Paolo Sarpi Biography

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Who is Paolo Sarpi? Information on the historian Paolo Sarpi biography, life story, works and career.

Paolo Sarpi; (1552-1623), Venetian statesman and historian who attacked the papacy in his history of the Council of Trent. Sarpi, who is also known as Fra Paolo and Paulus Servitus, was born in Venice on Aug. 14, 1552. A Servite monk, Sarpi devoted himself until middle age to a wide range of studies. He was a friend of Galileo, and his drought reflects the empiricism of the scientific movement. As tension increased early in the 17th century between the aggressively centralizing Counter-Reformation papacy and Venice, with its long tradition of political and religious independence, Sarpi was appointed consultant in theology and canon law to the republic. During the interdict of 1606— 1607 of Venice by the papacy, he took a leading part in fashioning the theoretical weapons that enabled Venice to resist papal pressure, thereby winning for himself the permanent enmity of Rome. He then continued his attack on the papacy by writing his monumental History of the Council of Trent, which was smuggled out of Venice and first published in London in 1619.

Sarpi conceived of the church universal as a loose federation of local churches, and his history of the Council of Trent aims to show how the papacy had imposed a tyranny over the whole by skillful manipulation. Widely translated, it fixed for centuries the unfavorable Protestant image of modern Roman Catholicism, but it is also important as an early effort to apply the insights of the political historiography of the Italian Renaissance to church history. Sarpi has often been regarded as a kind of secret Protestant, but there is little evidence to support this view. The essential motive of his career was devotion to Venice. Sarpi died there on Jan. 15, 1623.

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