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Antoninus, Saint

Archbishop of Florence (1389-1459)

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* Published by Encyclopedia Press, 1913.


Antoninus, Saint, Archbishop of Florence, b. at Florence, March 1, 1389; d. May 2, 1459; known also by his baptismal name Antonius (Anthony), which is found in his autographs, in some MSS., in printed editions of his works, and in the Bull of canonization, but which has been finally rejected for the diminutive form given him by his affectionate fellow-citizens. His parents, Niccolo and Thomassina Pierozzi, were in high standing, Niccolo being a notary of the Florentine Republic. At the age of fifteen (1404) Antoninus applied to Bl. John Dominic, the great Italian religious reformer of the period, then at the Convent of Santa Maria Novella in Florence, for admission to the Dominican Order. It was not until a year later that he was accepted, and he was the first to receive the habit for the Convent of Fiesole about to be constructed by Bl. John Dominic. With Fra Angelico and Fra Bartolommeo, the one to become famous as a painter, the other as a miniaturist, he was sent to Cortona to make his novitiate under Bl. Lawrence of Ripafratta. Upon the completion of his year in the novitiate, he returned to Fiesole, where he remained until 1409, when with his brethren, all faithful adherents of Pope Gregory XII, he was constrained by the Florentines, who had refused obedience, to take shelter in the Convent of Foligno. A few years later he began his career as a zealous promoter of the reforms inaugurated by Bl. John Dominic. In 1414 he was vicar of the convent of Foligno, then in turn subprior and prior of the convent of Cortona, and later prior of the convents of Rome (Minerva), Naples (Saint Peter Martyr), Gaeta, Sienna, and Fiesole (several times). From 1433 to 1446 he was vicar of the Tuscan Congregation formed by Bl. John Dominic of convents embracing a more rigorous discipline. During this period he established (1436) the famous convent of St. Mark in Florence, where he formed a remarkable community from the brethren of the convent of Fiesole. It was at this time also that he built, with the munificent aid of Cosimo de'Medici, the adjoining church, at the consecration of which Pope Eugene IV assisted (Epiphany, 1441). As a theologian he took part in the Council of Florence (1439) and gave hospitality in St. Mark's to the Dominican theologians called to the council by Eugene IV.

Despite all the efforts of St. Antoninus to escape ecclesiastical dignities, he was forced by Eugene IV, who had personal knowledge of his saintly character and administrative ability, to accept the Archbishopric of Florence. He was consecrated in the convent of Fiesole, March 13, 1446, and immediately took possession of the see over which he ruled until his death. As he had labored in the past for the upbuilding of the religious life throughout his Order, so he henceforth labored for it in his diocese, devoting himself to the visitation of parishes and religious communities, the remedy of abuses, the strengthening of discipline, the preaching of the Gospel, the amelioration of the condition of the poor, and the writing of books for clergy and laity. These labors were interrupted several times that he might act as ambassador for the Florentine Republic. Ill health prevented him from taking part in an embassy to the emperor in 1451, but in 1455 and again in 1458 he was at the head of embassies sent by the government to the Supreme Pontiff. He was called by Eugene IV to assist him in his dying hours. He was frequently consulted by Nicholas V on questions of Church and State, and was charged by Pius II to undertake, with several cardinals, the reform of the Roman Court. When his death occurred, May 2, 1459, Pius II gave instructions for the funeral, and presided at it eight days later. He was canonized by Adrian VI, May 31, 1523.

The literary productions of St. Antoninus, while giving evidence of the eminently practical turn of his mind, show that he was a profound student of history and theology. His principal work is the "Summa Theologica Moralis, partibus IV distincta", written shortly before his death, which marked a new and very considerable development in moral theology. It also contains a fund of matter for the student of the history of the fifteenth century. So well developed are its juridical elements that it has been published under the title of "Juris Pontificii et Caesarei Summa". An attempt was lately made by Crohns (Die Summa theologica des Antonin von Florenz and die Schatzung des Weibes im Hexenhammer, Helsingfors, 1903) to trace the fundamental principles of misogyny, so manifest in the "Witchhammer" of the German Inquisitors, to this work of Antoninus. But Paulus (Die Verachtung der Frau beim hl. Antonin, in Historisch-Politische Blatter, 1904, pp. 812-830) has shown more clearly than several others, especially the Italian writers, that this hypothesis is untenable, because based on a reading of only a part of the "Summa" of Antoninus. Within fifty years after the first appearance of the work (Venice, 1477), fifteen editions were printed at Venice, Spires, Nuremberg, Strasburg, Lyons, and Basle. Other editions appeared in the following century. In 1740 it was published at Verona in 4 folio volumes edited by P. Ballerini; and in 1741, at Florence by Mamachi and Remedelli, O.P.

Of considerable importance are the manuals for confessors and penitents containing abridgments, reproductions, and translations from the "Summa" and frequently published in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries under the name of St. Antoninus. An unsuccessful attempt has been made to show that he was not the author of the Italian editions. At the most it should be granted that he committed to others the task of editing one or two. The various editions and titles of the manuals have caused confusion, and made it appear that there were more than four distinct works. A careful distinction and classification is given by Mandonnet in the "Dictionnaire de theologie catholique". Of value as throwing light upon the home life of his time are his treatises on Christian life written for women of the Medici family and first published in the last century under the titles:- (I) "Opera a ben vivere... Con altri ammaestramenti", ed. Father Palermo, one vol. (Florence, 1858) (2) "Regola di vita cristiana", one vol. (Florence, 1866). His letters (Lettere) were collected and edited, some for the first time by Tommaso Corsetto, O.P., and published in one volume, at Florence, 1859.

Under the title, "Chronicon partibus tribus distincta ab initio mundi ad MCCCLIX" (published also under the titles "Chronicorum opus" and "Historiarum opus"), he wrote a general history of the world with the purpose of presenting to his readers a view of the workings of divine providence. While he did not give way to his imagination or color facts, he often fell into the error, so common among the chroniclers of his period, of accepting much that sound historical criticism has since rejected as untrue or doubtful. But this can be said only of those parts in which he treated of early history. When writing of the events and politics of his own age he exercised a judgment that has been of the greatest value to later historians. The history was published at Venice, 1474-79, in four volumes of his "Opera Omnia" (Venice, 1480; Nuremberg, 1484; Basle, 1491; Lyons, 1517, 1527, 1585, 1586, 1587). A work on preaching (De arte et vero modo prdicandi) ran through four editions at the close of the fifteenth century. The volume of sermons (Opus quadragesimalium et de sanctis sermonum, sive flos florum) is the work of another, although published under the name of St. Antoninus.

A. L. MCMAHON


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