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Marsilius of Padua

Marsilius of Padua

Jurisdiction in state and church

Formation of Marsilius’ views

Influence

WORKS BY MARSILIUS

SUPPLEMENTARY BIBLIOGRAPHY

Marsilius of Padua (c. 1275-c. 1343) is known primarily as the author of the Defensor pacis, a bold antipapal tract dedicated to Emperor Louis iv of Bavaria in 1324 during his controversy with Pope John XXII. Although contemporary condemnations name John of Jandun as coauthor, internal evidence and incongruence with John’s known political statements (Gewirth 1948) argue for its ascription to Marsilius alone. The Defensor is revolutionary in denying the clergy jurisdiction of any kind and in subordinating them completely to the state. The political concepts it brings to the support of these contentions are neither so “modern” nor so original as has sometimes been claimed. All are anticipated in some fashion somewhere in the long and complex medieval tradition. Yet, because Marsilius’ argument leads him to special emphases, and because he richly develops, with ingenious use of Aristotle, ideas briefly enunciated by canonists and by other publicists, he is the first to present in elaborated theoretical form views that were to be fundamental to much of modern political thought. Even though the teaching of the Defensor is not free of ambiguity, no other medieval writing offers so vigorous or so complete a theory of popular sovereignty.

Jurisdiction in state and church

Marsilius argued that clerical pretensions to rule destroy the state (civitas or regnum), which, with its specialization of economic, military, governmental, and priestly “parts,” is indispensable to “living and to living well.” The survival of the state depends on effective government by a single unified “ruling part” (pars principans), and since the proper function of the clergy is not government but teaching (Christ having forbidden them all coercion), clerical rule of any sort, over anyone, destroys the unity of the government and deprives men of “the sufficient life.” In this world divine law is without direct sanction. It is only by authority of the human legislator that infractions can be brought to judgment.

All that is “truly law” on earth is the expression of the will of the legislator—the citizens of each community as a whole or their “weightier part” (valentior pars), the citizen body including all free adult males. The “weightier part” is weightier through “quality” as well as quantity of persons, but Marsilius argued that the more people who participate in legislation, the better the laws will be. Legislation by the multitude normally results in justice, because all but the singularly malicious or ignorant naturally wish to preserve the state and are able to discern the common benefit and to judge proposals. The legislator also establishes or selects the government or ruler. This may be one man or several but should in almost every instance be elective rather than hereditary. The legislator has the power to correct and even to depose the ruler. Although at times Marsilius seems to imply that the delegation of power to the ruler is all but absolute, his statements on correction and deposition are unequivocal.

Denying the divine institution of the papacy and of the episcopacy, Marsilius provides that in a Christian community the legislator select from candidates those to be priests and bishops, appoint them to pastorates, and control their exercise of office. A general council, elected by the several legislators of the Christian world and composed of both clerics and learned laymen (the laymen voting if the clerics are not unanimous), determines the articles of faith. Only by decree of the human legislator do conciliar decisions become binding. For convenience the council or “the faithful human legislator without a superior” appoints a “head bishop” to act as president and executive secretary of the council. Custom alone argues the choice of the bishop of Rome. Although early in the Defensor Marsilius expressed a preference for a plurality of sovereign states, the idea of a “primary” or “universal” “faithful human legislator” and “a ruler by its authority” suggests the empire, and in the Defensor minor of 1342, written at the court of Louis, the “human legislator” becomes the “Roman prince.”

Formation of Marsilius’ views

In the molding of Marsilius’ concepts the fifth book of Aristotle’s Politics played a significant part. Also of importance in the genesis of his attitudes was his youth in Padua, a city sovereign de facto, republican in constitution, and often in conflict with the clergy. His being a physician and not a lawyer or theologian no doubt had much to do with the freshness of his attack. Acquaintance with the work of French publicists seems probable from his years at the University of Paris, and familiarity with corpo-ration law, from his position as rector of the university in 1313 (Lewis 1963, p. 564). Although he associated with Averroists, their influence on his ideas of church and state is impossible to ascertain.

Influence

Papal condemnations, including the excommunication of Marsilius (and John of Jandun) in 1327, established the reputation of the Defensor for the next three centuries. A principal charge in papal attacks on Wycliffe, and later on Luther, was that they borrowed Marsilius’ doctrine. In the circumstances, conciliarist writers used the Defensor with caution. It was first printed (in Basel in 1522) to serve the Protestant cause, and in 1535 Thomas Cromwell paid most of the cost of printing an English translation. Through Richard Hooker, who cited it and shared some of its doctrines, it probably had an influence on John Locke, and so, indirectly, played an important part in carrying ideas of popular sovereignty from the medieval to the modern world.

Jane E. Ruby

[For the historical context of Marsilius’ work, see the biographies ofAquinas; Aristotle; Gerson.]

WORKS BY MARSILIUS

(1324) 1951-1956 Marsilius of Padua: The Defender of Peace. Translated and introduced by Alan Gewirth. 2 vols. New York: Columbia Univ. Press. → Volume 1: Marsilius of Padua and Medieval Political Philosophy. Volume 2: The Defensor pacis. Volume 2 was written in 1324, and first printed in 1522 as Defensor pads.

(1342) 1922 The “Defensor minor” of Marsilius of Padua. Edited by C. Kenneth Brampton. Birmingham (England): Cornish.

SUPPLEMENTARY BIBLIOGRAPHY

Gewirth, Alan 1948 John of Jandun and the Defensor pacis. Speculum 23:267-272.

Lagarde, Georges DE (1934) 1948 Marsile de Padoue, ou le premier theoricien de Vetat la’ique. 2d ed. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.

Lewis, Ewart 1963 The “Positivism” of Marsiglio of Padua. Speculum 38: 541-582.

