Giuseppe Caspar Mezzofanti

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Giuseppe Caspar Mezzofanti
Created cardinal12 February 1838
by Gregory XVI
Personal details
Born(1774-09-19)September 19, 1774
Bologna, Italy
DiedMarch 15, 1849(1849-03-15) (aged 74)
Rome, Italy
Occupation Cardinal, Hyperpolyglot

Giuseppe Caspar Mezzofanti (19 September 1774 – 15 March 1849) was an Italian cardinal and famed hyperpolyglot.

Italy European country

Italy, officially the Italian Republic, is a European country consisting of a peninsula delimited by the Alps and surrounded by several islands. Italy is located in Southern Europe, and it is sometimes considered as part of Western Europe. The country covers a total area of 301,340 km2 (116,350 sq mi) and shares land borders with France, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia, and the enclaved microstates of Vatican City and San Marino. Italy has a territorial exclave in Switzerland (Campione) and a maritime exclave in the Tunisian Sea (Lampedusa). With around 60 million inhabitants, Italy is the fourth-most populous member state of the European Union.



Born to humble parents in Bologna, he showed exceptional mnemonic skills as well as a flair for music and foreign language learning from a very young age. He studied at the Piarists where he had the chance to meet several missionaries from various countries. By speaking with them he began learning several new languages including Swedish, German, Spanish and Southern American native languages as well as studying Latin and ancient Greek in school. He completed his theological studies before he had reached the minimum age for ordination as a priest. During this period he also studied Asian Languages; in 1797 he was ordained a priest and became professor of Arabic, Hebrew, Asian Languages and Greek at the University of Bologna. He later lost the position for refusing to take the oath of allegiance required by the Cisalpine Republic, which governed Bologna at the time. Between 1799 and 1800 he visited many foreign people who had been wounded during the Napoleonic wars to attend to their cures. In this occasion he started to learn other European languages.

Bologna Comune in Emilia-Romagna, Italy

Bologna is the capital and largest city of the Emilia-Romagna region in Northern Italy. It is the seventh most populous city in Italy, at the heart of a metropolitan area of about one million people.

Piarists religious order

The Order of Poor Clerics Regular of the Mother of God of the Pious Schools or, in short, Piarists, is the oldest Catholic educational order, also known as the Scolopi, Escolapios or Poor Clerics of the Mother of God. Founded in 1617 by Saint Joseph Calasanctius, the main occupation of the Piarist fathers is teaching children and youth, the primary goal being to provide free education for poor children. The Piarist practice was taken as a model by numerous later Catholic societies devoted to teaching, while the state-supported public school system in certain parts of Europe also followed their example. The Piarists have had a considerable success in the education of physically or mentally disabled persons. Some famous individuals of the last few centuries, including Pope Pius IX, Goya, Schubert, Gregor Mendel, and Victor Hugo, were taught at Piarist schools.

Theology is the systematic study of the nature of the divine and, more broadly, of religious belief. It is taught as an academic discipline, typically in universities and seminaries. It occupies itself with the unique content of analyzing the supernatural, but also deals with religious epistemology, asks and seeks to answer the question of revelation. Revelation pertains to the acceptance of God, gods, or deities, as not only transcendent or above the natural world, but also willing and able to interact with the natural world and, in particular, to reveal themselves to humankind. While theology has turned into a secular field, religious adherents still consider theology to be a discipline that helps them live and understand concepts such as life and love and that helps them lead lives of obedience to the deities they follow or worship.

In 1803 he was appointed assistant librarian of the Institute of Bologna, and soon afterwards was reinstated as professor of Oriental languages and of Greek. The chair of Oriental languages was suppressed by the viceroy in 1808, but again rehabilitated on the restoration of Pope Pius VII in 1814. Mezzofanti held this post until he left Bologna to go to Rome in 1831 as a member of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith (Congregatio de Propaganda Fide), the Catholic Church's governing body for missionary activities. In 1833, he succeeded Angelo Mai as Custodian-in-Chief of the Vatican Library, and in 1838 was made cardinal of the title of St. Onofrio al Gianicolo and director of studies in the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith. [1] His other diverse interests included ethnology, archaeology, numismatics, and astronomy.

Eugène de Beauharnais French general and adoptive son of Napoleon I

Eugène Rose de Beauharnais, Duke of Leuchtenberg was the first child and only son of Alexandre de Beauharnais and Joséphine Tascher de la Pagerie, first wife of Napoleon I.

Pope Pius VII pope of the catholic church 1800–1823

Pope Pius VII, born Barnaba Niccolò Maria Luigi Chiaramonti, was head of the Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States from 14 March 1800 to his death in 1823. Chiaramonti was also a monk of the Order of Saint Benedict in addition to being a well-known theologian and bishop throughout his life.

Rome Capital of Italy

Rome is the capital city and a special comune of Italy. Rome also serves as the capital of the Lazio region. With 2,872,800 residents in 1,285 km2 (496.1 sq mi), it is also the country's most populated comune. It is the fourth most populous city in the European Union by population within city limits. It is the centre of the Metropolitan City of Rome, which has a population of 4,355,725 residents, thus making it the most populous metropolitan city in Italy. Rome is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, within Lazio (Latium), along the shores of the Tiber. The Vatican City is an independent country inside the city boundaries of Rome, the only existing example of a country within a city: for this reason Rome has been often defined as capital of two states.

List of languages spoken

Mezzofanti was well known for being a hyperpolyglot who according to Russell 1858 spoke at least thirty languages "with rare excellence",

Biblical Hebrew, Mishnaic Hebrew, Arabic, Chaldee, Coptic, Ancient Armenian, Modern Armenian, Persian, Turkish, Albanian, Maltese, Greek, Romaic, Latin, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, Swedish, Danish, Dutch, Flemish, English, Illyrian, Russian, Polish, Czech, Hungarian, Chinese.

He was reported to have spoken nine other languages fluently, and with dozens of others he is said to have had at least basic knowledge. [2]

See also


  1. Chisholm, Hugh (1911). "Mezzofanti, Giuseppe Caspar". Encyclopædia Britannica . 18 (11 ed.). Cambridge University Press.
  2. The precise number of languages known to Mezzofanti is rather uncertain, naturally so because of the relativity of the concept of "knowing" a language. Russell (1858) gives a list of 114 items he received from Mezzofanti's nephew (pp. 463465). Apart from the thirty languages "frequently tested, and spoken with rare excellence", Russell lists another nine "spoken fluently, but hardly sufficiently tested", namely: Syriac, Geez, Amarinna, Hindostani, Guzarattee, Basque, Wallachian, Californian, Algonquin (p. 467; for "Californian", an unknown native language of "Californian youths" Mezzofanti taught at the Propaganda, see p. 355).

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