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Vergerio, Pier Paolo


Italian humanist, educator, canonist, and statesman, remembered chiefly as the first and most influential of Italian Renaissance educational theorists; b. Capodistria, Italy, July 23, 1370; d. Budapest, Hungary, July 8, 1444 or 45. Vergerio studied at Padua, Florence, and Bologna. From 1390 to 1406 he taught rhetoric and logic at Padua and Florence and served as tutor for the Princes of Carrara at Padua. In 1392 or shortly after, Vergerio composed his famous treatise On the Manners of a Gentleman and Liberal Studies (De ingenuis moribus ). This first of over a dozen Italian Renaissance educational treatises, and most influential of all of them, saw more than 20 editions by 1500, and more than 40 by 1600. In it, Vergerio advocates the extensive study of Latin literature as the core of the curriculum in general education; a revival of the study of Greek; the relegation of logic to a secondary status; and a broad curriculum, to include varied academic subjects, physical education, and military training. He gives primary importance to the careful inculcation of good habits and Christian morality. He especially praises the study of history as "philosophy teaching by example" and stresses the value of recreation and games of skill.

From 1406 to 1417 Vergerio served as papal secretary to innocent vii and gregory xii, but following the Council of Constance (141418), he became secretary to sigismund, Holy Roman Emperor. Vergerio was the author of several works, including a treatise On Restoring Unity in the Church, a Life of Petrarch, a History of the Princes of Carrara, numerous Letters, which have been printed, and several poems, comedies, and biographical works that are still in manuscript. His chief claim to fame, however, is his concise and comprehensive, balanced and discerning implementation of humanistic concepts in the field of pedagogy, which made him, according to W. H. Woodward, "the true founder of the new education."

Bibliography: w. h. woodward, Vittorino da Feltre and Other Humanist Educators: Essays and Versions (Cambridge, Eng.1921); Studies in Education during the Age of the Renaissance, 14001600 (Cambridge, Eng. 1924). c. bischoff, Studien zu P. P. Vergerio (Berlin 1909). k. a. kopp, "Petrus Paulus Vergerius der aeltere: ein Beiträge zur Geschichte des beginnen Humanisus," Historisches Jahrbuch des Görres-Gesellschaft 18 (1897) 273310, 533571.

[d. d. mcgarry]

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