Italian Historical Society of America


 Philosopher and Theologians

 The body of knowledge developed through the philosophers and religious thinkers form the cultural foundations of all societies. In the West there have been many significant thinkers who have contributed to Western thought. Here are a few individuals of Italian heritage who have contributed to the panoply of thought in the West in the areas of political and social philosophy.

Biographies presented in this page:  
Gregory the Great (540-604)
Benedetto Croce (1866-1952)
St. Francis of Assisi (c.1181-1226)


  Gregory the Great (540-604)

Born into a family of wealth and piety, Gregory studied law and worked in government service, becoming Prefect of Rome. After his fathers death, Gregory changed careers, devoting the rest of his life to God. He established six monasteries on the family estate in Sicily, and converted the family home in Rome to a monastery under the patronage of St. Andrew. His mother, Silvia (Saint Silvia) retired there.
After being ordained a deacon by Pope Pelagius II, and six years in Constantinople as an ambassador to the Byzantine court, Gregory returned to Rome. His position in the church was elevated, and when Pelagius II died in 590, Gregory was elected Pope. His influences on the doctrines of the Catholic Church were substantial, and include liturgical reform, his attachment to Gregorian chants, and most notably Liber pastoralis curae, a book of rules for Bishops. Pope Gregory died in 604, and was immediately canonized. He is honored as a Doctor of the Church for his contributions.

Written by Janice Mancuso

Here are some other relevant websites:
The Life of Saint Gregory the Great
Saint Gregory the Great
Gregory the Great and His Book Pastoral Care
Altar of St. Gregory the Great

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  Benedetto Croce (1866-1952)


In the early twentieth century, philosopher Benedetto Croce was well known for his views on aesthetics and its correlation to history. His theories on historical knowledge expanded on those of Kants and Hegel ideologies of aesthetics and art. Croce reasoned that intuition and expression were the first two concepts of art, that human knowledge was either intuitive or logical, and that historiography the way history is written is interwoven with philosophy and influenced by aesthetics, intuition, and individual expression.
Among his 80 publications, one of his best known works is Aesthetic as Science of Expression and General Linguistic (1902), his treatise of human knowledge. The following year he established La critica, a magazine that reviewed the historical, literary, and philosophical works of European writers. He ceased publishing the magazine in 1944 and started I Quaderni della Critica, Notebooks of Critical Thought. Croce is viewed by many as "one of the very few great teachers of humanity."

Written by Janice Mancuso 

Here are some other relevant websites:
Benedetto Croce
Croce’s Aesthetics
Works by Benedetto Croce
Fondazione Biblioteca Benedetto Croce [In Italian]


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  St. Francis of Assisi (c.1181-1226)


Baptized as Giovanni di Pietro Bernardone, the name chosen by his mother to honor St. John the Baptist, his named was changed to Francis by his father. The wealth of his family afforded Francis an early life spent in revelry, and he dreamed of becoming a knight. At 20, he joined to fight a war between ihis hometown of Assisi and Perugia, and was taken prisoner. He spent a year in captivity, and after returnng home, became ill; but recovered and vowed to continue his military career.
On his way to enlist in a fight against Puglia, Francis encountered a vision that turned his life toward God. After several years of prayer, he took a vow of poverty, refurbished several ruined churches, and traveled throughout the region, preaching brotherly love and penitence. A small following led Francis to seek approval from the Pope, in 1209, for a new religious order, the Friars Minor, now known as the Franciscan Order. The Order quickly grew, as Francis traveled to other countries, and two more Orders were established. In 1223, to commemorate the Nativity, Francis known as the Patron Saint of Animals created the first live manger. Francis was venerated as a saint in 1228, two years after his death.
Written by Janice Mancuso

Here are some other relevant websites:
The Franciscan Friars
The Writings of St. Francis
St. Francis of Assisi
The Writings of St. Francis of Assisi
The Franciscan Archive
St. Francis of Assisi Statue


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