< Back to previous page


Petrus de Rivo (ca. 1420-1499): Portrait(s) of a Louvain Master

Peter de Rivo (ca. 1420–1499) was one of the most renowned figures of the early University of Louvain. He was professor of philosophy and rhetoric at the Faculty of Arts (from 1443 and 1460, respectively) and professor of theology (1477), served three times as rector of the University (1457, 1477, and 1478), and held the function of canon of Saint Rumbold in Mechelen (1442–1480) and that of plebanus of Saint Peter in Louvain (1475–1499). He is mostly known by historians for his role in the ‘Quarrel’ over future contingents (1465–1476), a controversy on the truth-value of statements regarding future contingent events and on God’s foreknowledge of them, that started in the university halls of Louvain and gradually involved the faculties of theology of Paris and Cologne, the circle around the Cardinal Bessarion in Rome, and Pope Sixtus IV himself. During his long career in philosophy and theology, however, Peter composed a variety of writings, including commentaries on Aristotle and on the Bible, treatises on the dating of Easter and on calendar reform, as well as texts fitting into the historical context of fifteenth-century Duchy of Brabant. This material has been in large part neglected by modern historians, and to this day remains unedited and understudied in fifteenth-century manuscripts and early prints.

The aim of the present work is to provide material in order to address the many gaps within the existing scholarship and to pave the way for the writing of Peter de Rivo’s intellectual biography. It consists of a collection of 'portraits' capturing Peter in several aspects of his intellectual activity, without any ambition of representing his thinking in its totality. 

Chapter 1 presents an introduction to Rivo’s life and works, based on the study of the accounts written by early biographers, of archival documents, as well as on repertoria and library catalogues.

Chapter 2 depicts four aspects of Peter’s life as a significant member of the town, rector of the university, plebanus and theologian. This chapter provides a representation of Peter de Rivo as a ‘university man’ who operated also outside the university halls. 2.1 treats the relationship of Peter with his place of birth, Aalst, on the basis of a group of records from the city accounts written on the occasion of his official visits to the city (Text(s) A). The analysis of those documents provides insight into a particular system of political communication that was quite common in the Late Medieval Low Countries, i.e. the culture of gift exchange as a way to create and maintain social and political bonds. 2.2 contains the transcription and study of Peter’s panegyric for the first entry of the Archduke Maximilian of Habsburg into Louvain in August 1477 (Text B). This section provides a historical introduction to the political situation and ideology of power in the lands under Burgundian rule; a description of the events of the Louvain urban revolt of 1477, in which Peter de Rivo played the role of intermediary in order to bring peace to the town (2.2.1); and finally a comparison between Peter’s Relatio and another five texts composed, in the same year or right after, in honor of the arrival of Maximilian in the Burgundian lands (2.2.2, 2.2.3). This section also includes the transcription of one of those texts, which is still unedited, i.e. the Relatio composed by Theodoricus de Thulden on the occasion of his visit to Maximilian in Cologne in July 1477 (Text C). 2.3 presents Peter’s relationship with the religious communities in Louvain and Brabant, following, in particular, the reception of his manuscripts within four Brabantine priories of Augustinian canons affiliated with the Congregation of Windesheim. This section also includes the transcription and a short study of a letter that Peter wrote to a friar professus of the priory of Groenendaal, which provides evidence of his engagement in questions of pastoral care (Text D). Finally, 2.4 offers some notes on Rivo’s Monotessaron, in comparison with the homonymic work by Jean Gerson. It presents a first survey of the manuscript material at our disposal and proposes some hypotheses on the purpose and use of this work. This section comprises a brief case study on Rivo’s harmonization of the different accounts on Peter’s Denial found in the Gospels. In particular, it includes the transcription of the text De negatione Petri, which explains Rivo’s technique in reconstructing the sequence of the events (Text F); the picture of the pages in Rivo’s Monotessaron where these pericopes are found (Picture 7); and the passage of Jean Gerson’s Gospel Harmony concerning this episode (Text E).

Chapter 3 is a portrait of Peter as reader of Aristotle and professor of philosophy, based on a first survey of his unedited commentaries on the Organon and on the Aristotelian works of natural philosophy, which probably represent the outcome of his teaching activity at the ‘pedagogy’ of the Castle.  3.1 provides an introduction to the teaching syllabus at the Faculty of Arts of Louvain in the fifteenth century. It presents the official regulations found in the statutes of 1427 and 1429 (compared to those of 1567–68), and mentions some cases, reported by the Acts of the Faculty (or University) Council or by the Louvain theologian and historian Johannes Molanus, that witness infractions of these rules. 3.2 presents a few notes on the general features of Rivo’s commentaries and on the manuscript tradition, advancing some hypotheses as to how these texts were copied and circulated among four reformed convents of the Dominican province of Saxony. The chapter then offers three case studies, dealing, respectively, with Peter’s teaching on the division of the sciences (3.3), on De interpretatione chapter 9 (3.4), and on the soul (3.5). 3.6, together with Appendix A.1–2, is a first survey of the lecture notes (collegedictaten) produced at the ‘pedagogies’ of the Faculty of Arts of Louvain in the fifteenth century.

Finally, Appendix B presents material that is preparatory to further research on the Quarrel over future contingents: B1 presents the dossier of texts related to the Quarrel. B2 offers a table of contents of the section of the Collectanea Adriani (Leuven, Universiteitsbibliotheek, Ms. 1635) dedicated to the Quarrel. B3 reports the transcription of the “Notes of the judge concerning the process against Peter de Rivo” (Text H), and of the Epistola “Longo tempore dubius pependi” (Text G).

Date:17 Nov 2011 →  20 Dec 2016
Disciplines:Theory and methodology of philosophy
Project type:PhD project