Vittorino da Feltre 1378–1446 Italian Humanist and Educator

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Vittorino da Feltre
Italian humanist
and educator

Vittorino da Feltre was a pioneer of humanist* education in Renaissance Italy. As a schoolmaster, he employed original teaching methods and showed concern for the welfare of his students. His school in the city of Mantua became an influential model for European boarding schools.

Vittorino studied at the University of Padua under the leading Latin scholar of his day, Gasparino Barzizza. In 1419 Vittorino settled in Padua and became a highly successful teacher. He taught students in his home, varying his fee based on the financial status of the pupil. Vittorino refused to accept more students than he believed he could responsibly teach. He also paid attention to his pupils' moral development.

In 1423 the ruler of Mantua invited Vittorino to the city to establish a school for the children of leading families in the region. This school, named "Pleasant House," accepted both children of nobles and promising children of lesser means. The curriculum included not only the standard humanist subjects, such as grammar and rhetoric*, but also mathematics, music, philosophy, and religion. Vittorino introduced several fresh approaches to learning at Pleasant House. He paid close attention to his students' personal needs and to the learning environment in general. He avoided crowded classrooms, presented material in stages so students did not get frustrated, and varied his courses to prevent boredom. He also made physical exercise a part of the daily routine. Unlike many other humanists, Vittorino left no treatises* describing his methods. What scholars know of them comes from the praise of his former students.

(See alsoEducation; Humanism. )

* humanist

referring to a Renaissance cultural movement promoting the study of the humanities (the languages, literature, and history of ancient Greece and Rome) as a guide to living

* rhetoric

art of speaking or writing effectively

* treatise

long, detailed essay