Francisco de Vitoria

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Francisco de Vitoria

Francisco de Vitoria (or Victoria), OP (c. 1483, Vitoria-Gasteiz – 12 August 1546, Salamanca),[1] was a Spanish Renaissance Roman Catholic philosopher, theologian and jurist, founder of the tradition in philosophy known as the School of Salamanca, noted especially for his contributions to the theory of just war and international law. He has in the past been described by some scholars as the "father of international law", though contemporary academics have suggested that such a description is anachronistic, since the concept of international law did not truly develop until much later.[2][3] Because of Vitoria's conception of a "republic of the whole world" (res publica totius orbis) he recently has been labeled "founder of global political philosophy".[4] Still, Vitoria is called one of the founders of international law along with Alberico Gentili and Hugo Grotius.


Francisco had Jewish converso ancestry and was raised in Burgos.[5] He became a Dominican in 1504, and was educated at the College Saint-Jacques in Paris, where he met Erasmus and went on to teach theology from 1515 (under the influences of Pierre Crockaert and Thomas Cajetan). In 1523 he returned to Spain to teach theology at the monastery of Saint Gregory at Valladolid. Three years later, he was elected to the Prime Chair of theology at the University of Salamanca, where he was instrumental in promoting Thomism (the philosophy and theology of St. Thomas Aquinas) until 1546. He renewed the methods of theology and natural or public law.

A noted scholar, he was publicly consulted by Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain. He worked to limit the type of power the Spanish empire imposed on the Native Peoples. He said, "The upshot of all the preceding is this, then, that the aborigines undoubtedly had true dominion in both public and private matters, just like Christians, and that neither their princes nor private persons could be despoiled of their property on the ground of their not being true owners." Thomas E. Woods goes on to describe how some wished to argue that the natives lacked reason, but the evidence was against this because the natives had obvious customs, laws, and a form of government.[2] His works are known only from his lecture notes, as he has published nothing in his lifetime. Nevertheless, his influence such as that on the Dutch legal philosopher Hugo Grotius was significant.[6] Relectiones XII Theologicae in duo libros distinctae was published posthumously (Antwerp, 1604).[7]


Francisco de Vitoria, Statue before San Esteban, Salamanca
Statue of Francisco de Vitoria, in Vitoria-Gasteiz

Notes of his lectures from 1527-1540 were copied by students and published under the following titles:

  • De potestate civili, 1528
  • Del Homicidio, 1530
  • De matrimonio, 1531
  • De potestate ecclesiae I and II, 1532
  • De Indis, 1532
  • De Jure belli Hispanorum in barbaros, 1532
  • De potestate papae et concilii, 1534
  • Relectiones Theologicae, 1557
  • Summa sacramentorum Ecclesiae, 1561
  • De Indis et De Jure Belli (1917 translation of a large part of the Relectiones Theologicae)

Critical translations[edit]

  • Francisco de Vitoria: political writings, translated by Jeremy Lawrance, ed. Jeremy Lawrance and Anthony Pagden (Cambridge University Press, 1991)


  1. ^ The Catholic Encyclopedia. NY: Robert Appleton Company. 1910. 
  2. ^ a b Woods, Thomas E. (Jr.) (2005). How The Catholic Church Built Western Civilization. Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing. ISBN 0-89526-038-7. 
  3. ^ Pagden, Anthony (1991). Vitoria: Political Writings (Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought). UK: Cambridge University Press. p. xvi. ISBN 0-521-36714-X. 
  4. ^ Johannes Thumfart: Die Begründung der globalpolitischen Philosophie. Zu Francisco de Vitorias "relectio de indis recenter inventis" von 1539. Berlin 2009. (256 p.).
  5. ^ Domínguez Ortiz, Antonio (1992). Los judeoconversos en España y América (in Spanish) (paperback ed.). Madrid: Editorial MAPFRE. p. 292. ISBN 978-84-7100-353-9. 
  6. ^ Borschberg, Peter (2011). Hugo Grotius, the Portuguese and Free Trade in the East Indies. Singapore and Leiden: NUS Press and KITLV Press. ISBN 978-9971-69-467-8. 
  7. ^ Ernest Nys, introduction to Francisco de Vitoria, De Indis et Ivre Belli, English translation of a substantial portion of Relectiones XII Theologicae, available online.


  • Johannes Thumfart: Die Begründung der globalpolitischen Philosophie. Zu Francisco de Vitorias "relectio de indis recenter inventis" von 1539. Berlin 2009. (256 pp.).

External links[edit]