Repertorium Pomponianum

Thomas James

(Thoma/Thomas Episcopus Dolensis; Tommaso James)
(d. 1504)
Bishop of Saint-Pol-de Léon (1478-82) and of Dol-de-Bretagne (1482-1504) and diplomat in the service of duke Francis II of Brittany and of pope Sixtus IV; governor of Castel Sant'Angelo (1478/79–1483); papal secretary (1488–1491); dedicatee of Pomponio's grammar manual, BAV, MS Vat. Lat. 2727 (1479).

to cite this entry

Relations with Pomponio

BAV, MS Vat. lat. 2727, dedicatory letter of Pomponio Leto to Thomas James (spring 1479):

 

Thomae Episcopo Leonensi Dignissimo Pomponivs Laetvs Deditis(simus).

 

Libellum artis grammaticae inter lucernas elucubratum ad te, sollertissime virorum, non mitto sed manibus meis fero, ut intelligas summam observantiam erga te meam, et omne studium Pomponii esse uni tibi satisfaciendi, nam cum ad prandium literatos omnis vocasses et sermo de antiquitate quam unice et amas et veneraris incidisset, referente Astreo tuo, pro quo, quia nutris ac foves quicunque musas colimus [columus ed. Lumbroso] perpetuo beneficio obligasti, instantissime petiisti uti quae ad imitationem antiquorum inceperam legenda tibi traderem, tunc audacius quod ante excogitaveram, sublato omni metu, dicare institui; etsi longe aptius fuisse non me fugiat de philosophia in qua versatus es scribere, tibi tamen roganti et post efflagitanti nihil denegare ausus sum; novam artem et seculo nostro incognitam videbis facileque iudicabis, cum perlegeris, multi laboris esse (adeo depravatae et corruptae semitae in ludis literariis ostenduntur) paulo ultra prima elementa progredi; neglegentia quadam precipientium potius quasi inscitia bona ars diu in obscuro fuit; iniquum profecto erat praeterire et posthabere quod maiores nostri, clari viri, pro magna utilitate nepotibus reliquere, multa a Grecis mutuati sunt, plura ipsi invenere, ea in libris dispersa, quia laborem in unum corpus redigere preceptores neglexerunt, contenti quodam tradendi involucro quod rudes homines invexere. Quare multo detestabilius fecisse videntur quam si traditos sibi pueros iugulassent, nam et huius atrocitate manifesti sceleris dedissent penas, illius vero criminis quia clam est reos facit nemo. Ego quidem auspiciis tuis ubi pro meritis Romanam arcem custodis atque defendis et accuso et in ius voco, ut cognita causa si emendari voluerint corrigas et obstinatos punias. Debebunt tibi puerorum parentes qui natorum curae invigilant; debebunt et ipsi cum adoleverint, et omnes denique qui Romano student sermoni, magisque obnoxios fore prospicio cum e Germanis et Sarmatis rediero ad quos vetus Pantagathi amicitia me volentem ducit. Aliud opusculum seposui de modo loquendi et observatione lingue Romane dignitati tue dicandum. Interea voces declinent et alias declinatis adiungere discant assuescantque. Ea potissimum via tendimus ad poetarum et historicorum lectiones, hoc scilicet grammaticus pollicetur ut Asinius Pollio adserit … . Vale. (Transcribed from the edition of the letter in Lumbroso 1889, 234-35, with minor changes in orthography and punctuation.)

 

Note: Ruysschaert 1954, 103, describes Pomponio's grammar manual as "une nouvelle rédaction du Romulus, précédée d'une longue introduction historique. Une partie du texte, les 43 premiers folios, est écrite de la main même de l'auteur." Earlier bibliography is given ibid., n. 30. See also the observations in Accame 2008, 87-88 and 136-37. On Pomponio's manuals in the tradition of grammatical texts, see Black 2001, 137 and n. 506, with further bibliography, and ad indicem.

