Date of Award

Spring 2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Zemler-Cizewski, Wanda

Second Advisor

Johnson, Mark F.

Third Advisor

Jones, John D.


This dissertation examines the intersection of St. Bonaventure of Bagnoregio’s use of the doctrine of hierarchy (transmitted in the writings of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite) with his interpretation of St. Francis of Assisi as the model for the imitation of Jesus Christ. In particular, it argues that Bonaventure’s doctrine of hierarchy became increasingly informed by his devotion to Francis’ virtues and to Christ’ Crucified, so that, by the time he wrote the Legenda maior sancti Francisci (by 1263) hierarchy was Franciscanized by an explicit integration with the Cross, the spiritual senses of scripture, and the primacy of love in union to God. Simultaneously, this dissertation argues that Bonaventure’s interpretation of St. Francis’ spiritual significance employed the structures of Dionysian hierarchy: the active and passive use of the hierarchical powers and the understanding of holiness as the assimilation to the angels and the imitation of God’s saving work. Finally, this dissertation argues that the Franciscanization of hierarchy entailed, paradoxically, both divergences from and convergence with the Dionysius’ original articulation of hierarchy. They diverge, in as much as Bonaventure’s interpretation of St. Francis’ through the lens of hierarchy sundered Dionysius’ yoking of spiritual maturity and ecclesiastical rank and appropriated aspects of Dionysius’ clergy, especially the hierarch or bishop, to Francis. On the other hand, in its Franciscanization, Bonaventure’s doctrine of hierarchy became increasingly Christocentric and attentive to the centrality of worship in the mediation of God’s presence, or influentia, to humans and angels and in this way enshrined and more closely resembled the original core of Dionysian hierarchy that the deifying descent of Jesus Christ, the light of God the Father, and the imitation thereof is the source of all ascent through hierarchy. In order to demonstrate these developments in Bonaventure’s thought, this dissertation explains the original sense of hierarchy in Dionysius’ thought and presents multiple medieval receptions of Dionysian hierarchy found in the 13th century Corpus Dionysiacum Parisiense in order to contrast and contextualize Bonaventure’s own doctrine of hierarchy and its development into the Legenda maior.

Included in

Religion Commons