Renaissance and Reformation Pier Paolo Vergerio The Elder
Craig Kallendorf
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 September 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0306


Born in Capodistria (then part of the republic of Venice, now in Slovenia) around 1369, Vergerio studied in Padua, Florence, and Bologna and taught logic in Padua before entering Papal service. He was secretary to Popes Innocent VII and Gregory XII and helped organize the Council of Constance before leaving papal service for that of the Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund. He died in Budapest in 1444. As one of the third generation of Italian humanists, Vergerio had a respectable career as translator, editor, and author while also serving some of the most powerful men of his day. He is of special interest as a humanist who also had a serious commitment to the church and as one of the key figures in the spread of Italian humanism into eastern and central Europe. (Pier Paolo Vergerio the elder is not to be confused with the eponymous religious reformer of the 16th century, Pier Paolo Vergerio the Younger.


The standard intellectual biography of Vergerio is McManamon 1996, although Baduber 1866 and Bischoff 1909 remain useful and should still be consulted. Smith 1926 clarifies some of the details in Vergerio’s life, while Ziliotto 1906 gives direct access to two important documents. Cessi 1909 and Zaccaria 1982–1983 provide interesting details in two areas of importance. See also Pierantoni 1920, cited under Educational Theory.

  • Baduber, Giacomo. Pietro Paolo Vergerio il seniore da Capodistria, uno de’ più celebri umanisti italiani all’epoca del Risorgimento. Atti del’I. R. Ginnasio Superiore di Capodistria, anno scolastico 1865–1866. Capodistria, Slovenia: G. Tondelli, 1866.

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    An overview of the life and works of Vergerio in the tradition of late-19th-century Italian intellectual biography, with extensive quotations from Vergerio and his contemporaries. Not easy to find but available online.

  • Bischoff, Conrad. Studien zu P. P. Vergerio dem Älteren. Berlin and Leipzig: Dr. Walther Rosenthal, 1909.

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    Part 1 offers observations on the character and date of Vergerio’s letters, Part 2 surveys Vergerio’s place in church politics during the great schism, and Part 3 contains brief discussions of De ingenuis moribus and Paulus and of Vergerio’s literary relationship with Francesco Zabarella.

  • Cessi, Roberto. “Un avventura di Pietro Paolo Vergerio seniore.” Giornale storico della letteratura italiana 54 (1909): 381–388.

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    An interesting account of Vergerio’s arrest and brief detainment in Venice, placed within the context of the church-state politics of the day. Includes the texts of two relevant documents from Venice’s Archivio di Stato.

  • McManamon, John M. Pierpaolo Vergerio the Elder: The Humanist as Orator. Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies, 163. Tempe, AZ: Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies, 1996.

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    A masterful intellectual biography, arguing that Vergerio was “a key member of the third generation of humanists . . . By emphasizing public service through oratory, Vergerio supplied a new matrix for Italian humanism” (p. ix).

  • Smith, Leonardo. “Note cronologiche vergeriane, I e II.” Archivio veneto-tridentino 10 (1926): 149–157.

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    Uses Vergerio’s letters, which he was in the process of editing (see Smith 1934, cited under Vergerio’s Letters), to clarify several important points in Vergerio’s biography, with several key documents supplied in an appendix.

  • Zaccaria, Vittorio. “Niccolò Leonardi, i suoi correspondenti e una lettera inedita di Pier Paolo Vergerio.” Atti e memorie della Accademia di scienze, lettere ed arti in Padova 95 (1982–1983): 95–116.

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    Provides biographical information on Leonardi, a Venetian medical humanist, then shows that his relationship with Vergerio was longer and more important than previously believed. An appendix contains a critical edition of a short, newly discovered letter from Vergerio to Leonardi.

  • Ziliotto, Baccio. Nuove testimonianze per la vita di Pier Paolo Vergerio il vecchio. Trieste, Italy: Caprin, 1906.

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    Publishes and analyzes two documents, a brief life of Vergerio’s and his will.

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