Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Tournay, Simon of
TOURNAY, SIMON of (fl. 1184–1200), schoolman, was thought, says Bale, to have been a native of Cornwall (De Ill. Scriptt. 1548, fol. 99 b), and Fuller and Boase and Courtney include him among the natives of that county. Matthew Paris styles him ‘natione Francus nomine Simon, cognomento de Thurnai;’ Polydore Vergil (Hist. Angl. 1546, p. 288) prints the name Thurnaius; Bale has the same spelling, but Tanner and other bibliographers have misprinted it Thurvay. ‘Thurnai’ is really Tournay, and in his extant works and in contemporary references Simon is styled ‘Simon Tornacensis’ or ‘Simon de Tornæo.’ Whether he received that name because he was a native of Tournay, or because he subsequently held a canonry in the cathedral there, is uncertain. According to Wood (Hist. et Antiq. i. 54, 208–9), Simon was educated at Oxford, and then went abroad. In a letter written between 1176 and 1192 Stephen, bishop of Tournay, recommends to the archbishop of Reims the cause of ‘magistri Simonis, viri inter scholares cathedræ egregii’ (MS. Cat. 2923, f. 111 b in Bibliothèque Nationale, printed in Migne, Patrologia, ccxi. 353). He is said to have been canon of Tournay, but at what date is uncertain. He seems to have been established at Paris at least as early as 1180, as ‘magister Symon de Tornæo’ appears as witness to an undated document along with Gerard, who was elected bishop of Coventry in 1183, and died in January 1183–4 (Denifle, Chartularium Univ. Paris. i. 45 n.) At Paris he was for ten years regent of arts ‘in trivio et quadrivio, id est in septem liberalibus artibus’ (Matt. Paris, Chron. Majora, ii. 476). He then turned his attention to theology, in which he made so much proficiency in a few years that he was called ‘ad cathedram magistralem.’ His tenacity of memory, natural abilities, and the brilliancy with which he solved disputed theological questions, brought to his lectures audiences which more than filled the largest buildings in the university. He was acquainted with the works of Boethius, St. Augustine, St. Hilary, and John Scotus or Erigena [q. v.], all of whom he quotes, and his criticism of Plato's views of the creation is still extant (Summa Theologiæ in Bibliothèque Nationale MSS. Lat. 3114 A and 14886). His favourite master, however, seems to have been Aristotle, and his adherence to Aristotle's views led to accusations of heresy against him (Hauréau, Hist. de la Phil. Scolastique, ii. 58–62, where there is an excellent account of Simon's philosophy; cf. Brucker, Hist. Critique de la Phil. iii. 829–34; Hist. Littéraire de France, xvi. 388–396; Lecoy de la Marche, La Chaire Française au Moyen Âge, 1886, pp. 77–8). These suspicions of Simon's orthodoxy were probably the origin of the curious story told of him by Matthew Paris, on the authority of Nicholas de Farnham [q. v.], afterwards bishop of Durham. According to this story Simon, while lecturing one day, was so much elated at the applause which greeted his demonstration of scriptural truth that he exclaimed that he could prove the reverse with equal facility if he pleased. Whereupon he was suddenly struck dumb and bereft of his mental faculties, so that he was reduced, like an illiterate boy of seven, to learn his paternoster from his son (Matt. Paris, Chron. Majora, ii. 477; Rashdall, Universities of Europe, i. 355). Possibly the substratum of truth was that in his old age Simon had a stroke of paralysis, in which condition he was seen by Nicholas de Farnham, the rest of the story being due to the suspicion with which schoolmen were viewed by the monastic writers.
Three volumes of Simon's lectures are extant at Oxford.
- ‘Disputationes centum duæ,’ in Balliol College MS. lxv.
- ‘Quæstiones centum una,’ in Balliol College MS. ccx. ff. 79 et seq.
- ‘Institutiones in sacram paginam,’ in Merton College MS. cxxxii. ff. 105 et seq.
Coxe suggests that Simon was also author of the first part of the Merton manuscript, an ‘Expositio super sententiarum libros quatuor,’ usually attributed to Anselm. Hauréau states that the ‘Institutiones in sacram paginam’ is identical with Simon's ‘Summa Theologiæ,’ of which two copies (MS. Lat. 3114 A and 14886) are extant in the Bibliothèque Nationale at Paris. The former manuscript is incomplete; a portion of it, ‘Sermo de Deo et divinis,’ is often cited as a separate work.