Isidore of Seville

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Saint Isidore of Seville
Isidor von Sevilla.jpeg
St. Isidore of Seville (1655), depicted by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo
Bishop, Confessor, and Doctor of the Church
Bornc. 556
Cartagena, Visigothic Kingdom
Died4 April 636 (aged 79-80)
Seville, Visigothic Kingdom
Venerated in Catholic Church
Eastern Orthodox Church
Canonized 653 by the Eighth Council of Toledo
Feast 4 April
Attributes Bees; Bishop holding a pen while surrounded by a swarm of bees; bishop standing near a beehive; old bishop with a prince at his feet; pen; priest or bishop with pen and book; with Saint Leander, Saint Fulgentius, and Saint Florentina; with his Etymologiae
Patronage The Internet, computer users, computer technicians, programmers, students

Saint Isidore of Seville ( /ˈɪzɪdɔːr/ ; Latin : Isidorus Hispalensis; Seville, c. 560   Seville, 4 April 636), a scholar and, for over three decades, Archbishop of Seville, is widely regarded in the Catholic Church as the last of the Church Fathers, as the 19th-century historian Montalembert put it in an oft-quoted phrase, "The last scholar of the ancient world." [1]

Seville Place in Andalusia, Spain

Seville is the capital and largest city of the autonomous community of Andalusia and the province of Seville, Spain. It is situated on the plain of the river Guadalquivir. The inhabitants of the city are known as sevillanos or hispalenses, after the Roman name of the city, Hispalis. Seville has a municipal population of about 690,000 as of 2016, and a metropolitan population of about 1.5 million, making it the fourth-largest city in Spain and the 30th most populous municipality in the European Union. Its Old Town, with an area of 4 square kilometres (2 sq mi), contains three UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Alcázar palace complex, the Cathedral and the General Archive of the Indies. The Seville harbour, located about 80 kilometres from the Atlantic Ocean, is the only river port in Spain. Seville is also the hottest major metropolitan area in the geographical Southwestern Europe, with summer average high temperatures of above 35 °C (95 °F).

Archbishop bishop of higher rank in many Christian denominations

In Christianity, an archbishop is a bishop of higher rank or office. In some cases, such as the Lutheran Church of Sweden and the Church of England, the title is borne by the leader of the denomination. Like popes, patriarchs, metropolitans, cardinal bishops, diocesan bishops, and suffragan bishops, archbishops are in the highest of the three traditional orders of bishops, priests, and deacons. An archbishop may be granted the title or ordained as chief pastor of a metropolitan see or another episcopal see to which the title of archbishop is attached.

Church Fathers group of people who were ancient influential Christian theologians

The Church Fathers, Early Church Fathers, Christian Fathers, or Fathers of the Church are ancient and influential Christian theologians and writers. There is no definitive list. The era of these scholars who set the theological and scholarly foundations of Christianity largely ended by AD 700.

Contents

At a time of disintegration of classical culture, [2] and aristocratic violence and illiteracy, he was involved in the conversion of the Arian Visigothic kings to Catholicism, both assisting his brother Leander of Seville, and continuing after his brother's death. He was influential in the inner circle of Sisebut, Visigothic king of Hispania. Like Leander, he played a prominent role in the Councils of Toledo and Seville. The Visigothic legislation that resulted from these councils influenced the beginnings of representative government.

Leander of Seville Bishop of Seville

Saint Leander of Seville, was the Catholic Bishop of Seville. He was instrumental in effecting the conversion of the Visigothic kings Hermengild and Reccared to Catholicism. His brother was the encyclopedist St. Isidore of Seville.

Sisebut Visigoth king

Sisebut was King of the Visigoths and ruler of Hispania and Septimania from 612 until his death.

Hispania Roman province

Hispania was the Roman name for the Iberian Peninsula and its provinces. Under the Republic, Hispania was divided into two provinces: Hispania Citerior and Hispania Ulterior. During the Principate, Hispania Ulterior was divided into two new provinces, Baetica and Lusitania, while Hispania Citerior was renamed Hispania Tarraconensis. Subsequently, the western part of Tarraconensis was split off, first as Hispania Nova, later renamed "Callaecia". From Diocletian's Tetrarchy onwards, the south of remaining Tarraconensis was again split off as Carthaginensis, and probably then too the Balearic Islands and all the resulting provinces formed one civil diocese under the vicarius for the Hispaniae. The name, Hispania, was also used in the period of Visigothic rule.

His fame after his death was based on his Etymologiae , an etymological encyclopedia which assembled extracts of many books from classical antiquity that would have otherwise been lost.

