Have you ever wondered what is meant by “a doctor of the Church”? Here is a definition and a complete, up-to-date (2019) list of all 36 of the men and women who have been proclaimed Doctors with links to biographies and excerpts from them as well.
The title “Doctor of the Church,” unlike the popular title “Father of the Church,” is an official designation that is bestowed by the Pope in recognition of the outstanding contribution a person has made to the understanding and interpretation of the sacred Scriptures and the development of Christian doctrine.
As of 2019, the official list includes thirty-six men and women who hail from all ages of the Church’s history. Of these, four are women (Catherine of Siena, Teresa of Avila, Therese of Lisieux, Hildegard of Bingen) and twenty-four are quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (Those who are not quoted are Saints Ephraem, Isidore, “the Venerable” Bede, Albert the Great, Anthony of Padua, Peter Canisius, Robert Bellarmine, John of Avila, Hildegard of Bingen, Gregory of Narek and Lawrence of Brindisi).
There are three requirements that must be fulfilled by a person in order to merit being included in the ranks of the “Doctors of the Catholic Church”:
1) holiness that is truly outstanding, even among saints;
2) depth of doctrinal insight; and
3) an extensive body of writings which the church can recommend as an expression of the authentic and life-giving Catholic Tradition.
During the era of the Church Fathers, (approximately AD 100-AD 800), eight Doctors particularly stand out and are called “Ecumenical Fathers” because of their widespread influence. Bronze statues of several of these eight are to be found in St. Peter’s Basilica. Four of these hailed from the Western (Latin-speaking) half of the Roman Empire.
- St. Ambrose, 340-397
- St. Jerome,345-420
- St. Augustine, 354-430
- St. Gregory the Great(Pope), 540-604
Four of the Ecumenical Fathers also deemed Doctors came from the Eastern (Greek-speaking) Roman Empire:
- St. Athanasius,295-373
- St. Basil the Great, 330-379
- St. Gregory of Nazianzus, 330-390
- St. John Chrysostom, 345-407
There are eight other Doctors from the patristic period making in total, sixteen (16) Fathers who are also recognized as Doctors of the Church:
- St. Ephraem the Deacon, 306-373 (Syriac)
- St. Hilary, 315-368 (Latin)
- St. Cyril of Jerusalem, 315-387 (Greek)
- St. Cyril of Alexandria, 376-444 (Greek)
- St. Leo the Great (Pope), 390-461 (Latin)
- St. Peter Chrysologus, 400-450 (Latin)
- St. Isidore of Seville (last of the Latin Fathers), 560-636
- St. John Damascene (last of the Greek Fathers), 676-749
There are eleven Doctors of the Church from the Middle Ages, all of them except the last from the Latin or Western Church:
- St. Bede “the Venerable,” 673-735
- St. Peter Damian, 1007-1072
- St. Anselm, 1033-1109
- St. Bernard of Clairvaux, 1090-1153
- St. Hildegard of Bingen, 1098-1179
- St. Anthony of Padua, 1195-1231
- St. Albert the Great, 1200-1280
- St. Bonaventure, 1217-1274
- St. Thomas Aquinas, 1225-1274
- St. Catherine of Siena, 1347-1379
- St. Gregoryof Narek 951-1003 (from the Armenian Church)
There are seven Doctors of the Catholic Church who were prominent in the 16th century Catholic Reformation, all from the Latin Church:
- St. John of Avila 1499-1569
- St. Teresa of Avila, 1515-1582
- St. Peter Canisius, 1521-1597
- St. John of the Cross, 1542-1591
- St. Robert Bellarmine, 1542-1621
- St. Lawrence of Brindisi, 1559-1619
- St. Francis de Sales, 1567-1622
There are two Doctors of the Church in the modern era, both from the Latin Church:
- St. Alphonsus Liguori, 1696-1787
- St. Therese of Lisieux, 1873-1897
This list and definition of the Doctors was adapted and updated from that provided by Louis Miller, Beacons of Light: Profiles of Ecclesiastical Writers Cited in the Catechism (Liguori, MO: Liguori, 1995), 61-62.
