In the monastery of Fossanova, near Terracina [Italy], St. Thomas Aquinas, Confessor and Doctor of the Church, of the Order of Preachers, illustrious for his noble family, holy life, and theological wisdom. Pope Leo XIII declared him the patron saint of all Catholic scholars. – Roman Martyrology for March 7
Much of Thomas Aquinas's writings were aimed at refuting Christian thinkers who had been led by their study of Arab philosophers to question the Eucharist and other church doctrines.1 Consequently in a number of images a turbaned figure lies vanquished below the saint, representing the errors of the Arab writers.
According to the Golden Legend Saints Peter and Paul themselves helped Aquinas understand the scriptures (image).
Aquinas was a Dominican, so portraits normally show him in the black and white habit of that order with a distinct tonsure and often a shining sun on his breast as an emblem of his role as teacher of doctrine, as in the second picture at right. Some portraits show a dove at his ear to symbolize the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (example) and, less often, a monstrance referring to his work on the doctrine of Transubstantiation (example).
Prepared in 2015 by Richard Stracke, Emeritus Professor of English, Augusta University. Revised 2017-01-16, 2019-04-02.