Log In

Paolo Sarpi Edit Profile

also known as Pietro Soave Polano

historian , Lawyer , statesman , scholar , prelate

Paolo Sarpi was an Italian patriot, scholar, and state theologian during Venice’s struggle with Pope Paul V.


Paolo Sarpi was born on August 14, 1552 in Venice, the son of a merchant.


His early education was supervised by a family friend, a member of the Servite order of friars.


His intellectual gifts brought him into contact with some of the most important people and cities in Italy.

He spent 3 years as court theologian in Mantua and then traveled to Milan. He returned to Venice, where he taught philosophy while studying at the nearby University of Padua, the intellectual center of Italy in this period. In 1579 he became provincial of the Venetian province of the Servites, and in 1584, at the age of 32, he moved to Rome as procurator general of the whole order.

Between 1588 and 1606 Sarpi lived in studious retirement in Venice, participating in the vigorous scientific life of Venice and Padua and making friends with such men as Galileo.

In 1606 he was called out of retirement and made theologian and canon lawyer of the Republic of Venice. It was a critical moment in Venetian history: the republic had been laid under an interdict by Pope Paul V, and Sarpi's duties entailed the defense of the Venetian cause against the weight and authority of the Counter Reformation papacy. His role in the defense of Venice led him directly to the most important phase of his career, that of skilled and penetrating historian of the medieval and Renaissance Church.

Sarpi's first historical work was a long memorandum, intended for private circulation, of the events in Venice between 1605 and 1607.

His second work was the great History of Benefices (1609), in which he relied upon his access to the secret archives of Venice and expressed his conviction that individuals and circumstances, political as well as economic, influenced this important chapter of ecclesiastical history.

By 1616 Sarpi had completed his greatest work, History of the Council of Trent, which was published in Italian in London in 1619.

His perception of complex human background made his History of the Council of Trent a landmark in the technique of ecclesiastical and institutional history. During his lifetime Sarpi was honored and protected by the Republic of Venice, a popular and well-known figure. After his death, he became a revered civic hero, not only of the republic but of all Europe.


  • Paolo Sarpi is known as one of the greatest historians of early modern Europe and a founder of the modern historical method. His most notable work is “History of the Council of Trent”.