The Presence of the Dominican School of Salamanca at Trent


  • Ulrich Horst


The school of Salamanca has its roots in the religious reform of the 15th century that had the support of the catholic kings. In 1487, the college San Gregorio in Valladolid was founded and only the best Dominican scholars secured admission. Of far reaching implications was the fact that the superiors of the Order sent Francisco de Vitoria to Paris for studies where he came into close contact with the prevailing currents of thought. He became acquainted not only with renewed Thomism but also with counciliar and humanistic ideas. Making a great impression on him was also the desire for the reform of the Church. From the onset of his teaching career in Salamanca, Vitoria started developing a program in which the reform of the Church was to play a central role. In his eyes, the council was the only way to bring about the reform. In order to give this a theological backing, he developed a concept of the Episcopacy that was supposed to guarantee the Bishops a self-sufficient position. A future council should sanction decreta irritantia that would bring an end to the misuse of dispensations and accumulation of offices. Furthermore, the bishops should be obliged to observe the duty of residence in their dioceses by virtue of divine law.

Vitoria’s thoughts found ready reception by his students, some of whom were present as bishops at Trent. Without his influence, the discussion of the duty of residence cannot be understood.

Domingo de Soto also insisted on these same rights and duties of the bishops. His contribution to the decree on Tradition and the Vulgate is remarkable. Besides, he stood up with success for the study of scholastic theology. Most significant has been his contribution to the decree of justification that he commented in his work De natura et gratia (1547). His lectures in Salamanca had prepared him well for this task. Melchior Cano however, marks a turning point. In his ecclesiology, all traces of counciliar thought have finally disappeared. His greatest achievements at Trent are his discourses on the sacraments, particularly on the sacrificial character of the Holy Mass.