Skip to main content

Mezzofanti, Giuseppe


Cardinal, linguist; b. Bologna, Sept. 17, 1774; d. Rome, March 15, 1849. His father was a poor carpenter. Gifted with a prodigious memory, in boyhood he learned Latin, Greek, Spanish, and Swedish. As a seminarian he mastered Hebrew, Arabic, and other Oriental languages. After ordination (1797), he taught Arabic at the University of Bologna, but he lost his post when he refused to take the oath of allegiance to the Cisalpine Republic. To support himself he then acted as a tutor. He returned to Bologna as professor of Hebrew and Greek from 1803 until 1808, when the chair was suppressed, and again from 1814 to 1831, when he was called to Rome as canon of the Basilica of St. Mary Major and a member of the philological college of the University of Rome. Meanwhile, he studied Chinese at the Capodimonte College in Naples. In 1833 he was named prefect of the vatican library and canon of St. Peter's Basilica, and in 1838 cardinal and member of the Congregations of Propaganda, Rites, Index, and Revision of Books of the Oriental Church. He could speak about 40 languages, had a fair knowledge of about 30 more, and a familiarity with another 45 dialects. He contributed much to the science of comparative linguistics. Pressure of his other duties never permitted Mezzofanti to publish any of his studies. Most of his manuscripts and letters are deposited in the communal library of the Archiginnasio of Bologna. Several of his manuscripts were published after his death.

Bibliography: c. w. russell, The Life of Cardinal Mezzofanti (London 1858). m. de camillis, Il cardinale G. Mezzofanti, principe dei poliglotti (Rome 1937).

[h. r. marraro]

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

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Mezzofanti, Giuseppe." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . 20 Mar. 2019 <>.

"Mezzofanti, Giuseppe." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . (March 20, 2019).

"Mezzofanti, Giuseppe." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Retrieved March 20, 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.