Skip to main content

Giles of Viterbo


Augustinian friar, Renaissance scholar, reformer, cardinal; b. Viterbo, 1469; d. Rome, Nov. 1112, 1532. His family name was Antonini, not Canisius as many historians (including L. von Pastor) state. Giles (Aegidius) joined the Augustinians at Viterbo and in 1493, while still a student at Padua, published an edition of three works of Aegidius Romanus. From this time dates his hostility to averroism; it was confirmed when he studied under Marsilio ficino at Florence. Plato, St. Augustine, and the Bible were three sources from which he drew liberally. He became an outstanding member of the Pontanian Academy at Naples, and gave his name to Giovanni Pontano's dialogue, Aegidius. He was perhaps the most sought after preacher of his dayPopes Alexander VI and Julius II, Kings Frederick and Ferdinand of Naples, the cities of Florence and Venice, demanded his services. His most memorable oration was the appeal for reform at the opening of the Fifth lateran council on May 3,1512. His preaching had both the polish and defects of Renaissance style.

In 1503 he joined the observant movement within the Augustinian Order, became affiliated with the famous monastery of Lecceto near Siena, and on June 27, 1506, to his own dismay, was appointed vicar-general of the augustinians by Julius II. Thereafter, his main concern until he resigned from office (Jan. 25, 1518) was reform of the order. He secured the much-coveted Bulla Aurea in favor of the Augustinians from Julius II in June 1507 and in 1508 authorized the first printed edition of the constitutions of the order. He halted the growing division between Augustinian observants and conventuals; early in 1511 he won over a young German friar, Martin Luther, to the cause of unity. He insisted on a return to the full common life and greatly encouraged higher studies. To ensure the success of reform he personally visited houses and provinces or sent his own delegates with wide powers. He did not hesitate to suspend or dismiss priors and provincials, and he demanded monthly reports from each province. But all his efforts were hampered by the general laxity of Church affairs at that time.

His intellectual versatility was amazing: he wrote both Latin and Italian poetry, edited philosophical works, compiled a major theological commentary, attempted a survey of Christian history, and was indefatigable in his scriptural studies, particularly Hebrew, the cabala, and rabbinical literature. He defended Johann reuchlin and will always be remembered as the generous patron of Elijah Levita (c. 14681549), who later became the leading Hebrew scholar of Renaissance Europe. Aegidius was a linguist of rare ability and was credited with being the only person in Europe with a competent knowledge of Arabic. The first complete printed edition of the Bible in Greek was published at Venice in 1518, and was dedicated to Aegidius. Most of his own works remained unpublished during his lifetime; he suffered from an intellectual meticulosity.

He went as papal agent to the Emperor Maximilian in 1515, was nominated a cardinal in July 1517, and was sent as papal legate to Spain in 1518. He was a serious candidate for the papal tiara at the conclave in 1521. In 1523 he was appointed bishop of Viterbo by Clement VII. The remainder of his life he devoted mainly to scholarship, but he made one notable political effort in May, 1527 when he led an army of 2,000 soldiers to free clement vii, then besieged by the imperial troops in the castel Sant' Angelo in Rome. To the end he continued to be an advocate for reform of the Church.

Bibliography: Letters as Augustinian General, ed. c. o'reilly (Rome 1992). Lettere familiari, ed. a. m. voci roth, 2 vols. (Rome 1990). Scechina e libellus de litteris Hebraicis, ed. f. secret, 2 vols. (Rome 1959). j. w. o'malley, "Fulfillment of the Christian Golden Age under Pope Julius: Text of a Discourse of Giles of Viterbo, 1507," Traditio 25 (1969) 265338. f. giacone and g. bedouelle, "Une lettre de Gilles de Viterbe á Jacques Lefèvre d'Étaples (c. 14601536) au sujet de l'affaire Reuchlin," Bibliothèque d'Humanisme et Renaissance: Travaux et Documents 36 (1974) 33545. f. x. martin, "Egidio da Viterbo, 14691532: Bibliography, 15101982," Biblioteca e societé (Viterbo) 4 nos. 12 (June 1982) 5 91. a. de meijer, " Bibliographie historique de l'ordre de Saint Augustin," Augustiniana 35 (1985), 39 (1989), 43 (1993), 47 (1997). f. x. martin, Friar, Reformer and Renaissance Scholar: Life and Work of Giles of Viterbo 14691532, ed. j. rotelle (Villanova 1992). j. w. o'malley, Giles of Viterbo on Church and Reform: A Study in Renaissance Thought (Leiden 1968). A series of papers in English on Giles as Renaissance scholar, scripture scholar, classical scholar, and prior general, is published in Egidio da Viterbo, O.S.A., e il suo tempo, ed. Analecta Augustiniana (Rome 1983).

[f. x. martin]

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Giles of Viterbo." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . 23 Mar. 2019 <>.

"Giles of Viterbo." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . (March 23, 2019).

"Giles of Viterbo." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Retrieved March 23, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.