 

Another mention of Thomas James occurs in Pomponio's dedicatory letter to Ranalius, Canonicus Patavinus, of his Grammaticae compendium (Venice: Battista de Tortis, 31 March 1484), Goff L23 HCR 9834 BMC V 323 IGI 7984: "Superioribus annis volumina quaedam grammatices Romanae scripsi et Thomae, pontifici Dolensi, dicavi" (quoted in Lumbroso 1889, 233, n. 1; Pocquet du Haut-Jusse, 2.860-61; Ruysschaert 1954, 103).
A "Thomas" is named, along with other Pomponiani, in inscriptions in the Catacombs of Calixtus (dated to 1475), "THOMAS QUI NUNC PRAECLARUS IN URB[E]" (Lumbroso 1889, 217). Although the identity of this Thomas has not been established, it could be Thomas James.
 

Life

Thomas James was born at Saint-Aubin-du-Cormier, in the diocese of Rennes, départment Ille-et-Vilaine (Bretagne). He received a doctorate in utroque iure, served as clerk of Saint-Malo, and in 1477 became archdeacon of Penthièvre, by which time he had accumulated several parishes and benefices in the dioceses of Nantes, Vannes, Rennes, Tréguier, and Saint-Brieuc. His close connections with the powerful Pierre Landais, trésorier de Bretagne and counselor to François II, Duke of Brittany, as well as his connections in Rome with Girolamo Riario, capitano generale, and the favor of his uncle Pope Sixtus IV, helped advance his ecclesiastical career both in Brittany and in the papal service. In January 1478 he was made bishop of Saint-Pol-de-Léon and in June 1482 promoted to the bishropic of Dol-de-Bretagne with the support of Cardinal Guillaume d'Estouteville, archbishop of Rouen. A trusted advisor and familiaris of Pope Sixtus IV from the early 1470s, he provided an important link between the papal court and Brittany. (He is cited as ambassador of duke Francis II in documents of the early 1480s.) Apparently privy to the scheme of Girolamo Riario and the pope to eliminate the Medici in Florence (the Pazzi Conspiracy), he may have been entrusted by Sixtus IV with diplomatic missions for an anti-French coalition (in the interests of both the Duchy of Brittany and the Papacy), and was present at the ratification of the secret pact between Sixtus IV and the king of Naples (27 March 1478). Between late 1478 and the beginning of 1479, he was appointed governor (castellanus) of the papal fortress-prison, Castel Sant'Angelo, and ordered its repair works, munitions, and fireworks for Roman celebrations. He held the post until July 1483, when he was abruptly relieved of it after the escape of the prisoner Mariano Colonna. Though he lost the post, James continued to be well considered in papal circles and was compensated with additional benefices in Brittany. He remained in Rome for long periods of time and is documented celebrating Mass in the papal chapel. He then served as secretarius from 1487/88 to 1491.
In the dedicatory letter of the grammar manual (above), Pomponio cites two common friends, Astraeus and Pantagathus. The former is probably the "Astraeus Perusinus poeta versu elegiaco" who, following Pomponio's oration in memory of Bartolomeo Platina at S. Maria Maggiore on 18 April 1482, spoke from the same pulpit commemorating him in elegiac verses (Iacopo da Volterra, Diarium Romanum, in RIS2 23, pt. 3, ad indicem (171), cited in Presta 1977, 395; on the memorial service, see Bauer 2007, 83 and n. 327). Pantagathus was the academic name of Giovan Battista Capranica, dedicatee of Pomponio's De Romanorum magistratibus (1474) and bishop of Fermo (d. 1484).
From the early 1490s until his death, James remained mostly in France, where he was active in caring for his diocese and admired for his piety, in the words of his tomb epitaph. In February 1503 he brought the first printed missal into use for his diocese. His coat-of-arms was carved on the door of the church of Saint-Jacques de Pirmil, near Nantes, which he rebuilt, and on the walls of the castle of the city, which he restored. He also bestowed benefactions on the church of Saint-Sébastien d'Aignes. He died on Good Friday, April 4, 1504, and was buried in the Cathedral of Dol in a tomb commissioned by his nephews Jean James (1507), canon and treasurer of the cathedral, and François James, priest. The inscription (recorded before its destruction during the Revolution), once read:
D. Thomas James Jurium Doctor, patria Albinus de Cormerio, patre Petro, Sixti Papae tempore arcis santi [sic] Angeli Romae Castellano et Francisci Britonum Ducis Oratore ac Procuratore, Pentheuriaeque Archidiacono, Leonensis Episcopus creatus, et paulo post in Dolensem Episcopatum transfertur. Vir quidem optimus ac divini cultus cupidus et assiduus. In delinquentes clemens; pauperum, pupillorum et viduarum causas et vitam propria manu ita tutatus est, ut ab omnibus merito pater pauperum diceretur. In Religiosos benignus, virgines egenas clam dotabat; cilicio utens, bis [bio ed.] aut ter in hebdomada jejunans; familiares parentum loco habens; post bellorum turbines inter Francorum Regem Carolum VIII et Franciscum Britanniae Ducem, Dolensisque Civitatis diruptionem et Ecclesiae depredationem vi factam, quae fuit 11 Octobris 1482, et urbis et nundinarum P. Halle et Castrorum atque molendinorum factus est restaurator; ab Alexandro Papa VI ob eius eximias virtutes crucis deferendae beneficium ante se per diocesim et sibi et successoribus obtinuit et in armis ac sigillis ubique palla possent Dolenses Episcopi uti. Ecclesiam mirifice fundationibus dotavit juraque Ecclesiae et dignitatem semper tutatus est, ornamentisque ex auro et serico, vasisque argenteis et auratis decoravit. Obiit praesul Nonas Aprilis, die Veneris sancta, hora nona 1503, Passionem devote audiendo, et hic collacrymantibus omnibus sepelitur. Sedit annis uno et viginti, dies septem; cuius anima requiescat in pace. Amen. D. Thomae hoc sepulchrum Joannis James eius nepotis Jurium Licentiati, Lehonnensis Commendatarii, Dolensis Thesaurarii et Canonici impensa et cura structum atque ornatum anno 1507, (Catalogue historique des évêques de Bretagne, par…C. Taillandier, in P. H. Morice, Histoire ecclésiastique et civile de Bretagne, 2 vols [Paris, 1750-58], 2 [pt. 2], lxiv-lxv ; spelling and punctuation regularized).
The tomb is described as the first work of Renaissance art in Brittanny: "un superbe tombeau, chef-d'oeuvre de la Renaissance, oeuvre des frères florentins Betti, connus sous les noms de Antoine (1479-1529) et Jean Juste, auxquels on doit également le tombeau de Louis XII et d'Anne de Bretagne de la basilique royale de Saint-Denis," (F. Duine, La métropole de Bretagne [Paris, 1916], 160-161).
 

