Renaissance and Reformation Bernardo Giustiniani
Seth Parry
  • LAST REVIEWED: 24 January 2024
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 August 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0295


Bernardo Giustiniani (b. 1408–d. 1489) was a prominent Venetian humanist, politician, and diplomat of the middle and late 15th century. He was tutored by Guarino Veronese and George of Trebizond before studying arts and law at the university at Padua. He was known for his numerous orations and epistolary relationships, but his reputation rests principally on his history of Venice, De origine urbis Venetiarum rebusque ab ipsa gestis historia (hereafter abbreviated De origine urbis). This text is considered a significant and modern work of Venetian historiography of the 15th century. Giustiniani also played a substantial diplomatic role for Venice in the midst of a turbulent century: he was ambassador from Venice to Emperor Frederick III, the French king Louis XII, Popes Pius II and Paul II, Naples, Ferrara, and Milan. Giustiniani was also elected by either the Senate or the Maggior Consilio to other posts; he was a ducal councilor, a member of the Council of Ten, and eventually one of the nine procurators of St. Mark—the second-highest positions in the republic, after the doge. A key humanist in his own right, he was also a significant patron of others, and altogether a major figure in late-15th-century Venetian culture, society, and politics.

General Overviews

As a result of Labalme 1969, Bernardo Giustiniani has received the most extended attention—in English—of any 15th-century Venetian intellectual. Prior to the publication of this magisterial work, interested scholars were reliant upon the much older biographical studies Stella 1553 and Zeno 1752–1753. While these works provide the requisite biographical materials and context, Labalme 1969 provides a thorough and modernized interpretation of Giustiniani’s career and cultural output. The extensive genealogical material provided in Litta 1840 helps to situate the Giustiniani family within its Venetian social context. The contemporary chronicles Malipiero 1843, Sanudo 1879–1903, and Sanudo 1733 provide invaluable context for an understanding of the political, intellectual, and cultural situation in Venice in the late 15th century. Pistilli 2001 provides a thorough biography of Giustiniani in Italian, serves as an excellent introduction to his works, and catalogues any references to the humanist in the secondary literature.

  • Labalme, Patricia H. Bernardo Giustiniani: A Venetian of the Quattrocento. Rome: Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 1969.

    The definitive biography of Giustiniani in English. It offers an illuminating analysis of Giustiniani’s political and literary careers, as well as his scholarship and personal life. This work analyzes all of Giustiniani’s major works within the context of the humanist’s upbringing, educational training, occupation, and environment, and provides a lucid, thorough, and entertaining account of his life.

  • Litta, Pompeo. Famiglie celebri di Italia. Vol. 6. Milan: Presso P. E. Giusti, 1840.

    Litta provides fulsome genealogical material regarding the Giustiniani family, and hundreds of others.

  • Malipiero, Domenico. Annali veneti dall’anno 1457 al 1500. Vol. 1. Edited and abridged by Francesco Longo. Florence: Gio. Pietro Viesseux, 1843.

    Malipiero, a Venetian solider and politician who died in 1515, left behind a helpful and detailed primary-source record of the events of the latter half of the 15th century. Provides the context for Giustiniani’s career.

  • Pistilli, Gino. “Giustinian, Bernardo.” In Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani. Vol. 57. Edited by Mario Caravale. Rome: Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, 2001.

    A thorough biographical entry on Giustiniani that draws from other sources in this section. A good starting point for Giustiniani studies, it includes a thorough listing of Giustiniani’s works and any references to him made in secondary sources.

  • Sanudo, Marino. “Le vite dei dogi.” Edited by Giovanni Monticolo. In Rerum Italicarum Scriptores. Vol. 22. Milan: Societas Palatina in Regia Curia, 1733.

    Sanudo compiled a vast chronicle of the history of Venice from its origins to his present doge. His history is of interest because it provides much of the immediate context of late-15th-century Venice.

  • Sanudo, Marino. I Diarii di Marino Sanuto. Vols. 1–58. Edited by Federico Stefani, Guglielmo Berchet, and Nicoló Barozzi. Venice: Fratelli Viscontini, 1879–1903.

    Sanudo, a Venetian patrician, kept a voluminous diary from 1496 until 1533 that included major contemporary events. Critical to understanding 16th-century Venice, it includes numerous primary sources, as well as the author’s account and opinion concerning his society and culture. The definitive and most innovative historical source of the period.

  • Stella, Antonio. Bernardi Iustiniani patritii Veneti, senatorii, equestris, procuratorii que ordinis viri amplissimi vita. Venice: I. Gryphius Excudebat, 1553.

    The first substantial biography of Bernardo Giustiniani. A 16th-century work, but valuable for establishing the framework of Giustiniani’s life and career, and useful in providing the context and contemporary reception of Giustiniani’s work.

  • Zeno, Apostolo. “Bernardo Giustiniani.” In Dissertazioni Vossiane. Vol. 2. By Apostolo Zeno, 154–162. Venice: Gerardus Joannes Vossius, 1752–1753.

    Zeno provides a brief biography of Giustiniani, which includes an overview of his political career, offices, and works. Occasionally corrects Stella 1553, and provides a useful bibliography of Giustiniani’s works available in the mid-18th century.

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