Defensor Pacis (The Defender of Peace)


Category: Politics/Religion

By Marsilius of Padua

Published in 1522

Reference #0229

In Latin, with illustrated title page and initials. This volume is Marsilius of Padua’s “Defensor Pacis,” entitled here, “Opus insigne cui titulum fecit autor defensorem pacis, quod questionem illam jam olim controversam, de potestate papæ et imperatoris excussissime tractet, profuturum theologis, jureconsultis, in summa optimaru literarum cultoribus omnibus” and printed in 1522.

“Defensor Pacis” first appeared in 1324 and triggered a gale of controversy. It was a foundational work for the modern doctrine of sovereignty. “Defensor Pacis” was written during the political struggle between Louis IV (the Holy Roman Emperor) and Pope John XXII, with Marsilius of Padua’s anti-clerical treatise assisting Louis IV’s dispute against Pope John XXII’s claim of authority over the Holy Roman Empire.

The work follows in the tradition of Dante Alighieri’s “De Monarchia,” in which Marsilius believed the secular State should be separated from religious authority and the power of the Papacy should be greatly limited including: jurisdiction, temporal matters, and authority of excommunications, interdictions, and interpretations of divine law. Furthermore, Marsilius proposed a seizure of church property and suppression of tithes.

The controversial work was censured by Pope Benedict XII and Pope Clement VI. However, the work remained influential and, in 1535, William Marshall was commissioned by Thomas Cromwell to translate “Defensor Pacis” into English to support the implementation of the Act of Supremacy, which had passed in 1534.