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People of Note
John Duns Scotus


John Duns Scotus

John Duns Scotus was born in Duns probably in the year 1266. He was related to the Duns family of Grueldykes, who were the landed gentry of the Parish. The site of his birth, near the North Lodge of Duns castle, is now marked by a cairn, erected in 1966 to mark the 700th anniversary of his birth. Situated in front of the Pavilion Lodge, the cairn was erected by the Franciscan Order of the Roman Catholic Church. For many years, the most credible evidence pointed to Duns Scotus having been born at Littledean, near Maxton in Roxburghshire, and that is recorded as his birthplace in many documents. However, it has now been proved that the documentary evidence, upon which Maxton claimed him, was, in fact, a forgery.

He entered the Franciscan Order at Dumfries, as a Friar Minor, where his uncle was Superior. He was ordained on March 17th 1291 at St Andrew's Church, Northampton. He continued his studies at Merton College, Oxford. By 1301 he had been appointed as Professor of Theology there.

His views were very often contrary to the 'official' line of the church, and this led him into continual conflict with authority. So outrageous were his views considered to be, that he was thought to be a fool, and, from that, we get the word 'dunce', referring to someone whose ideas are so stupid as to be ridiculous. He moved to Paris, in 1305, where he completed his doctorate. His Order moved him to Cologne, where he died on November 8th 1308. He is buried in a Franciscan Church close to Cologne Cathedral.

Throughout his life, he wrote extensively on these beliefs, and in 1629 his writings were collected and published in Lyons, so that today they can still be read and studied. He is given the credit for founding a school of Scholasticism known as 'Scotism', of which no doubt he was unaware, as this title only came long after his death. He is also referred to as the 'Subtle Doctor' a title of which he would doubtless have approved.

A memorial bust, in bronze, by Frank Tritchler was unveiled in Duns Public Park in 1966. In 1991, the Vatican elevated him to the status of 'venerable', the first step on the road to Sainthood.


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