Sarpi, Paolo
(1551-1623)
   Venetian monk and author, known pri-marily for his historical works, including a sharply critical History of the Council of Trent (1619), and for his theological and political ser-vices to the republic of Venice. Although he rose to high office within the Servite order and resided at the court of Pope Sixtus V at Rome (1585-1588), he became increasingly critical of the papacy as an in-stitution, an opinion reflected in his history of the council, which por-trays the popes of the 16th century as ruthless manipulators of the council, determined to undermine the authority of councils and to es-tablish their own undisputed primacy within the church. A similar cynical interpretation of papal policy is evident in his other historical works, such as his Treatise on Benefices (not published until 1675), which contrasts the voluntary poverty and devotion of the early church with the wealth and power of the contemporary institution, and his History of the Interdict (1625), a strongly pro-Venetian ac-count of the conflict between the papacy and Venice in 1606-1607.
   During the latter crisis, Sarpi became a theological adviser to the republic despite a papal sentence of excommunication. His defense of the right of secular governments to control the clergy and their properties influenced 17th-century theorists of absolute monarchy. As adviser to the Venetian government, Sarpi established political and ideological connections with foreign Protestant officials and pri-vate individuals in Germany, France, the Netherlands, and England who shared the city's hostility to the political ambitions of Habsburg Spain and the papacy. His writings on philosophical and religious theory, never published in his time but now partially collected under the title of Pensieri /Thoughts, suggest that late in life he held a ma-terialist and determinist view of the world and doubted an afterlife and divine providence, though he recognized the social utility of re-ligion as a device to control the uneducated.

Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. . 2004.

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