Pilgrimage to the Tomb of Saint Thomas Aquinas

Saint Thomas Aquinas, one of the greatest Christian theologians and philosophers was born in 1225 in the Kingdom of Sicily, about 80 miles from the city of Rome. He started learning at Monte Cassino monastery, then studied at the University of Naples where he experienced a call to join the Dominican Order which he joined in the early 1240s. St Thomas later continued his studies at the University of Cologne and University of Paris with one of the most prominent minds of the time St. Albert the Great who prophetically said that St. Thomas’s “bellowing in doctrine will one day resound throughout the world”. 

Tomb of Saint Thomas Aquinas. Church of the Jacobins. Toulouse, France.


After completing his studies St. Thomas lived a life of a Dominican friar, while also teaching at universities, preaching at churches and writing in Cologne, Paris, Naples, Rome. He left numerous writings but two of his most important books are:

Summa contra Gentiles – explaining Christian faith and defending it against heresies;

Summa Theologiae – explaining the nature of God and created world, the nature of human action, theological and philosophical virtues, Christ and the sacraments; includes five proofs for the existence of God (original text here and “easy-to-read” explanation here).

Reading St. Thomas Aquinas can be difficult especially without a theological or philosophical background but many of his quotes can easily be understood and inspire reflection and spiritual growth. Here are some of them:

  • For those with faith no evidence is necessary; for those without it, no evidence will suffice.
  • To pretend angels do not exist because they are invisible is to believe we never sleep because we don’t see ourselves sleeping.
  • Love takes up where knowledge leaves off.
  • Man cannot live without joy; therefore when he is deprived of true spiritual joys it is necessary that he become addicted to carnal pleasures.
  • When the devil is called the god of this world, it is not because he made it, but because we serve him with our worldliness.
  • The things that we love tell us what we are.
  • The celebration of the Holy Mass is as valuable as the death of Jesus on the cross.
  • If the highest aim of a captain were to preserve his ship, he would keep it in port forever.
  • What does it take to become a saint? Will it.
  • Better to illuminate than merely to shine.

St. Thomas’s writings had an enormous influence for the development of Christian theology and philosophy over the centuries. 

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church (the book that contains all major doctrines and teachings of the Catholic Church) St. Thomas Aquinas is quoted 61 times – second to only St. Augustine.

Pope Saint Pius V declared St. Thomas a Doctor of the Church – a saint who significantly contributed to the doctrine or theology of the Church (there are currently only 37 Doctors of the Catholic Church such as St. Ambrose, St. Anthony of Padua, St. Augustine, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Theresa of Avila, St. Therese of Lisieux). Pope St. Pius V called St. Thomas Aquinas “the most brilliant light of the Church”.

Pope Saint John Paul II called St. Thomas Aquinas a “model of the right way to do theology” and “an authentic model for all who seek the truth. In his thinking the demands of reason and the power of faith found the most elevated synthesis ever attained by human thought”.

Pope Benedict XVI expanded: “Thomas Aquinas showed there is a natural harmony between Christian faith and reason. And this was the great work of Thomas, who in that moment of encounter between two cultures – that moment in which it seemed that faith should surrender before reason – showed that they go together, that what seemed to be reason incompatible with faith was not reason, and what seemed to be faith was not faith, in so far as it was opposed to true rationality; thus he created a new synthesis, which shaped the culture of the following centuries”.

                     End of Life and Burial of Saint Thomas Aquinas

Although St. Thomas Aquinas is best known as a theologian and a philosopher, he also experienced mystical visions. Towards the end of his life, in 1273 during prayer in front of an icon of crucified Christ in the Chapel of St. Nicolas at the Dominican convent in Naples St. Thomas was seen crying and a voice coming from the crucifix was heard saying to him, “You have written well of me, Thomas. What reward would you have?” St. Thomas’s response was, “Nothing but you, Lord”. 

After another long extasy during the Mass on December 6, 1273, he stopped writing and when asked why St. Thomas responded, “I can do no more. Such secrets have been revealed to me that all that I have written seems like a straw to me”. 

A few months later, March 7, 1274, on his way to the Second Council of Lyon, St Thomas Aquinas died. He was canonized (proclaimed a saint) by Pope John XXII on July 18, 1323 and buried at the Church of the Jacobins in Toulouse, France on January 28, 1369. In 1789, during the French Revolution his relics were transferred to the Basilica of Saint-Sernin in Toulouse and kept there until 1974 when they were returned back to the Church of the Jacobins again and remain there to this day.

Church of the Jacobins. Toulouse, France.


  Visiting St. Thomas Aquinas Tomb

St. Thomas Aquinas’s tomb at the Church of the Jacobins (former Dominican monastery, currently deconsecrated, i.e. inactive church) can easily be found in downtown Toulouse, France – just a few minutes walk from Toulouse’s main square Place du Capitole, on rue Joseph Lakanal. Open daily 10am-6pm.

Street Leading to the Church of the Jacobins. Toulouse, France.

Two things surprised me most about St. Thomas Aquinas’s tomb: almost nobody prayed near it and it was in a church with no Eucharist in it. Dozens of people were inside the church, taking pictures of walls and stained-glass windows but nobody was praying near the tomb of this saint who had such a great influence for the development of Christian doctrine and Western civilization. Even worse, St. Thomas Aquinas, who was one of the greatest theologians of Eucharist (invented and explained the term transubstantiation, wrote liturgy for the Corpus Christi feast at the request of the pope as well as multiple Eucharistic hymns used up to this day in Catholic churches (“Panis Angelicus”, “O Salutaris Hostia”, “Tantum Ergo”) is now buried in a church that does not even have Eucharist! 

Empty Pews in Front of the Tomb of St. Thomas Aquinas in the Church of the Jacobins. Toulouse, France.

The Church of the Jacobins with St. Thomas Aquinas tomb is like a monument to the spiritual and intellectual decline of today’s Catholic Church and western society: a monument to the lost faith and to the forgotten history. But also a monument that hopefully will inspire some to stop, reflect, and ask St. Thomas Aquinas’s help in rediscovering the Truth and the Faith that this saint was so deeply devoted to.