Augustine of Hippo 354–430 Bishop and Author

views updated

Augustine of Hippo
Bishop and author

Augustine of Hippo, also known as St. Augustine, was an early bishop of the Catholic Church. His religious writings earned him the title of church father. His best-known work, the City of God, laid out many of his basic ideas on religion and morality. Augustine's ideas were popular thorough the Middle Ages. They also had a strong influence on religious scholars and philosophers of the Renaissance. However, most Renaissance scholars focused on specific ideas and did not accept all of Augustine's teachings.

Augustine had both supporters and critics in Italy. Petrarch, an early humanist*, greatly admired Augustine's Confessions, an account of his youth and his conversion to Christianity. A later humanist, Lorenzo Valla, criticized Augustine's views on the Bible, morals, and sin. Augustine's writing inspired philosophers such as Marsilio Ficino and Tommaso Campanella. Ficino built on Augustine's idea that every human soul longs for God. Campanella argued that all people are born with a knowledge of God.

During the 1500s, many humanists outside Italy drew ideas from City of God. Thomas More lectured on it in London around 1501. Spanish humanist Juan Luis Vives published a study of the work in 1522. He focused on its historical and literary references. In the late 1520s, the prominent Dutch humanist Desiderius Erasmus published Augustine's complete works. Erasmus did not agree with Augustine's ideas about sin and the natural wickedness of humanity. However, he used his works as a historical source. He also cited Augustine to support his own religious views. Early Protestant leaders such as Martin Luther and John Calvin took a similar approach to Augustine's work. They used specific arguments without embracing all of his ideas. For example, they referred to Augustine to support their views about predestination, or fate.

(See alsoProtestant Reformation; Religious Literature; Religious Thought. )

* humanist

Renaissance expert in the humanities (the languages, literature, history, and speech and writing techniques of ancient Greece and Rome)

About this article

Augustine of Hippo 354–430 Bishop and Author

Updated About content Print Article