<i>Etymologiae</i> literary work

Etymologiae, also known as the Origines ("Origins") and usually abbreviated Orig., is an etymological encyclopedia compiled by Isidore of Seville (c. 560–636) towards the end of his life. Isidore was encouraged to write the book by his friend Braulio, Bishop of Saragossa. The Etymologies summarized and organized a wealth of knowledge from hundreds of classical sources; three of its books are derived largely from Pliny the Elder's Natural History. Isidore acknowledges Pliny, but not his other principal sources, namely Cassiodorus, Servius and Solinus. The work contains whatever Isidore, an influential Christian bishop, thought worth keeping. Its subject matter is extremely diverse, ranging from grammar and rhetoric to the earth and the cosmos, buildings, metals, war, ships, humans, animals, medicine, law, religions and the hierarchies of angels and saints.

Etymology study of the history of words, their origins, and how their form and meaning have changed over time

Etymology is the study of the history of words, their origins, and how their form and meaning have changed over time. By extension, the term "the etymology " means the origin of the particular word and for place names, there is a specific term, toponymy.

Life

Childhood and education

Isidore was born in Cartagena, Spain, a former Carthaginian colony, to Severianus and Theodora. Both Severianus and Theodora belonged to notable Hispano-Roman families of high social rank. [3] His parents were members of an influential family who were instrumental in the political-religious maneuvering that converted the Visigothic kings from Arianism to Catholicism. The Catholic Church celebrates him and all his siblings as known saints:

Cartagena, Spain Municipality in Murcia, Spain

Cartagena is a Spanish city and a major naval station located in the Region of Murcia, by the Mediterranean coast, south-eastern Spain. As of January 2018, it has a population of 213,943 inhabitants, being the Region’s second largest municipality and the country’s 6th non-Province capital city. The metropolitan area of Cartagena, known as Campo de Cartagena, has a population of 409,586 inhabitants.

Religious conversion change in religion

Religious conversion is the adoption of a set of beliefs identified with one particular religious denomination to the exclusion of others. Thus "religious conversion" would describe the abandoning of adherence to one denomination and affiliating with another. This might be from one to another denomination within the same religion, for example, from Baptist to Catholic Christianity or from Shi’a to Sunni Islam. In some cases, religious conversion "marks a transformation of religious identity and is symbolized by special rituals".

Visigothic Kingdom State that emerged after the Visigothic invasion of the Iberian Peninsula

The Visigothic Kingdom or Kingdom of the Visigoths was a kingdom that occupied what is now southwestern France and the Iberian Peninsula from the 5th to the 8th centuries. One of the Germanic successor states to the Western Roman Empire, it was originally created by the settlement of the Visigoths under King Wallia in the province of Gallia Aquitania in southwest Gaul by the Roman government and then extended by conquest over all of Hispania. The Kingdom maintained independence from the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire, the attempts of which to re-establish Roman authority in Hispania were only partially successful and short-lived. The Visigoths were romanized central Europeans who had moved west from the Danube Valley. The Visigoths became Foederati of Rome, and wanted to restore the Roman order against the hordes of Vandals, Alans and Suebi. The Western Roman Empire fell in 476 AD; therefore, the Visigoths believed they had the right to take the territories that Rome had promised in Hispania in exchange for restoring the Roman order.

Liuvigild, Leuvigild, Leovigild, or Leovigildo, was a Visigothic King of Hispania and Septimania from 568 to April 21, 586. Known for his Codex Revisus or Code of Leovigild, a unifying law allowing equal rights between the Visigothic and Hispano-Roman population, his kingdom covered modern Portugal and most of modern Spain down to Toledo. He was born circa 525.

Fulgentius of Cartagena Spanish bishop and saint

Saint Fulgentius of Cartagena, born in Cartagena in the 6th century and died in 630, was Bishop of Ecija (Astigi), in Hispania.

Diocese Christian district or see under the supervision of a bishop

The word diocese is derived from the Greek term dioikesis (διοίκησις) meaning "administration". Today, when used in an ecclesiastical sense, it refers to the ecclesiastical district under the jurisdiction of a bishop.

Isidore received his elementary education in the Cathedral school of Seville. In this institution, the first of its kind in Iberia, a body of learned men including Archbishop Saint Leander of Seville taught the trivium and quadrivium, the classic liberal arts. Saint Isidore applied himself to study diligently enough that he quickly mastered Latin, [5] and acquired some Greek, and Hebrew.

