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Agostino Steuco

Agostino Steuco

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Agostino Steuco (1497–1548), Italian humanist
Renaissance humanism
Renaissance humanism was an activity of cultural and educational reform engaged by scholars, writers, and civic leaders who are today known as Renaissance humanists. It developed during the fourteenth and the beginning of the fifteenth centuries, and was a response to the challenge of Mediæval...

, Old Testament
Old Testament
The Old Testament, of which Christians hold different views, is a Christian term for the religious writings of ancient Israel held sacred and inspired by Christians which overlaps with the 24-book canon of the Masoretic Text of Judaism...

 scholar, Counter Reformation polemicist and antiquarian, was born at Gubbio
Gubbio
Gubbio is a town and comune in the far northeastern part of the Italian province of Perugia . It is located on the lowest slope of Mt. Ingino, a small mountain of the Apennines. See also Mount Ingino Christmas Tree.-History:...

 in Umbria
Umbria
Umbria is a region of modern central Italy. It is one of the smallest Italian regions and the only peninsular region that is landlocked.Its capital is Perugia.Assisi and Norcia are historical towns associated with St. Francis of Assisi, and St...

.

In 1513 he entered the congregation of the Order of the Augustinian Canons of San Salvatore of Bologna, taking up residence in the monastery of San Secundo, one of the order's houses in Gubbio. In 1524 he went to the mother cloister in Bologna
Bologna
Bologna is the capital city of Emilia-Romagna, in the Po Valley of Northern Italy. The city lies between the Po River and the Apennine Mountains, more specifically, between the Reno River and the Savena River. Bologna is a lively and cosmopolitan Italian college city, with spectacular history,...

, from where he briefly attended courses in Hebrew and rhetoric at the University of Bologna
University of Bologna
The Alma Mater Studiorum - University of Bologna is the oldest continually operating university in the world, the word 'universitas' being first used by this institution at its foundation. The true date of its founding is uncertain, but believed by most accounts to have been 1088...

. In 1529 he was sent by his congregation to the Monastery
Monastery
Monastery denotes the building, or complex of buildings, that houses a room reserved for prayer as well as the domestic quarters and workplace of monastics, whether monks or nuns, and whether living in community or alone .Monasteries may vary greatly in size – a small dwelling accommodating only...

 of Sant' Antonio di Castello in Venice
Venice
Venice is a city in northern Italy which is renowned for the beauty of its setting, its architecture and its artworks. It is the capital of the Veneto region...

, where, due to his expertise in biblical languages
Biblical languages
Biblical languages are any of the languages employed in the original writings of the Bible. Partially owing to the significance of the Bible in society, Biblical languages are studied more widely than many other dead languages...

 and humanist textual criticism, he was placed in charge of the monastery's library, donated to the canons by Cardinal Domenico Grimani
Domenico Grimani
Domenico Grimani was a Venetian Churchman and Cardinal. From 1498 to 1517 he was Patriarch of Aquileia, and from 1517 to 1520 bishop of Ceneda. He became a cardinal in 1493. Grimani was not ordained a priest until 1498. After the election of Pope Julius II he became cardinal priest of San Marco...

. Many of the collection's biblical, Hebrew, and philosophical works had once been owned by Pico della Mirandola.

Over the next several years (1529-33) Steuco wrote a series of polemical works against Luther
Martin Luther
Martin Luther was a German priest, professor of theology and iconic figure of the Protestant Reformation. He strongly disputed the claim that freedom from God's punishment for sin could be purchased with money. He confronted indulgence salesman Johann Tetzel with his Ninety-Five Theses in 1517...

 and Erasmus, the latter of whom he accused of helping to foment the Protestant revolt against the Church. These works show Steuco's staunch support of the traditions and practices of the church, including a strident defense of papal authority. Part of his output during this period included a major set of annotations on the Pentateuch, titled Veteris testamenti ad Hebraicam veritatem recognitio, in which he used Hebrew and Greek manuscripts from the Grimani Library to correct Jerome
Jerome
Saint Jerome was a Roman Christian priest, confessor, theologian and historian, and who became a Doctor of the Church. He was the son of Eusebius, of the city of Stridon, which was on the border of Dalmatia and Pannonia...

