Vergerio, Pier Paolo


Vergerio, Pier Paolo
(1370-1444)
   Italian humanist and edu-cator. A native of Capodistria in Venetian territory, he studied at Bologna (1388-1390) and while there also taught dialectic, an expe-rience that turned him against the contentious wrangling of logicians and toward interest in the moral philosophy and rhetorical eloquence of the classical authors Seneca and Cicero. Vergerio also wrote a Latin comedy inspired by the Roman playwright Terence. He then moved to Padua to study medicine and law (1390-1397).
   Having become interested in the works of the pioneering humanist Petrarch, Vergerio went to Florence and with the collaboration of the city's chancellor and leading humanist, Coluccio Salutati, com-pleted an edition of Petrarch's unfinished Vergilian epic poem, Africa. His efforts to win patrons either in Venice or at the court of Padua were unsuccessful. In 1398 he moved to Florence and became one of the cluster of talented young humanists who studied Greek under the Byzantine scholar Manuel Chrysoloras. Late in 1399 Vergerio returned to Padua to renew his efforts to gain a place at the ruler's court, and about the same time he completed a doctorate in civil law. He later added a second doctorate in canon law. While cam-paigning to be appointed tutor to the Paduan ruler's son, Vergerio composed his most important book, De ingenuis moribus et liberal-ibus studiis / On Honorable Character and Liberal Studies (1403), which recommended study of humanistic subjects (history, moral philosophy, and eloquence or rhetoric) as the best way to prepare a young man for a life marked by ethical behavior and political re-sponsibility. This book had great influence on both the theory and the practice of education in 15th-century Italy.
   After the Venetians annexed Padua in 1404, Vergerio moved to Rome, where he attracted attention by his orations on St. Jerome, whom he praised as the prime example of an appropriate balance be-tween classical learning and Christian commitment. He gained em-ployment at the court of Pope Gregory XII and also the patronage of his old friend Cardinal Francesco Zabarella, whom he accompanied to the Council of Constance in 1414. Later, he accompanied the Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund on a long journey to the royal courts of Spain and Portugal in pursuit of an end to the Western Schism. He spent the rest of his life at Buda and Prague in the ser-vice of the emperor and in 1421 represented Sigismund at a colloquy seeking to end the religious division between Hussites and Catholics in Bohemia. After Sigismund's death in 1437, he lived in retirement at Buda, where he died.

Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. . 2004.

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