Iberian Peninsula peninsula located in the extreme southwest of Europe

The Iberian Peninsula, also known as Iberia, is located in the southwest corner of Europe. The peninsula is principally divided between Spain and Portugal, comprising most of their territory. It also includes Andorra, small areas of France, and the British overseas territory of Gibraltar. With an area of approximately 596,740 square kilometres (230,400 sq mi)), it is the second largest European peninsula, after the Scandinavian Peninsula.

Quadrivium liberal arts of astronomy, arithmetic, music and geometry

The quadrivium is the four subjects, or arts, taught after teaching the trivium. The word is Latin, meaning four ways, and its use for the four subjects has been attributed to Boethius or Cassiodorus in the 6th century. Together, the trivium and the quadrivium comprised the seven liberal arts, as distinguished from the practical arts.

Greek language language spoken in Greece, Cyprus and Southern Albania

Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages, native to Greece, Cyprus and other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. It has the longest documented history of any living Indo-European language, spanning more than 3000 years of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the major part of its history; other systems, such as Linear B and the Cypriot syllabary, were used previously. The alphabet arose from the Phoenician script and was in turn the basis of the Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian, Coptic, Gothic, and many other writing systems.

Two centuries of Gothic control of Iberia incrementally suppressed the ancient institutions, classic learning, and manners of the Roman Empire. The associated culture entered a period of long-term decline. The ruling Visigoths nevertheless showed some respect for the outward trappings of Roman culture. Arianism meanwhile took deep root among the Visigoths as the form of Christianity that they received.

Scholars may debate whether Isidore ever personally embraced monastic life or affiliated with any religious order, but he undoubtedly esteemed the monks highly.

Bishop of Seville

A statue of Isidore of Seville by José Alcoverro, 1892, outside the Biblioteca Nacional de España, in Madrid Isidoro de Sevilla (José Alcoverro) 01.jpg
A statue of Isidore of Seville by José Alcoverro, 1892, outside the Biblioteca Nacional de España, in Madrid
Seville Cathedral. Sculpture of Lorenzo Mercadante de Bretaña San Isidoro, Portada del Bautismo de la Catedral de Sevilla.jpg
Seville Cathedral. Sculpture of Lorenzo Mercadante de Bretaña

After the death of Saint Leander of Seville on 13 March 600 or 601, Isidore succeeded to the See of Seville. On his elevation to the episcopate, he immediately constituted himself as protector of monks.

Saint Isidore recognized that the spiritual and material welfare of the people of his See depended on assimilation of remnant Roman and ruling barbarian cultures, and consequently attempted to weld the peoples and subcultures of the Visigothic kingdom into a united nation. He used all available religious resources toward this end and succeeded. Isidore practically eradicated the heresy of Arianism and completely stifled the new heresy of Acephali at its very outset. Archbishop Isidore strengthened religious discipline throughout his See.

Archbishop Isidore also used resources of education to counteract increasingly influential Gothic barbarism throughout his episcopal jurisdiction. His quickening spirit animated the educational movement centered on Seville. Saint Isidore introduced Aristotle to his countrymen long before the Arabs studied Greek philosophy extensively.

In 619, Saint Isidore of Seville pronounced anathema against any ecclesiastic who in any way should molest the monasteries.

Second Synod of Seville (November 619)

Saint Isidore presided over the Second Council of Seville, begun on 13 November 619, in the reign of King Sisebut, a provincial council attended by eight other bishops, all from the ecclesiastical province of Baetica in southern Spain. The Acts of the Council fully set forth the nature of Christ, countering the conceptions of Gregory, a Syrian representing the heretical Acephali.

Third Synod of Seville (624)

Based on a few surviving canons found in the Pseudo-Isidorian Decretals, Saint Isidore is known to have presided over an additional provincial council around 624.

The council dealt with a conflict over the See of Écija, and wrongfully stripped bishop Martianus of his see, a situation that was rectified by the Fourth Council of Toledo. It also addressed a concern over Jews who had been forced to convert to Christianity by Sisebut failing to present their children for baptism.

The records of the council, unlike the First and Second Councils of Seville were not preserved in the Hispana, a collection of canons and decretals likely edited by Saint Isidore himself. [6]

Fourth National Council of Toledo

All bishops of Hispania attended the Fourth National Council of Toledo, begun on 5 December 633. The aged Archbishop Saint Isidore presided over its deliberations and originated most enactments of the council.

