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Bellarmine, Robert (1542–1621)

  1. Ron J. Bigalke Jr.

Published Online: 25 NOV 2011

DOI: 10.1002/9780470670606.wbecc0140

The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization

How to Cite

Bigalke, R. J. 2011. Bellarmine, Robert (1542–1621). The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 25 NOV 2011


Robert Bellarmine, a distinguished Italian Jesuit, was born the son of a noble family in Monte-pulciano in southeast Tuscany on October 4, 1542, and died of failing health on September 17, 1621. In 1560, he began his studies at the Collegio Romano. He then studied Thomistic theology at the University of Padua. In 1569, Bellarmine taught divinity at the University of Louvain and was ordained priest the following year. In 1576, he was recalled to Italy and assigned the chair of Controversies recently founded at the Collegio Romano (where he originally studied theology). Bellarmine established Thomistic theology as foundational for the Jesuit order and eventually for all theological education of Roman Catholicism (although his doctrine of free will is closer to Molina). The series of lectures delivered at the Collegio Romano became Bellarmine's most influential writings under the title Disputationes de Controversiis Christianae Fidei Adversus Huius Temporis Haereticos (1586–1593; “Disputations Concerning the Controversies of the Christian Faith against the Heretics of this Time”). De Controversiis was an articulate and uncompromising systematization of Roman Catholic doctrine. His work could rightly be considered the most detailed defense of Romanist teaching; it was influential in Europe, and was a serious challenge to Protestantism especially in Germany and England. Bellarmine was a resolute opponent toward Protestantism and quickly became the leading apologist of the Catholic Church during the Counter-Reformation. As a shrewd controversialist on the side of Rome, he refined the futurist interpretation of Jesuit Francisco Ribera of Salamanca, Spain against the dominant historical interpretation of the Protestant Reformers.


  • Bellarmine, Robert (1542–1621);
  • distinguished Italian jesuit;
  • Thomistic theology;
  • foundational, jesuit order;
  • Spiritual father, of the collegio romano;
  • papal power, unlimited authority