20 Great Medieval Quotes

great medieval quotes

Our list of inspiring and amusing quotes from the Middle Ages. 

Alfonso X, King of Castile: “Had I been present at the Creation, I would have given some useful hints for the better ordering of the universe.”

Thomas à Kempis: “Nothing is sweeter than love, nothing higher, nothing stronger, nothing larger, nothing more joyful, nothing fuller, and nothing better in heaven or on earth.”


Hildegard von Bingen: “When the words come, they are merely empty shells without the music. They live as they are sung, for the words are the body and the music the spirit.”

Albertus Magnus: “Do there exist many worlds, or is there but a single world? This is one of the most noble and exalted questions in the study of Nature.”


Louis IX , King of France, speaking to his eldest son: “I would rather have a Scot come from Scotland to govern the people of this kingdom well and justly than that you should govern them ill in the sight of all the world.”

Nicholas of Cusa: “For even he who is most greedy for knowledge can achieve no greater perfection than to be thoroughly aware of his own ignorance in his particular field. The more be known, the more aware he will be of his ignorance.”

Taqî ad-Dîn Aḥmad ibn Taymiyyah: “Don’t depend too much on anyone in this world because even your own shadow leaves you when you are in darkness.”

William of Ockham – Sketch labelled "frater Occham iste", from a manuscript of Ockham's Summa Logicae, 1341
William of Ockham – Sketch labelled “frater Occham iste”, from a manuscript of Ockham’s Summa Logicae, 1341

William of Ockham: “No more things should be presumed to exist than are absolutely necessary.”


Gerald of Wales: “There is a remarkable thing about swans. They teach us that the troubles of death should not grieve us; for in the very moment of dying they make a virtue of necessity and despise their sad fate in singing.”

Isidore of Seville: “Letters are signs of things, symbols of words, whose power is so great that without a voice they speak to us the words of the absent; for they introduce words by the eye, not by the ear.”

The Saga of Grettir the Strong: “A tale is but half told when only one person tells it.”


Ibn Sīnā (Avicenna): “The world is divided into men who have wit and no religion and men who have religion and no wit.”

Thomas Aquinas: “The Study of philosophy is not that we may know what men have thought, but what the truth of things is.”

Geoffrey Chaucer: “What is better than wisdom? Woman. And what is better than a good woman? Nothing.”

`Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib, Caliph: “The nourishment of body is food, while the nourishment of the soul is feeding others.”


Meister Eckhart: “The eye through which I see God is the same eye through which God sees me; my eye and God’s eye are one eye, one seeing, one knowing, one love.”

Emperor Justinian: “Justice is the constant and perpetual wish to render every one his due.”

Christine de Pizan

Christine de Pizan: “If it were customary to send maidens to school and teach them the same subjects as are taught to boys, they would learn just as fully and would understand the subtleties of all arts and sciences.”

Peter Abelard: “Against the disease of writing one must take special precautions, since it is a dangerous and contagious disease.”

Leon Battista Alberti: “When I investigate and when I discover that the forces of the heavens and the planets are within ourselves, then truly I seem to be living among the gods.”

See also:

Wise Sayings from Medieval Ireland – The Maxims of King Aldfrith of Northumbria

Medieval Jokes

By God’s Bones: Medieval Swear Words

Top Image: Alfonso X, King of Castile