Works (Commissions)

Lyon, Bibliothèque municipale, Ms. 5123, Missel romain (1483), known as le missel de Thomas James, with miniatures by the Florentine artist Attavante degli Attavanti (1452–c.1520/1525) and with Thomas's coat-of-arms. The arms show those of the Riario family that James seems to have adopted, slightly altering his family arms (cf. P. Potier de Courcy, Nobiliare et armorial de Bretagne (Rennes, 1862), 1. 452). The missal lacks several leaves, one of which is preserved in the collections of the Musée Malraux at Le Havre; the museum's leaf of the Crucifixion includes a kneeling figure, thought to represent Thomas James.
(See Bibliography below)
 

Bibliography

On connections with Pomponio and his circle:
Lumbroso 1889, 234-35; Ruysschaert 1954, 103-04; Accame 2008, 87-88 and n. 3, 136-37.

 

On his ecclesiastical career:
P. Pagliucchi, I castellani del Castel S. Angelo (Rome, 1973), 2. 22-29; Frenz 1986, 449, n. 2156, "Thomas Iacobi (James)"; Partner 1990, 236.
In addition, see:
Johannis Burckardi Liber Notarum ab anno MCCCCLXXXIII usque ad annum MDVI, ed. E. Celani, RIS2 32 (Città di Castello 1911), ad indicem (vol.2);
J. Ogée, Dictionnaire historique et géographique de la Province de Bretagne [...]. Nouvelle édition, revue et augmentée par MM. A. Marteville et P. Varin, avec […] MM. de Blois [et al.] (Rennes, 1843-53), 2. 855 ff. on Saint-Pol-de-Léon, ville épiscopale (with mention of Thomas James at 862);
B.-A. Pocquet du Haut-Jusse, Les papes et les ducs de Bretagne: essai sur les rapports du Saint-Siege avec un Etat, 2 vols. (Paris, 1928), 2. 856-61 and ad indicem;
R. Aubert, "James (Thomas)," Dictionnaire d'histoire et de géographie ecclésiastiques (Paris, 1997), 26, cols. 856-57.