's Vulgate
Vulgate
The Vulgate is a late 4th-century Latin translation of the Bible. It was largely the work of St. Jerome, who was commissioned by Pope Damasus I in 382 to make a revision of the old Latin translations...

 translation of the Old Testament text. When explaining the text, he never strayed from the literal and historical meaning. An interesting juxtaposition to this work of humanist biblical exegesis was a syncretic philosophical work that he wrote in this period, to which he gave the title Cosmopoeia.

His polemical and exegetical works attracted the notice of Pope Paul III
Pope Paul III
Pope Paul III , born Alessandro Farnese, was Pope of the Roman Catholic Church from 1534 to his death in 1549. He came to the papal throne in an era following the sack of Rome in 1527 and rife with uncertainties in the Catholic Church following the Protestant Reformation...

, and in 1538 the pope made Steuco bishop of Chisamo on the island of Crete
Crete
Crete is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands, the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, and one of the thirteen administrative regions of Greece. It forms a significant part of the economy and cultural heritage of Greece while retaining its own local cultural traits...

, and librarian of the papal collection of manuscripts and printed works in the Vatican
Apostolic Palace
The Apostolic Palace is the official residence of the Pope, which is located in Vatican City. It is also known as the Sacred Palace, the Papal Palace and the Palace of the Vatican...

. While he never visited his bishopric in Crete, Steuco did actively fulfill his role as Vatican Librarian
Vatican Library
The Vatican Library is the library of the Holy See, currently located in Vatican City. It is one of the oldest libraries in the world and contains one of the most significant collections of historical texts. Formally established in 1475, though in fact much older, it has 75,000 codices from...

 until his death in 1548.

While in Rome he authored Old Testament annotations on the Psalms
Psalms
The Book of Psalms , commonly referred to simply as Psalms, is a book of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Bible...

 and Job
Book of Job
The Book of Job , commonly referred to simply as Job, is one of the books of the Hebrew Bible. It relates the story of Job, his trials at the hands of Satan, his discussions with friends on the origins and nature of his suffering, his challenge to God, and finally a response from God. The book is a...

, again relying heavily upon Hebrew sources to help annotate and correct the texts. Also from this period dates a major work entitled the De perenni philosophia
Perennial philosophy
Perennial philosophy is the notion of the universal recurrence of philosophical insight independent of epoch or culture, including universal truths on the nature of reality, humanity or consciousness .-History:The idea of a perennial philosophy has great...

, dedicated to Paul III, in which he attempted to show that many of the ideas expounded by the sages, poets, and philosophers from classical antiquity were in essential harmony with the central tenets of the Catholic faith. This work has a slight polemical edge to it, as Steuco crafted a number of his arguments to lend support to several theological positions that had recently come under question in Italy by reformers and critics of the traditional Catholic faith.

As a Roman humanist, he also took a deep interest in the classical ruins of Rome, and in the urban renewal efforts of Paul III throughout the city. Of particular note in this vein are a series of short orations that he wrote and possibly delivered at the papal court, urging Paul III to refurbish the aqueduct known as the Aqua Virgo
Aqua Virgo
The Aqua Virgo was one of the 11 aqueducts that supplied the city of ancient Rome. The aqueduct fell into disuse with the fall of the Roman Empire, but was fully restored nearly a whole millennium later during the Renaissance to take its current form as the Acqua Vergine.The Aqua Virgo was...

, in order to supply Rome with adequate fresh water, and as a major key to the revitalization of the city itself.

In 1547 Steuco was sent by Paul III to attend the Council of Trent
Council of Trent
The Council of Trent was the 16th-century Ecumenical Council of the Roman Catholic Church. It is considered to be one of the Church's most important councils. It convened in Trent between December 13, 1545, and December 4, 1563 in twenty-five sessions for three periods...

, where he could be counted upon to uphold papal prerogatives and authority. He died in 1548 while in Venice on break from the Council. He is now buried in Gubbio.