Isidore of Seville, Saint

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Isidore of Seville, Saint

Saint Isidore of Seville (Ĭz´ədôr´), c.560–636, Spanish churchman and encyclopedist, bishop of Seville, Doctor of the Church. Born of a noble Hispano-Roman family from Cartagena, he spent his youth under the supervision of his brother St. Leander, powerful bishop of Seville, and may have helped the latter in the extirpation of Arianism among the Visigoths. During his own tenure of the bishopric (from c.600) Isidore wielded considerable ecclesiastical power; he presided at the second Council of Seville (619) and at the fourth national Council of Toledo (633). He is best known, however, for his voluminous writings. His most influential work is the Etymologies or Origins, an encyclopedic treatise that aims to set down all the knowledge of the time. It is a comprehensive work in plan, and it transmitted to scholars of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance a great measure of classical learning. It was, however, a completely derived work, unenlightened by firsthand observation, and sometimes faulty in its scholarship. His Historia de Regibus Gothorum, Vandalorum et Suevorum [history of the reigns of the Goths, Vandals, and Suevi] continues to be useful in studying the early history of Spain. He also wrote many treatises on theology, language, natural history, and other subjects. His great learning and defense of education before the rising tide of Gothic barbarism was important to the development of Spanish culture. Feast: Apr. 4.

See studies by E. Brehaut (1912); Sister P. Mullins (1940); G. Donini and G. B. Ford (1970).

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