Renaissance and Reformation Marco Girolamo Vida
Craig Kallendorf
  • LAST REVIEWED: 27 June 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 June 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0337


Marco Girolamo Vida (b. c. 1485–d. 1566) was one of the best-known poets of his day as well as a bishop who was active in the Catholic Counter-Reformation. Born in Cremona, he obtained an excellent humanistic education before receiving holy orders and moving to Rome. At the request of Pope Leo X, Vida wrote the Christiad, an epic poem in the Virgilian tradition on the life of Christ; he also wrote an influential art of poetry modeled on Horace and the popular Game of Chess, in which the gods and goddesses of classical mythology play an imaginary game of chess. Other works include epigrams, a didactic poem on the silkworm, and a dialogue on political philosophy. Unlike a good number of Renaissance churchmen, Vida took his responsibilities seriously and was widely praised for his piety and commitment. He served as bishop in Alba, then in Cremona, prepared the decrees for two important church meetings, and wrote passionate religious lyrics. In short, Vida represents well the goals of Christian humanism—the learning of Antiquity, repurposed in support of the Christian faith.


Vida was an enormously popular poet in his day, such that Di Cesare 1974 (cited under Life and Works) lists more than 650 editions and translations of his works. Modern editions exist of his most important poems along with several other works. Lew 2011 offers a magisterial scholarly edition of De arte poetica that has not yet received the recognition it deserves, while Vida 1569 is of special importance for the commentary to the Christiad that it contains. Other works can be found in Vida 1731, which remains the generally cited version of his complete writings. Novati 1898 and Ronchini 1866–1867 provide documents connected to Vida’s ecclesiastical career, while Gabotto 1890 offers the text of several important letters.

  • Gabotto, Ferdinando. Cinque lettere di M. G. Vida. Pinerolo, Italy: Tipografia Sociale, 1890.

    An obscure, sixteen-page pamphlet that contains the texts of five letters, two to Francesco II Sforza and three to Ferrante Gonzaga, which provide information about Vida’s life and social network.

  • Lew, Agnieszka Paulina, ed. Marcus Hieronymus Vida, Poeticorum libri tres. Europäische Hochschulschriften, Reihe 15, Klassische Sprachen und Literaturen 15, Vol. 99. Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 2011.

    A carefully prepared critical edition that takes into account all the major textual witnesses, with a 180-page introduction and an extensive list of parallel passages. Required reading for anyone seriously interested in De arte poetica.

  • Novati, Francesco. “Sedici lettere inedite di M. G. Vida, Vescovo d’Alba.” Archivio storico lombardo 35 (1898): 195–281.

    See also Archivio storico Lombardo 26 (1988): 1–59. Contains the texts of sixteen letters, with annotations, that contain information on Vida’s work as a bishop, along with several other documents, including his will. Reprinted as Francesco Novati. Sedici lettere inedite di Marco Girolamo Vida, vescovo d’Alba (Milan: P. Faverio di P. Confalonieri, 1899).

  • Ronchini, Amadio. “Marco Girolamo Vida.” Atti e memorie: Deputazione di storia patria per le provincie di Romagna 4 (1866–1867): 73–96.

    Provides twenty-one of Vida’s letters, some short but some more substantive, that were written mainly to the Gonzagas and offer insight into his ecclesiastical career, preceded by a brief biography. Also printed as a separate publication (Modena, Italy: Carlo Vincenzi, 1867).

  • Vida, Marco Girolamo. Christias. Commentary by Bartolomeo Botta. Zurich, Switzerland: Hieronymus Bartolus, 1569.

    Contains the text of the Christiad along with the important 16th-century commentary of Bartolomeo Botta, which provides evidence of how an informed and sympathetic reader of the day responded to the poem.

  • Vida, Marco Girolamo. Poemata omnia. Edited by Giovanni Antonio and Gaettano Volpi. Padua, Italy: Josephus Cominus, 1731.

    Still the most reliable and complete edition of Vida’s works, based on the definitive 1550 edition with reference to other printed editions but not to any manuscripts.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.