Thuo Vibergensis

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by Sten Ebbesen

Thuo (& Tuvo) Nicolai de Vibergia (Viborgia, Vibergis), Modern Danish Tue/Tuve Nielsen fra Viborg, ca. 1405–1472, archbishop of Lund 1443–1472, author of two philosophical works composed in the 1430s when he taught philosophy and studied theology in Erfurt. His tombstone in Lund Cathedral sums up his life as follows: “Hic iacet sepultus reverendissimus in Christo pater ac dominus dominus Tuvo, Dei gratia archiepiscopus Lundensis, in artibus magister ac in sacra theologia doctor, qui obiit anno Domini MCDLXXII.” (Here lies buried master Tuvo, the in Christ honourable father and master, with His grace archbishop of Lund, Master of Arts and Doctor of sacred Theology, who died in the year of the Lord 1472.)


Thuo came from Viborg in Jutland. His family background is not known, though it has been plausibly suggested that he belonged to the noble family of Juul. His date of birth is also unknown, but his academic career suggests ca. 1405–1410. He began the study of arts in the University of Erfurt in 1426, became a bachelor of arts in 1427 and a master in 1428. After the arts he studied theology, and became a bachelor of theology in 1433, baccalareus formatus in 1437 (probably), and a doctor in 1439. He seems to have stayed on in Erfurt till 1443 when he was elected archbishop of Lund.

During his Erfurt years Thuo held several administrative posts in the university: collector in the faculty of arts for the summer term of 1433, dean of the faculty of theology winter 1437–38, rector 1439. When Collegium Porta Celi (“Zum Himmelspforte”), founded by Amplonius of Rheinsberg, commenced to function in 1434 Thuo was among the first fellows, and he probably stayed there till he left Erfurt in 1443. While in Erfurt he had been provided with canonries in Ribe and Lund.

Administrative documents apart, Thuo wrote nothing during his nearly thirty ears as archbishop, but apparently he was an able administrator, though the chapter of Lund cathedral on one occasion felt compelled to appeal to the pope against him. He promoted the career of his brother Lawrence. In 1449 Thuo crowned King Christian I, the first Danish king of the Oldenburg line. In 1452 he played an active role in the defence of his Scanian possessions against an incursion led by King Charles Knutsson of Sweden. For Thuo’s academic career the main sources are documents from the University of Erfurt and Collegium Porte Celi, which confirm the information given on his tomb-stone in the cathedral of Lund. See the introduction in TABBARONI & EBBESEN 1998. For his life in general, see JEXLEV 1982, with reference to further literature. Old biographies in GERTZ 1922, 122–27 and in the sixteenth-century Episcoporum Ecclesiæ Lundensis series by Magnus Matthiae (Copenhagen, Royal Library, E don. var. 11: fols. 97r–100v).

(1) Disputata Metaphysicae


The title is based on an entry in the one existing manuscript; another entry might suggest Exercitium Metaphysicae


Circa primum metaphysicae quaeritur utrum metaphysicae quae sapientia dicitur obiectum adaequatum sit ens in quantum ens.


Cum isto tamen stat quod cognoscitur esse in praedicamento substantiae, quia ei convenit per se existere.


275 pages in the edition.


  • TABARRONI 1998 (CPhD 13)


The work was composed 1438–39, and the authorship is certain. The work is attributed to Thuo by the person who copied it, and he did so in the same college that Thuo lived in and while Thuo was there.

Contents, composition and style

The work consists of 93 questions (quaestiones) on Aristotle’s Metaphysics Books 1–10 & 12. Each question has the following structure: (1) Enunciation of the title of the question (Utrum ...) . (2) One or more explanatory remarks, all introduced by the word Sciendum. Item (2) is optional, but usual. (3) The answer to the question in the form of one or more theses, called conclusiones (responsales), each of which is supported by an argument. If the argument has syllogistic form, each premise is itself supported by an argument (probatio) (4–5) The disputation proper. (4) The conclusio is attacked by means of several arguments, usually gathered in groups of three and introduced by the word Arguitur. The premises of syllogistic arguments are supported by probationes. (5) Each group of arguments from step (4) is countered by a corresponding batch of solutions, which support the conclusio.

 If the answer in step (3) contains more than one conclusio, steps (4–5) are repeated as required.

