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Definition: Arnold of Brescia from Chambers Biographical Dictionary


Italian churchman and politician

Born at Brescia, he was possibly educated in France under Peter Abelard. He became a monk, but his preaching against the wealth and power of the Church led to his banishment from Italy (1139). He returned to Rome in 1145 and became involved in an insurrection against the papal government, which continued for some 10 years. When this movement failed, he fled, but was captured by the forces of Emperor Frederick I, Barbarossa, brought to Rome, condemned for heresy, and hanged.

  • Greenaway, G W Arnold of Brescia (new ed, 1977).

Summary Article: Arnold of Brescia
from The Columbia Encyclopedia

(brĕsh'Ә), c.1090–1155, Italian monk and reformer, b. Brescia. A priest of irreproachable life, Arnold studied at Paris, where according to tradition he was a pupil of Peter Abelard. He first gained prominence in a struggle at Brescia between the bishop and the city government. Arnold became sharply critical of the church, declaring that secular powers only ought to hold property; he opposed the possession of property by the church because he believed it was being tainted by its temporal power. At the Synod of Sens (1140), dominated by St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Arnold and Abelard were adjudged to be in error. Abelard submitted, but Arnold continued to preach. Pope Innocent II ordered Arnold exiled and his books burned. In 1145, Pope Eugene III ordered him to go to Rome in penitence. There the people had asserted the rights of the commune and had set up a republic. Arnold was attracted to their cause and became their leader, eloquently pleading for liberty and democratic rights. The republicans under Arnold forced Eugene into temporary exile (1146). Arnold was excommunicated by the pope in 1148 but continued to head the republican city-state even after Eugene III was permitted to reenter Rome. When Adrian IV became pope, however, he took stern measures. By placing Rome under an interdict in Holy Week, 1155, he forced the exile of Arnold. When Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I came to Rome, his forces at the pope's request seized Arnold, who was then tried by the Roman Curia as a political rebel (not a heretic) and executed by secular authorities. To the end he was idolized by the Roman populace.

The Columbia Encyclopedia, © Columbia University Press 2018

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