What Does Doctor of the Church Mean? – Only 36 Saints Have This Title

Catholic bearers carry the relic of St. Anthony of Padua in a procession in Rome.
Catholic bearers carry the relic of St. Anthony of Padua in a procession in Rome. St. Anthony of Padua was proclaimed a doctor of the church in 1946. Stefano Montesi - Corbis/Getty Images Europe via Getty Images

What Does the Title “Doctor of The Church” Mean?

The title of “Doctor of the Church” is a great honor that is bestowed by the Catholic Church onto saints that have made a huge significant contribution to the progress and teachings of the Church through their research, writings and teachings in their lives.

Some of the most well-known Doctors of the Church include Saint Augustine, Saint Thomas Aquinas, and Saint John of the Cross.

The title “Doctor” refers to the fact that these saints are considered to be masters of the faith and have made a significant contribution to the Church’s understanding of the faith.

It is a way for the Church to recognize and honor the contributions of these individuals to the Church and to the faith. There are currently only 36 saints who have been given this title, and they are recognized as some of the most important figures in the history of the Church.

Which Saints Have Been Given the Title of “Doctor of the Church”?

Here are is a list of the saints that have been given this great honor.

  1. Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430)
  2. Saint Jerome (347-420)
  3. Saint Gregory the Great (540-604)
  4. Saint Ambrose (339-397)
  5. Saint John Chrysostom (344-407)
  6. Saint Basil the Great (329-379)
  7. Saint Athanasius of Alexandria (295-373)
  8. Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)
  9. Saint Bonaventure (1217-1274)
  10. Saint Isidore of Seville (560-636)
  11. Saint Peter Chrysologus (406-450)
  12. Saint Leo the Great (400-461)
  13. Saint Hilary of Poitiers (310-367)
  14. Saint Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)
  15. Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153)
  16. Saint Peter Damian (1007-1072)
  17. Saint John of Damascus (675-749)
  18. Saint Peter Canisius (1521-1597)
  19. Saint Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621)
  20. Saint Lawrence of Brindisi (1559-1619)
  21. Saint Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787)
  22. Saint John Damascene (675-749)
  23. Saint Peter Faber (1506-1546)
  24. Saint Albert the Great (1200-1280)
  25. Saint Anthony of Padua (1195-1231)
  26. Saint Bede the Venerable (673-735)
  27. Saint Cyril of Alexandria (378-444)
  28. Saint Gregory of Nazianzus (329-389)
  29. Saint Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179)
  30. Saint John of the Cross (1542-1591)
  31. Saint Peter of Alcantara (1499-1562)
  32. Saint Teresa of Avila (1515-1582)
  33. Saint Thomas More (1478-1535)
  34. Saint Vincent Ferrer (1350-1419)
  35. Blessed Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179)

There are other saints such as St. Francis of Assisi and St. Theresa of Lisieux that may also be referred to as Doctors of the Church but their titles have not been formally recognized by the Church.

In order to become a Doctor of the Church, the saint in consideration must meet three requirements.

  • Sanctity (Sainthood) – The first requirement is that of sanctity which means that one must first be proclaimed & recognized as a saint by the Church
  • Eminent Learning – the saint must have been a great teacher of the Faith in their lives
  • Proclamation – following which a proclamation by the church is required to be made official. This is usually done by the Pope.

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