About the Rare First-Class Relic of Saint Albert’s Skull:
This first class relic and reliquary was made to dip into glasses of water, in the hopes for a miracle when people drank the water.
The item is an antique, 18th century, very rare and unusual silver color metal reliquary. It is a tube with an inscription in Portuguese, Reliquia de St. Alberto.Cranio, meaning Relic of St. Albert’s Skull” Inside of it is a pierced container with a handle. Through the holes it is possible to see the relic inside
Size: circa 6.89 x 0.87 inches
Father Kunst purchased this because it is so unique and unusual a relic:
It was made to dip into glasses of water, in the hopes for a miracle when people drank the water. It used to be a common practice, but I had not seen one of these made available before, so I purchased it as a great educational tool. —Father Richard Kunst
The artifact is a rare reliquary containing two relics of St. Teresa of Avila including the shroud in which she was buried and her signature.
It measures 44 X 37 mm in a frame.
The reliquary almost certainly dates from the era of her canonization in 1622.
This is a valuable addition to the Papal Artifacts’ Collection.
About the Artifact:
An autograph of St. Robert Bellarmine, Confessor and Doctor of the Church.
The letter, dated 1599, is signed, Robert Cardinal Bellarmine.
He was very influential in the Counter-Reformation. He was a brilliant cardinal who played a role in the Galileo affair in 1616.
Pope Pius XI canonized him in 1930.
This document is signed by St. Lawrence of Brindisi (Giulio Cesare Russo). It is undated.
He was the head of the Capuchin order and a Doctor of the Church. Pope Leo XIII canonized him in 1881 and his feast day is July 21st.
A Letter Signed by St. Alphonsus Liguori on June 14, 1773, with Translation:
June 14th, 1773
Long life to Jesus, Mary and Joseph. When I wrote to Msr. of Verali to thank him for the Just Don Foundation, I forgot to pray him to speak to the Pope about a new foundation to obtain his approval of his to give it more force to the work but please do not forget bringing him letter to pray him from my side for the new grace and please, if he didn’t already but maybe he did and if so, please thank him in my name. Please act in the way that you take in my name. Either or the other action with Msr di Verali. I wrote you another letter that you’ll probably receive with this. I recommend to you again what I wrote to you in that letter. I trust your prudence both don’t disappoint Mr. Arno and for the exact observance of the rules by all the Fathers and Brothers of this new house. I’m sending you by means of the Brothers Stephan and Anthony for the new house, one Umo Apostolico, one Dominic Halle and (untranslatable)
I’m sending you also another Domenic Halle. Please give it in my name to Dr. Arseneau. That is the Prior and Vice-Prior of Casa Maria, the man that held us so much in the foundation.
Please thank him for that from my side, from my heart. With blessings to you and everybody, many regards to Mr. Arno. The writer kisses your hand and salutes and embraces everyone in God. Msr. Alfonso ask me to open this letter after it was closed and the seal dried to add that please give everything you can to Mr. Arno. Please act in this way. He can’t complain for anything.
Brother Alphonsus Maria
On the other side of the letter, on March 4th, 1840, Giuseppe M. Mautone writes from Rome:
I, the Father Attorney of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer and Postulator of the cause of canonization for St. Alphonsus Maria Ligouri, hereby declare that this letter was dictated by the saint and was signed by his own hand.
About the Artifact:
This unique relic from the infirmary of where she died–a simple brick from its foundation–attests to the love this young woman garnered. Considered to be the most loved saint of the 20th century, anything associated with her becomes cherished and beloved.
St. Therese of Lisieux, pray for us!
Here is a link to all the Saints & Blesseds on Papal Artifacts–some of whom are featured here, because they are Doctors of the Church. All information about them and the others may be found here: