Renaissance and Reformation Ambrogio Traversari
Craig Kallendorf
  • LAST REVIEWED: 23 August 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 August 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0364


Ambrogio Traversari (b. 1386–d. 1439), a Camaldolese monk, represents the Christian strain in Florentine humanism at the turn of the 15th century. For the early humanists, the classics included the works of the Church Fathers, and, with the encouragement of Niccolò Niccoli, Traversari turned enthusiastically to the translation of Greek patristic texts. He became prior general of the Camaldulensian order, where he sought to find a place for the new humanistic studies within the order, and he also played an important role at the Councils of Basel, Ferrara, and Florence. Along with his translations into Latin of some two dozen Greek patristic works, he produced a letter collection and a work entitled Hodoeporicon (Traversari 1985, cited under Modern Editions, 18th Century to the Present), which provides a record of his travels between 1431 and 1435, including the visitations he made to various monasteries. He is generally interpreted from within the framework of learned piety, which tried to join biblical and patristic devotion to the eloquence of the pagan world. Traversari is fortunate in having attracted attention from two distinguished scholars early on, Lorenzo Mehus in the 18th century and Giovanni Mercati at the turn of the 20th; since then there has been a steady stream of scholarship about him, by both Anglophone and Italian scholars.

Life and Works

Unlike a number of Italian humanists, Traversari has been well served by biographers and bibliographers, beginning in his own day. Caby 1996 shows how his contemporaries sought to fashion an appropriate image of him, while Castrucci 1722 shows where things stood in the 18th century. Ricci 1939 presents a good overview, while Pontone 2011 serves as a reliable modern biography. Caciolli 2000, Frazier 2005, and Guerrieri 2012 list Traversari’s works, with information about them, while Dini-Traversari 1912 combines a biographical essay with an edition of a key work. See also Traversari 1968a and Traversari 1968b, both cited under Modern Editions, 18th Century to the Present.

  • Caby, Cécile. “Culte monastique et fortune humaniste: Ambrogio Traversari, ‘vir illuster’ de l’ordre camaldule.” Mélanges de l’École française de Rome: Moyen Age 108 (1996): 321–354.

    DOI: 10.3406/mefr.1996.3486

    Discusses the effort within his own culture to present Traversari as an illustrious man worthy of emulation by manipulating both textual and artistic resources to produce appropriate biographical and sculptural models.

  • Caciolli, Luca. “Ambrogio Traversari.” In Compendium auctorum Medii Aevi (500–1500). Vol. 1, pt. 2. Edited by Michael Lapidge, Gian Carlo Garfagnini, and Claudio Leonardi, 204–207. Florence: SISMEL, 2000.

    A list of works composed by Traversari, with a bibliography containing manuscripts and editions of each work and studies devoted to it. By no means complete, but a useful starting place.

  • Castrucci, Niccolò. Vita del beato Ambrogio Traversari. Lucca: n.p., 1722.

    An 18th-century biography that covers Traversari’s early years, his scholarly work (especially as a translator), and his activity as a churchman. Lacks references and notes, but valuable nonetheless.

  • Dini-Traversari, Alessandro. Ambrogio Traversari e i suoi tempi: Albero genealogico Traversari ricostruito; Hodoeporicon. Florence: Succ. B. Seeber, 1912.

    An interesting collection of miscellaneous works, beginning with a lengthy biography of Traversari that is accompanied by three appendices containing primary documents connected to Traversari’s life and works, a family tree, and an edition of his Hodoeporicon (Traversari 1985, cited under Modern Editions, 18th Century to the Present), which provides information on his life through his observations on the pastoral visits he made as supervisor of the Camaldulensian order.

  • Frazier, Alison Knowles. “Ambrogio Traversari.” In Possible Lives: Authors and Saints in Renaissance Italy. By Alison Knowles Frazier, 473–482. New York: Columbia University Press, 2005.

    DOI: 10.7312/fraz12976

    Contains in an appendix a preliminary hand list of Traversari’s Latin prose saints’ lives, with information about each work and a list of surviving manuscripts and early editions. Traversari also appears passim in the book’s narrative discussion.

  • Guerrieri, Elisabetta. “Ambrosius Traversarius.” In Clavis degli autori camaldolesi (secoli XII-XVI). By Elisabetta Guerrieri, 4–57. Florence: SISMEL, 2012.

    A drastically expanded version of Caciolli 2000, starting with a brief biographical sketch and general bibliography of books and articles about Traversari, followed by a list of his works, each with a list of manuscripts, printed editions, and relevant secondary scholarship. A veritable gold mine.

  • Pontone, Marzia. Ambrogio Traversari monaco e umanista: Fra scrittura latina e scrittura greca. Turin, Italy: Nino Aragno Editore, 2011.

    An intellectual biography in the Italian tradition, showing how Traversari blended a religious fervor that affected everything from his diplomatic missions to the texts he translated with a scholarly program that brought him into contact with the leading representatives of humanistic studies in his day.

  • Ricci, Pier Giorgio. “Ambrogio Traversari.” Rinascita 2 (1939): 578–612.

    Beginning from the two attributes for which he was praised in his own day, his virtue and his learning, Ricci constructs a basic picture of the life and works of Traversari, taking due account both of his life as a churchman and his literary activity, especially as translator of the Church Fathers.

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