Remigius dei Girolami, a Dominican friar and lector in the Santa Maria Novella church in Florence as well as a political philosopher and theologian, wrote in the context of the Guelf – Ghibbeline conflict in Florence in the early fourteenth century. Unfortunately, Remigius dei Girolami is rather poorly known, as he is eclipsed by his more famous teacher, Thomas Aquinas, and his Florentine contemporary, Dante. Nevertheless, Remigius dei Girolami authored an impressive array of texts, ranging in topic from theology to science to music to politics.
In this book a new translation of several of Remigius dei Girolami’s political works, the De Bono Communi, De Bono Pacis, Sermones de Pace and the De Iustitia is offered. These texts, in their discussion of how to overcome this conflict, offer a unique perspective, since Remigius dei Girolami carefully avoids the core of the conflict, the last playing out of the Investiture controversy between Pope and Emperor, and instead focuses on the relationship between the individual and the state. These are not polemic texts, meant to bolster one side over the other, rather he paints a picture in which even the victory of one side over the other results in destruction for all, since conflict is of detriment to society as a whole. It is not imperial party or papal party that are the problem and must be defeated, as is seen often in other texts of the same time period, such as the Defensor Pacis by Marsilius of Padua or Dante’s De Monarchia, whose hatred of the Black Guelfs was so great that he consigned many of their leaders in the Inferno. Instead, it is the individual who does not love the city who is culpable for the destruction of the state, conversely, it is through the love of this individual for the community that all benefit.
In addition to the translation, the book offers contextualization and structural analysis in a general introduction as well as introductions to each text. Much of the discussion centers on the influence of Thomas Aquinas, felt everywhere in Remigius dei Girolami’s works, from the setup of the section of objections to the adoption of the Thomistic understanding of the relationship of human and divine law to the pervasive reliance on Aristotle. Especially in the De Bono Communi and De Bono Pacis quotations of and references to the works of Aristotle are made as often as Scriptural references. It is this reliance on Aristotle that allows Remigius dei Girolami to formulate his argument. Remigius dei Girolami adopts the Aristotelian principle of the part and the whole in his understanding of the relationship of the individual to the community. Using the image of a hand or foot as part of the body, beyond which the hand or foot has no real existence, Remigius adapts this to argue that the citizen has no real existence beyond the community. If this is the case, then anything which endangers the community, such as the constant fighting between political factions, is an existential threat to each individual part of the community, even the part which is victorious.