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Aegidius of Viterbo

Cardinal, theologian, orator, humanist, and poet, b. at Viterbo; Italy; d. at Rome, 12 November, 1532

Aegidius of Viterbo, cardinal, theologian, orator, humanist, and poet, b. at Viterbo; Italy; d. at Rome, November 12, 1532. He entered the Augustinian Order at an early age and became its general. Aegidius is famous in ecclesiastical history for the boldness and earnestness of the discourse which he delivered at the opening of the Fifth General Council, held in 1512, at the Lateran. It is printed in Harduin’s collection of the councils (IX, 1576). Leo X made him cardinal, confided to him several sees in succession, employed him as legate on important missions, and gave him (1523) the title of (Latin) Patriarch of Constantinople. His zeal for the genuine reformation of ecclesiastical conditions prompted him to present to Adrian VI a “Promemoria”, edited by Constantin Hofler in the proceedings of the Munich Academy of Sciences [III class, IV, 3 (B) 62-891 He was universally esteemed as a learned and virtuous member of the great pontifical senate and many deemed him destined to succeed Clement VII. He wrote many works, but only a few of his writings have been printed in the third volume of the “Collectio Novissima” of Martene. He was a profound student of the Scriptures and a good scholar in Greek and Hebrew.

When urged by Clement VII to publish his works, he is said, by the Augustinian Thomas de Herrera, to have replied that he feared to contradict famous and holy men by his exposition of Scripture. The Pope replied that human respect should not deter him; it was quite permissible to preach and write what was contrary to the opinions of others. provided one did not depart from the truth and from the common tradition of the Church (Nat. Alex., Hist. Eccl., saec. XV, 1, 5, 16; XVII, 354). His principal work is an historical treatise yet unpublished: “Historia viginti saeculorum per totidem psalmos conscripta”. It deals in a philosophico-historical way with the history of the world before and after the birth of Christ, is valuable for the history of his own time, and offers a certain analogy with Bossuet’s famous “Discours sur l’histoire universelle”. The six books of his important correspondence (1497-1523) concerning the affairs of his order, much of which is addressed to Gabriel of Venice, his successor, are preserved at Rome in the Bibliotheca Angelica. Cardinal Hergenrother praises particularly the circular letter in which Aegidius made known (February 27, 1519) his resignation of the office of General of the Augustinian Order (Lammer, “Zur Kirchengeschichte des XVI. and XVII. Jahrhunderts”, Freiburg, 1863, 64-67). Other known works of Aegidius are a commentary on the first book of the “Sentences” of Peter Lombard, three “Eclogae Sacrae”, a dictionary of Hebrew roots, a “Libellus de ecclesiae incremento”, a “Liber dialogorum”, and an “Informatio pro sedis apostolicae auctoritate contra Lutheranam sectam”.

THOMAS J. SHAHAN


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