Through Isidore's influence, this Council of Toledo promulgated a decree, commanding all bishops to establish seminaries in their cathedral cities along the lines of the cathedral school at Seville, which had educated Saint Isidore decades earlier. The decree prescribed the study of Greek, Hebrew, and the liberal arts and encouraged interest in law and medicine. [7] The authority of the Council made this education policy obligatory upon all bishops of the Kingdom of the Visigoths. The council granted remarkable position and deference to the king of the Visigoths. The independent Church bound itself in allegiance to the acknowledged king; it said nothing of allegiance to the Bishop of Rome.

Death

Saint Isidore of Seville died on 4 April 636 after serving more than 32 years as archbishop of Seville.

Work

Isidore's Latin style in the Etymologiae and elsewhere, though simple and lucid, reveals increasing local Visigothic traditions.

Etymologiae

A page of Etymologiae, Carolingian manuscript (8th century), Brussels, Royal Library of Belgium Isidoro di siviglia, etimologie, fine VIII secolo MSII 4856 Bruxelles, Bibliotheque Royale Albert I, 20x31,50, pagina in scrittura onciale carolina.jpg
A page of Etymologiae, Carolingian manuscript (8th century), Brussels, Royal Library of Belgium
Isidori Hispalensis Opera Omnia (1797) Isidori Hispalensis Opera Omnia.tif
Isidori Hispalensis Opera Omnia (1797)

Isidore was the first Christian writer to try to compile a summa of universal knowledge, in his most important work, the Etymologiae (taking its title from the method he uncritically used in the transcription of his era's knowledge). It is also known by classicists as the Origines (the standard abbreviation being Orig). This encyclopedia — the first such Christian epitome—formed a huge compilation of 448 chapters in 20 volumes. [8]

In it, as Isidore entered his own terse digest of Roman handbooks, miscellanies and compendia, he continued the trend towards abridgements and summaries that had characterised Roman learning in Late Antiquity. In the process, many fragments of classical learning are preserved which otherwise would have been hopelessly lost; "in fact, in the majority of his works, including the Origines, he contributes little more than the mortar which connects excerpts from other authors, as if he was aware of his deficiencies and had more confidence in the stilus maiorum than his own" his translator Katherine Nell MacFarlane remarks. [9]

Some of these fragments were lost in the first place because Isidore's work was so highly regarded—Braulio called it quaecunque fere sciri debentur, "practically everything that it is necessary to know"— [10] that it superseded the use of many individual works of the classics themselves, which were not recopied and have therefore been lost: "all secular knowledge that was of use to the Christian scholar had been winnowed out and contained in one handy volume; the scholar need search no further". [11]

The fame of this work imparted a new impetus to encyclopedic writing, which bore abundant fruit in the subsequent centuries of the Middle Ages. It was the most popular compendium in medieval libraries. It was printed in at least ten editions between 1470 and 1530, showing Isidore's continued popularity in the Renaissance. Until the 12th century brought translations from Arabic sources, Isidore transmitted what western Europeans remembered of the works of Aristotle and other Greeks, although he understood only a limited amount of Greek. [12] The Etymologiae was much copied, particularly into medieval bestiaries.[ citation needed ]

On the Catholic faith against the Jews

The medieval T-O map represents the inhabited world as described by Isidore in his Etymologiae. Diagrammatic T-O world map - 12th century.jpg
The medieval T-O map represents the inhabited world as described by Isidore in his Etymologiae .

Isidore's De fide catholica contra Iudaeos furthers Augustine of Hippo's ideas on the Jewish presence in Christian society. Like Augustine, Isidore accepted the necessity of the Jewish presence because of their expected role in the anticipated Second Coming of Christ. In De fide catholica contra Iudaeos, Isidore exceeds the anti-rabbinic polemics of earlier theologians by criticizing Jewish practice as deliberately disingenuous. [13]

He contributed two decisions to the Fourth Council of Toledo: Canon 60 calling for the forced removal of children from parents practicing Crypto-Judaism and their education by Christians and Canon 65 forbidding Jews and Christians of Jewish origin from holding public office. [14]

Other works

Isidore's other works, all in Latin, include:

Veneration

Isidore (right) and Braulio (left) in an Ottonian illuminated manuscript from the 2nd half of the 10th century Meister des Codex 167 001.jpg
Isidore (right) and Braulio (left) in an Ottonian illuminated manuscript from the 2nd half of the 10th century

Isidore was one of the last of the ancient Christian philosophers; he was the last of the great Latin Church Fathers and was contemporary with Maximus the Confessor. Some consider him to be the most learned man of his age, and he exercised a far-reaching and immeasurable influence on the educational life of the Middle Ages. His contemporary and friend, Braulio of Zaragoza, regarded him as a man raised up by God to save the Iberian peoples from the tidal wave of barbarism that threatened to inundate the ancient civilization of Hispania.[ citation needed ]

The Eighth Council of Toledo (653) recorded its admiration of his character in these glowing terms: "The extraordinary doctor, the latest ornament of the Catholic Church, the most learned man of the latter ages, always to be named with reverence, Isidore". This tribute was endorsed by the Fifteenth Council of Toledo, held in 688 and later in 1598 by Pope Clement VIII.[ citation needed ] Isidore was declared a Doctor of the Church in 1722 by Pope Innocent XIII.

