THESIS project is a ERC-SG-SH6 - ERC Starting Grant - The study of the human past

Host Institution: IRHT-CNRS, Paris: October 2012-July 2018

State-of-the-art and objectives

The THESIS project proposes a pioneering study of a coherent corpus of medieval manuscripts consisting of all the commentaries on the Sentences composed in Paris and in the new universities from Central Europe between 1350-1450. A Sentences commentary is a core component of the medieval academic curriculum, a collection of theses that scholars had to defend in the universities in order to obtain the title of master or doctor of theology; it is actually the unique equivalent of our modern PhD thesis.

This investigation aims to provide new information concerning the intellectual atmosphere inside the European universities in an attempt to respond to various historical questions: How do the Sentences commentaries of this period lead to the formation of a European university identity? Who are the masters of the time? What is the importance of a Sentences commentary (the modern PhD) in the development of a individual intellectual career during the late Middle Ages? What are the relations and exchanges between the University of Paris and the new universities of Central Europe? Which are the commentaries acquired (by purchase and thus at the request of the readers) in the university libraries of this epoch and in this area of Europe? What are the cultural exchanges between secular masters, monks and friars? How do the religious orders constitute an important factor in the formation of a network for the transfer of knowledge in the universities?

Research in the archives (mainly little known ones from Eastern Europe), the study of the manuscripts, the digital edition of the texts and the development of new IT tools for our field will be key components of our project, contributing to a better understanding of a hidden part of European intellectual history. Our project is built upon a strategy promoting erudition (codicology, palaeography, textual criticism), an interdisciplinary scientific approach, and exchange and dialogue between scholars from Western and Eastern Europe.

As an initial step, the THESIS project’s goal is to produce a complete guide to the commentaries composed not only at Paris but also in the new universities of Central Europe, Cologne, Heidelberg, Leipzig, Krakow, Prague and Vienna, during a prolific period, starting around 1350 and going until 1450 (the so-called "late scholasticism"). The commentaries of ca. 90 authors form the corpus, and they are preserved in over 500 manuscripts.

An interesting scientific venture in this project will be to edit unpublished texts and to identify the sources of these texts in order to enhance the visibility of our corpus and its main thesis. A Sentences commentary can be hundreds of folios long, the equivalent of thousands of modern pages (cf. the online transcription of Peter of Candia's commentary from ca. 1380:, however, and editing just one of these commentaries would take many years. The THESIS project will therefore focus on the Prologues, one of the most important parts of these writings. The Prologues of Sentences commentaries provide a key to the reading of the entire text, outlining the author’s theological and philosophical enterprise. 

ERC-THESIS Project news

Fourth Annual THESIS Meeting for Reading Medieval Manuscripts, Cape Greco, Cyprus, 23-30 october 2017 [program]

-THESIS will held 2 sessions at  XIV International Congress of the SIEPM: Homo-Natura-Mundus: Human Beings and their Relationships, Porto Alegre, Brazil, 24-28 July 2017

-During the XIV International Congress of the SIEPM: THESIS will launch the new publication of the collection Studia Sententiarum :

-ERC accepted the request of an extension of 10 months for THESIS project

Third Annual THESIS Meeting for Reading Medieval Manuscripts, Coral Bay 19-26 November 2016

Linked Data and the Medieval Scholastic Tradition

International Workshop, Basel, August 17-19, 2016

See program: Linked Data and the Medieval Scholastic Tradition

THESIS project participated to the International Conference Habit in Medieval Philosophy, Paris, October 14-16, 2015 

See program:

Les principia sur les commentaire des Sentences : entre exercice institutionnel et réalité intellectuelle

23, 24 mars 2015; IRHT : Centre Félix-Grat


Organized by: Monica Brinzei (ERC-IRHT, Paris)

William O. Duba (Radboud Universiteit, Nijmegen)

The most substantial requirement to become a master of theology at the medieval university was to have lectured on the Sentences of Peter Lombard. This course included inaugural lectures -- principia -- at the beginning of each of the four books. Yet these principia remain largely unknown. The goal of this workshop is to establish the scholarly understanding of principia, and through it, to better grasp the organization of medieval theological teaching through case studies. By clarifying the circumstances and content of this obligatory step in the careers of the sententiarii, this workshop intends to achieve a picture of the key characteristics of this exercise, the structure and style of principia, the principal actors and authors, and the doctrinal problems discussed in these debates and sermons, as well the relationship between an author's principia and his Sentences  commentary.

 Principia ou les leçons inaugurales qui précèdent la lecture des Sentences à la Faculté de Théologie demeurent encore un témoin inconnu de cette pratique universitaire. Le but de cet workshop est de mieux comprendre l'organisation de l'enseignement théologique médiéval à travers des études de cas des principia. L'intérêt est d'éclairer cette épreuve obligatoire imposée aux sententiarii en investiguant quelles sont les caractéristiques de cet exercice, quel est la structure et le style desprincipia, qui sont les acteurs principaux de ces débats universitaires et qui sont les auteurs qui nous ont laissé des principia, quelles sont les problèmes doctrinales abordés dans ces débats, quel est le rapport entre les principia et le commentaire desSentences d'un même auteur. 

Contact: Monica BRINZEI,