The questions cover large areas of epistemology and metaphysics. They are heavily dependent on Marsilius of Inghen’s questions on the Metaphysics from the late fourteenth century. Marsilius in turn depended on John Buridan’s (d. ca. 1360) questions on the Metaphysics, and Thuo also occasionally made direct use of Buridan. As a result, his work is very close to Buridan’s, both in its choice of subjects to discuss, in its general doctrine, and many times even in its formulations. Cf. the preface to the edition, and BOS 1999. The work reflects a course given by Thuo. The scribe was a fellow-collegiate of Thuo’s in Porta Celi; the public may have consisted of fellows of his college only, but it may well have included students of arts that did not belong to the house. Medieval reception and transmission It is doubtful whether Thuo’s questions had any noticeable influence on posterity. No trace has been found of other manuscripts than one in Erfurt which never travelled more than a five-minute walk away from the place it was produced; Erfurt, Universitäts- und Forschungsbibliothek, CA 4° 436. fols. 57r–105v (old foliation; new foliation from the 1990s: 59r–108v). The manuscript was copied by Gotffried Kluppel of Rheinsberg, who stayed in Porta Celi college 1434–1442. Apparently, he left the manuscript to the college library, the holdings of which have never been dispersed. At present (2007) they belong to the City of Erfurt, but have been permanently deposited in the University Library. (2) Quaestio de pluralitate formarum Title The title was created by the editor to indicate the content of the work while avoiding the unwieldy Quaestio utrum in uno eodemque individuo substantiali forma speciei sit alia a forma generis distinctione reali that would result from reproducing the actual wording of the question. Incipit Utrum in uno eodemque individuo substantiali forma speciei sit alia a forma generis distinctione reali Explicit Correlarium responsivum est pars negativa quaesiti. Size 13 pages in the printed edition. Edition EBBESEN 1998 (CPhD 13). The work was composed between the summer of 1433 and October 1439. The date rests on the manuscript designation of Thuo as bachelor of theology. Regarding the authorship the manuscript offers the heading Questio magistri Thuonis de Vibergia sacre theologie bachalarii, and since the manuscript was surely produced in Erfurt, there is every reason to believe in the attribution. Summary of contents The question treated is whether a created being, and in particular a human being, has one or more substantial forms (metaphysical principles). Humans can metabolize like plants, move and sense like other animals, and think like no other bodily creature. Should these different faculties be ascribed to just one metaphysical principle (the human soul) or each to its own principle – metabolism to a vegetative soul, sensation to a sensitive soul, and thinking to an intellectual soul? A fierce debate about this had been waged in the late thirteenth century. >Johannes de Dacia had defended a plurality of substantial forms in man, whereas Thomas Aquinas and >Boethius de Dacia, had defended the unity of the substantial form. According to Thomas a human being owes all its essential faculties to one form, the intellectual soul. This view implies that a disembodied soul is not fully human since it lacks the bodily organs needed for all functions except abstract thinking. In Thuo’s days Thomas’s view was the majority’s view, and Thuo sided with the majority. There are similarities between Thuo’s works and some deriving from fourteenth-century writers influenced by John Buridan, but Thuo himself claims to be following such late thirteenth-century authors as Thomas Aquinas and Giles of Rome. In fact, however, he owes a major debt to Thomas Sutton (ca. 1250–1315/20), whose De pluralitate formarum he misattributes to Giles of Rome. Composition and style The text preserves the basic format of a medieval quaestio, i.e. a question is asked in the form “Whether”, then follow rationes principales, i.e. arguments for a negative and for a positive answer to the question, and finally the author delivers his solution. As is the case in many late medieval questions, the initial arguments get short shrift, and the main body of the text is taken up by the solution which takes the form of extensive preliminary remarks (notabilia), three theses (conclusiones), each with proof some corollaries (correlaria). The question was surely composed in connection with some academic event, but it is not clear whether the written version was produced before or after the oral disputation, and it is not clear either exactly which type of disputation it represents. In the manuscript it is followed by two small anonymous questions called problemata, one concerning the extreme unction and another on why horses’ teeth grow whiter with age while those of other animals grow blacker. Both “problems” are printed in the preface to the edition. It seems likely that they originate from the same academic event as Thuo’s question, but as long as the type of event has not been identified it remains unknown whether he may be their author. Medieval reception and transmission Nothing is known about the reception of Thuo’s question. Only one manuscript is known: Kraków, Biblioteka Polskiej Akademii Umiejnęteności, 1557, fols. 165r–168r. The manuscript contains a number of works produced in Erfurt in the 1420s and 1430s, some of them with obvious ties to the Porta Celi environment. The copy of Thuo’s text was probably executed in Porta Celi while he was still there or shortly afterwards. It is unknown how it got to Poland, but it is likely to have left Porta Celi at an early date since there is no sign that it was ever incorporated in the college library. Spurious Thuo has been credited with the authorship of Chronica archiepiscoporum Lundensis, but this can be safely rejected. See the preface to the edition of Thuo’s Opera by TABARRONI & EBBESEN 1998 with further references. Bibliography BOS, E.P. 1999: “Thuo of Viborg and Marsilius of Inghen,” in Medieval Analyses in Language and Cognition, ed. S. Ebbesen & R. Friedman (Det Kongelige Danske Videnskabernes Selskab, Historisk-filosofiske Meddelelser 77), Copenhagen, 523–39. EBBESEN, S. 2002: Dansk Middelalderfilosofi, Copenhagen. GERTZ, M.CL. 1922: SMD 2, Copenhagen. JEXLEV, T. 1982: “Nielsen, Tuo,” in DBL 10 (3rd ed.), Copenhagen, cols. 514–15. TABARRONI, A. & EBBESEN S. (eds.) 1998: Thuonis de Vibergia Opera. Disputata Metaphysicae (ed. Tabarroni), De pluralitate formarum (ed. Ebbesen) (CPhD 13), Copenhagen.