Isidore was interred in Seville. His tomb represented an important place of veneration for the Mozarabs during the centuries after the Arab conquest of Visigothic Hispania. In the middle of the 11th century, with the division of Al Andalus into taifas and the strengthening of the Christian holdings in the Iberian peninsula, Ferdinand I of León and Castile found himself in a position to extract tribute from the fractured Arab states. In addition to money, Abbad II al-Mu'tadid, the Abbasid ruler of Seville (1042–1069), agreed to turn over St. Isidore's remains to Ferdinand I. [16] A Catholic poet described al-Mutatid placing a brocaded cover over Isidore's sarcophagus, and remarked, "Now you are leaving here, revered Isidore. You know well how much your fame was mine!" Ferdinand had Isidore's remains reinterred in the then-recently constructed Basilica of San Isidoro in León.[ citation needed ] Today, many of his bones are buried in the cathedral of Murcia, Spain.

Legacy

In Dante's Paradiso (X.130), Isidore is mentioned among theologians and Doctors of the Church alongside the Scot Richard of St. Victor and the Englishman Bede the Venerable.

The University of Dayton has named their implementation of the Sakai Project in honour of Saint Isidore. [17]

His likeness, along with that of Leander of Sevile and Ferdinand III of Castile, are depicted on the crest badge of Sevilla FC.

The Order of St. Isidore of Seville is a chivalric order formed on January 1, 2000. An international organisation, the order aims to honour Saint Isidore as patron saint of the Internet, alongside promoting Christian chivalry online. Members, who may be men or women, receive a modern-day knighthood. [18]

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References

  1. Montalembert, Charles F. Les Moines d'Occident depuis Saint Benoît jusqu'à Saint Bernard[The Monks of the West from Saint Benoit to Saint Bernard]. Paris: J. Lecoffre, 1860.
  2. Jacques Fontaine, Isidore de Séville et la culture classique dans l'Espagne wisigothique (Paris) 1959
  3. Priscilla Throop, Isidore of Seville's Etymologies: Complete English Translation. Vermont: MedievalMS, 2005, p. xi.
  4. Roger Collins, Early Medieval Spain. New York: St Martin's Press, 1995, pp. 79-86.
  5. "His literary style, though lucid, is pedestrian": Katherine Nell MacFarlane's observation, in "Isidore of Seville on the Pagan Gods (Origines VIII. 11)", Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, New Series, 70.3 (1980):1-40, p. 4, reflects mainstream secular opinion.
  6. Rachel Stocking, "Martianus, Aventius and Isidore: provincial councils in seventh-century Spain" Early Medieval Europe 6 (1997) 169-188.
  7. Isidore's own work regarding medicine is examined by Sharpe, William D. (1964). "Isidore of Seville: The Medical Writings". Transactions of the American Philosophical Society. 54 (2).
  8. MacFarlane 1980:4; MacFarlane translates Etymologiae viii.
  9. MacFarlane 1980:4; MacFarlane translates Etymologiae viii.
  10. Braulio, Elogium of Isidore appended to Isidore's De viris illustribus , heavily indebted itself to Jerome.
  11. MacFarlane 1980:4.
  12. St. Isidore of Seville
  13. Cohen, Jeremy (1999). Living Letters of the Law. Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 97. ISBN   978-0-520-21870-3., books.google.com
  14. Bar-Shava Albert (1990). "Isidore of Seville: His attitude towards Judaism and his impact on early Medieval Canonical law". The Jewish Quarterly Review. XXX 3,4: 207–220. JSTOR   1454969.
  15. Cesg.unifr.ch
  16. Father Alban Butler. "Saint Isidore, Bishop of Seville". Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Principal Saints, 1866. Saints.SQPN.com. 2 April 2013. Web. 9 August 2014. Saints SQPN
  17. Isidore.udayton.edu
  18. The Order of St. Isidore of Seville. Accessed 28 June 2014.

Primary sources

Opera omnia, 1797 Isidori Hispalensis Opera Omnia.tif
Opera omnia, 1797

Secondary sources

Other material