Francis of Vittoria
Spanish theologian; b. 1480, at Vittoria, province of Avila, in Old Castile; d. August 12, 1546
Francis of Vittoria, Spanish theologian; b. 1480, at Vittoria, province of Avila, in Old Castile; d. August 12, 1546. While still young, he moved with his parents from their native city to Burgos, at that time the ordinary sojourn of the sovereigns of Castile. He received his early education in the schools of that place, and, on the completion of his academic studies, entered the Order of St. Dominic. While he devoted his energies to the study of the sacred sciences, the mastery of which made him an ornament to the Church, to his order, and to the universities of Spain, he was assiduous in the practice of piety. After his religious profession he was sent to the convent of St. James in Paris, then the chief house of studies of the order and affiliated with the University of Paris, where he made the best use of his advantages held out to him for the prosecution of his philosophical and theological studies. In 1516, he was appointed to teach in this convent, and it was here, in all probability, that he had for his pupil Dominic de Soto. In 1522, he returned to Spain and taught theology in the Dominican College of St Gregory at Valladolid till 1524, when he was appointed to the principal chair of theology in the University of Salamanca which he held till 1544. The influence which Francis exerted directly in the University of Salamanca and indirectly in the universities of Alcala, Coimbra, Evora, Seville, Valladolid, and others, forms an interesting chapter in the history of theology. More than any other theologian of his time, he ministered to the actual intellectual needs of the Church. Scholasticism had lost its former prestige, and was passing through the most critical period in its history. The times had changed, and it required a master to adapt speculative thought to the new conditions. The revival of theological activity in the Catholic universities of this period, consequent upon the doctrines of the reformers, and the development of theological speculation inspired Francis to inaugurate a movement for the restoration of scholastic philosophy, and to give to theological science a purer diction and an improved literary form. With foresight and ability he devoted all his energies to the undertaking, and his success is attested by the many excellent theological works that were produced in Spain during the sixteenth century. Among his disciples were Melchior Cano, Bartholomew Medina, Dominic de Soto, and Martin de Ledesma, by whose efforts and that of the great Carmelite teachers a new zest was given to the study of St. Thomas, and by whose aid Francis was able to extend his influence to the other universities of Spain. He is justly styled the father of the Salmantacensis School, and especially of the new Scholasticism. His style, simple and unrhetorical, is the more noteworthy for having attained its simplicity in the golden age of Humanism. He left a large number of valuable manuscripts, but his only published work is the “Relectiones XII Theologicae in duo libros distinctae” (Antwerp, 1604). The most important of his unpublished works is his “Commentaria in universam Summam S. Thomae”.