9 November 2016. (in Italian)
  3. 1 2 "Bl. Thomas of Tolentino", Catholic Online.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 Habig (1979) , "Thomas of Tolentino".
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Butler.
  6. 1 2 3 4 Cunha (1876) , p.  174.
  7. 1 2 Cunha (1876) , p.  176.
  8. 1 2 "Blessed Thomas of Tolentino", Catholic Saints, 9 March 2014.