O'Donnell Lecture: Carmen Cardelle de Hartmann, Petrus Alfonsi, A 12th-Century Spanish Polymath and Christian Convert: An Intellectual Profile

When and Where

Friday, April 12, 2024 4:30 pm to 6:30 pm
3rd Floor
Lillian Massey Building
125 Queen's Park


Carmen Cardelle de Hartmann (University of Zurich)


The Centre for Medieval Studies and the Journal of Medieval Latin present the Annual O'Donnell Lecture with the University of Zurich's Carmen Cardelle de HartmannPetrus Alfonsi, A 12th-Century Spanish Polymath and Christian Convert: An Intellectual Profile.

Hosted by Greti Dinkova-Bruun, the O'Donnell Lecture will be presented both in person and virtually via Zoom. A reception in the Great Hall will follow the lecture.

The J.R. O’Donnell Memorial Lecture Series was established in 1992 to honour the memory of Rev. Prof. J.R. O’Donnell, who passed away in 1988. O’Donnell was a Basilian priest educated at the University of Toronto and the École des Chartes. From the 1930s to his retirement in 1971 he taught Medieval Latin, palaeography, and the edition of texts at the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies and in the Classics Department at the University of Toronto. His rigorous teaching standards were carried over into his scholarship. His book Nine Mediaeval Thinkers and his articles on Calcidius, Alcuin, Bernard Silvestris, and Coluccio Salutati are cited as authoritative contributions to this day. The series is intended to commemorate O’Donnell’s wide interests that embraced philology, the classical tradition, and medieval philosophy and theology. It is also meant to give prominence to the general field of Medieval Latin Studies.



Born a Jew in Islamic Spain, Petrus Alfonsi was baptised in the kingdom of Aragon and travelled to northern France and England, where he was a teacher of astronomy. His main works are the Disciplina clericalis, a collection of sayings and tales, and the Dialogus, a treatise on Judaism, Islam and Christianity, written as a dialogue between the author, Petrus, and his former Jewish self, Moses. In this work, Petrus presents himself as a scholar at home in Jewish tradition, Islamic science, and Christian doctrine. However, he quotes explicitly from only two sources, the Bible and the Talmud, although there are allusions and bits of information that can be traced back to Jewish exegesis and Arabic philosophy. Petrus also seems to have adapted Jewish debates to the interests of his Christian audience. Tracing the origins of the contents provides an intellectual profile of the author and an insight into his argumentative strategies and even into his working materials.

Contact Information

Centre for Medieval Studies


Journal of Medieval Latin, CMS