Previte-orton, Charles W. (1935) 1937 Marsilius of Padua. British Academy, London, Proceedings 21:137-183.

Scholz, Richard 1937 Marsilius von Padua und die Genesis des modernen Staatsbewusstseins. Historische Zeitschrift 156:88-103.

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Marsilius of Padua

Marsilius of Padua

The Italian political philosopher Marsilius of Padua (c. 1275-1342) wrote Defensor pacis, the most important political treatise written in the late Middle Ages.

Marsilio dei Mainardini, who is known as Marsilius of Padua, was born at Padua. He was the son of a notary, and he received his early education in Padua, probably completing his arts degree and, perhaps, even a degree in medicine at the university there. Marsilius soon moved north to the leading university of his day, the University of Paris, where he became rector in 1313.

The years at Paris, first as a student, then as a teacher, were formative for Marsilius. He must have come into contact with the two most important theologians at Paris during that period, Durand of Saint-Pourçain and Peter Aureol. He certainly met the two leading Averroists, Peter of Abano and John of Jandun. Marsilius's teaching career culminated with the publication in 1324 of his extensive treatise on political power, the Defensor pacis. In this work Marsilius attacked many of the arguments used to support the political and temporal authority of the papacy. Going beyond this, Marsilius further attacked the absolute authority of the papacy within the administrative structure of the Church.

The principal idea upon which Marsilius established his political theory was the idea of popular sovereignty. All power is ultimately vested in the people. The secular monarch exercises his political authority not because he receives it as a divine right but because he derives it from the citizens of the state. The Roman pontiff derives his authority not from God, as Christ's vicar, but from the members of the Church. Desiring to counter the claims of the papal propagandists, Marsilius placed greater stress on "democratic" institutions in the Church than he did for secular society.

Political authority in the state, which Marsilius treats in the first book of his treatise, is derived from the citizens. Only they, acting as a whole or through a delegated authority, have the right to prescribe laws for the state. In order to ensure peace in the state, it is necessary to have one governing agency, which may be, but does not need to be, a hereditary monarchy. Such a head of state should be elected by the entire community. If the monarch acts against the welfare of the community or its laws, he can be deposed.

Stronger limits are placed on the authority of the papacy, a subject treated in the second book of Defensor pacis. According to Marsilius, the papacy has no authority in temporal affairs. Even in the Church, authority was to be shared with the bishops. Ultimately pope and bishops were to be answerable to the members of the Church.

When the work and his authorship became widely known in 1326, Marsilius decided to move outside the area of influence of Pope John XXII, who resided at Avignon in southern France. Marsilius sought protection and patronage from the German monarch Louis IV of Bavaria, who was already in conflict with John XXII. In 1327 Marsilius took part in Louis's expedition into Italy and was with him at Rome in 1328, when he was proclaimed emperor by the people of Rome. Marsilius was appointed vicar of Rome, a position in which he persecuted those members of the Roman clergy who remained faithful to John XXII.

When Louis was forced to return to Germany, Marsilius accompanied him. He remained at the imperial court for the rest of his life. In 1342 he wrote a short work entitled Defensor minor, a restatement of his earlier and better-known work. A few months later he died.

Further Reading

The Defensor pacis was translated into English by Alan Gewirth in Marsilius of Padua: The Defender of Peace (2 vols., 1951-1956), which includes an excellent introduction. Volume 1 was first printed alone as Marsilius of Padua and Medieval Political Philosophy (1951). Still useful is R. W. and A. J. Carlyle, A History of Mediaeval Political Theory in the West (6 vols., 1903-1936). A briefer summary of Marsilius's thought is in John B. Morrall, Political Thought in Medieval Times (1958). □

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Marsilius of Padua

Marsilius of Padua (märsĬl´ēəs, pă´dyōōə), d. c.1342, Italian political philosopher. He is satirically called Marsiglio. Little is known with certainty of his life except that he was rector of the Univ. of Paris c.1312. When Holy Roman Emperor Louis IV was seeking a theorist to assist him in his struggle with Pope John XXII, Marsilius composed a tract, Defensor pacis [the defender of peace], probably in collaboration with the Averroist John of Jandun. It was published in 1324 and proved to be one of the most revolutionary of medieval documents. The work held that all power is derived from the people and their ruler is only their delegate; there is no law but the popular will, as expressed in the ruler. The church too has no authority apart from the people, and the actual power of the Holy See is self-arrogated; the church should be under the ruler, its province should be purely that of worship, and it should be governed by periodic councils. The notion that princes derive their power from the people was current in scholasticism, but the antiecclesiastical argument of the work aroused great scandal. It was repeatedly condemned by the Holy See. Marsilius, however, continued under the emperor's protection and went in Louis's train to Rome for his coronation and attended him afterward. His lesser works include an argument that the emperor had final jurisdiction in matrimonial cases (1342). The Defensor pacis had a long life; John Gerson recommended it, and in England, during Henry VIII's fight with the church, Thomas Cromwell patronized its translation into English (1535).

See the modern edition of A. Gewirth (1967); also A. Gewirth, Marsilius of Padua and Medieval Political Philosophy (1951).

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Marsiglio of Padua

Marsiglio of Padua ( Marsilius of Padua) (c.1275–1342). Political philosopher who called in question the primacy of Church over State in the political order. His Defensor Pacis (1324) was held to be antipapal and led to his expulsion from Paris. He argued that the State, not the Church, is the unifying bond in society, and that the task of a ruler is to maintain peace.

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"Marsiglio of Padua." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Marsiglio of Padua." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 17, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/marsiglio-padua

"Marsiglio of Padua." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Retrieved August 17, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/marsiglio-padua