Marsilius of Padua

Marsilius of Padua (märsĬl´ēəs, pă´dyōōə), d. c.1342, Italian political philosopher. He is satirically called Marsiglio. Little is known with certainty of his life except that he was rector of the Univ. of Paris c.1312. When Holy Roman Emperor Louis IV was seeking a theorist to assist him in his struggle with Pope John XXII, Marsilius composed a tract, Defensor pacis [the defender of peace], probably in collaboration with the Averroist John of Jandun. It was published in 1324 and proved to be one of the most revolutionary of medieval documents. The work held that all power is derived from the people and their ruler is only their delegate; there is no law but the popular will, as expressed in the ruler. The church too has no authority apart from the people, and the actual power of the Holy See is self-arrogated; the church should be under the ruler, its province should be purely that of worship, and it should be governed by periodic councils. The notion that princes derive their power from the people was current in scholasticism, but the antiecclesiastical argument of the work aroused great scandal. It was repeatedly condemned by the Holy See. Marsilius, however, continued under the emperor's protection and went in Louis's train to Rome for his coronation and attended him afterward. His lesser works include an argument that the emperor had final jurisdiction in matrimonial cases (1342). The Defensor pacis had a long life; John Gerson recommended it, and in England, during Henry VIII's fight with the church, Thomas Cromwell patronized its translation into English (1535).

See the modern edition of A. Gewirth (1967); also A. Gewirth, Marsilius of Padua and Medieval Political Philosophy (1951).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2015, The Columbia University Press.

Marsilius of Padua: Selected full-text books and articles

Readings in Political Philosophy By Francis William Coker Macmillan, 1938 (Revised edition)
Librarian’s tip: Chap. IX "Marsiglio of Padua (C. 1274-C. 1343)"
History of Political Philosophy By Leo Strauss; Joseph Cropsey Rand McNally, 1963
Librarian’s tip: "Marsilius of Padua Circa, 1275-1342" begins on p. 227
History of Political Philosophy from Plato to Burke By Thomas I. Cook Prentice-Hall, 1936
Librarian’s tip: "Marsiglio of Padua: Representation and Responsible Authority in Church and State" begins on p. 237
The Problem of Sovereignty in the Later Middle Ages: The Papal Monarchy with Augustinus Triumphus and the Publicists By Michael Wilks Cambridge University Press, 1963
Librarian’s tip: Includes discussion of Marsilius of Padua in multiple chapters
Political Thought in Medieval Times By John B. Morrall Harper Torchbook, 1962
Librarian’s tip: Chap. VII: "The State Comes of Age"
Medieval Political Ideas By Ewart Lewis Knopf, vol.1, 1954
Librarian’s tip: Includes discussion of Marsiglio of Padua in multiple chapters
Medieval Political Ideas By Ewart Lewis A.A. Knopf, vol.2, 1954
Librarian’s tip: Includes a discussion of Marsiglio of Padua in multiple chapters
Crusading Peace: Christendom, the Muslim World, and Western Political Order By Tomaž Mastnak University of California Press, 2002
Librarian’s tip: "Antipapal Funamentalism and Civil Crusade: Marsiglio of Padua" begins on p. 295
A History of Medieval Political Thought, 300-1450 By Joseph Canning Routledge, 1996
Librarian’s tip: "Marsilius of Padua and William of Ockham" begins on p. 154
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