Blessed John Duns Scotus
Franciscan Theologian

(c. 1266 – 1308)

        Blessed John (Johannes) Duns Scotus was one of the more important theologians and philosophers of the High Middle Ages. Born at Duns in the county of Berwick, Scotland around 1266, John was descended from a wealthy farming family.

John received the habit of the Friars Minor at Dumfries, where his uncle Elias Duns was superior.

After novitiate he studied at Oxford and Paris and was ordained to the priesthood on 17 March 1291.

He was nicknamed Doctor Subtilis (the “Subtle Doctor”) for his penetrating and subtle manner of thought and he was remembered mostly for his defense of the doctrine of Immaculate Conception.

During the night of Christmas, 1299 at the Oxford Convent, Bl. John, immersed in his contemplation of the adorable mystery of the Incarnation of the Word, was rapt in ecstasy.

The Blessed Mother appeared to him and placed on his arms the Child Jesus who kissed and embraced him fondly.

He died in 1308 and he is buried in the Franciscan church near the famous Cologne cathedral.

Drawing on the work of John Duns Scotus, Pope Pius IX solemnly defined the Immaculate Conception of Mary in 1854. On March 20, 1993 John Duns Scotus, the “Subtle Doctor,” was beatified in 1993 by Pope John Paul II at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

Bl. John Duns Scotus, “The minstrel of the Word Incarnate” and “Defender of Mary’s Immaculate Conception” was presented by Pope John Paul II to our age “wealthy of human, scientific and technological resources, but in which many have lost the sense of faith and lead lives distant from Christ and His Gospel,” as “a Teacher of thought and life.”

For the Church, he is “an example of fidelity to the revealed truth, of effective, priestly, and serious dialogue in search for unity.”


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