 

On the political and diplomatic circumstances surrounding the Pazzi Conspiracy, and James's connections to the group of conspirators at the court of Sixtus IV, see: R. Fubini, "Federico da Montefeltro e la congiura dei Pazzi: politica e propaganda alla luce di nuovi documenti," in G. B. Baiardi, G. Chittolini, and P. Floriani (eds.), Federico di Montefeltro, vol. 1, Lo Stato (Roma: Bulzoni, 1986), 357-470, at 432-40; App. 3, "Agostino Staccoli e Piero Felici a Federico da Montefeltro, Roma, 6 febbraio 1478," 462-66, at 464 and n. 8; and App. 6, "Strumento di ratifica di Ferdinando d'Aragona, re di Sicilia, Sarno, 1o aprile 1478," 467-8, at 467.

 

On Attavante degli Attavanti and the Missal of Thomas James:
Dizionario biografico dei miniatori italiani secoli IX-XVI, ed. M. Bollati (Milan, 2004), 975-79 at 976-77.
L. Delisle, "Le Missel de Thomas James, évêque de Dol, lettre à M. le Cte Auguste de Bastard," Bibliothèque de l'École des Chartes 43 (1882) 311-15.
E. Bertaux and G. Birot, "Le missel de Thomas James," Revue de l'Art Ancien et Moderne, 20 (1906), 129-146.
V. Leroquais, Les sacramentaires et les missels manuscrits des bibliothèques publiques de France (Paris, 1924), 3. 223-225.
Le Missel d'Attavante pour Thomas James. Evêque de Dol publié sous la direction de H. Joly (Lyon, 1931).
The Painted Page: Italian Renaissance Book Illumination, 1450-1550, edited by J. Alexander (London, 1994), 3a-3b.
J.-L. Deuffic, "Attavante degli Attavanti et le missel de Thomas James, évêque de Dol ( + 1504)," 13 August 2007, Pecia: le manuscript médieval ~ the medieval manuscript (http://blog.pecia.fr/post/2007/08/12/Attavente-et-le-missel-de-Thomas-James-eveque-de-Dol-1504), visited 5 Sept. 2009, with bibliography.
D. Booton, Manuscripts, Market and the Transition to Print in Late Medieval Brittany (Farnham, 2010), 180, 186, 357-358.

 

On his tomb carved by Florentine sculptors Antonio and Giovanni Giusti Betti:
H. de Kerbeuzec [abbé F. Duine], Le Tombeau de Thomas James dans la cathédrale de Dol (Rennes, 1895).
X. Muratova, "The Tomb of Bishop Thomas James in the Cathedral of Dol: A Monument of the Early Italian Renaissance in Gothic Brittany," Harlaxton Medieval Studies 8 (Proceedings of the 1996 Symposium) (Shaun Tyas, 2000), 349-364.
M. Mauger, "L'évêque Thomas James en prière," Bretagne chatoyante. Enluminures et histoire, (Rennes, 2002), 104-105.
Tombeau de Thomas James, L'inventaire du patrimoine culturel en Bretagne, <patrimoine.bzh/gertrude-diffusion/dossier/tombeau-de-thomas-james/52da44dc-12f6-46ef-bc66-8a4611fbb272> (visited 3 December 2016).
 
Links in preparation or on line (*)
Authors & Texts: Persons & Subjects: Astraeus; Pantagathus (Giovan Battista Capranica)
 
 
Patricia Osmond
24 October 2009, rev. 19 February 2010
Additions by Diane Booton 3 December 2016
 
 
This entry can be cited as follows:
Patricia Osmond (with additions by Diane Booton), "Thomas James," Repertorium Pomponianum (URL:
www.repertoriumpomponianum.it/pomponiani/james_thomas.htm,

 

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