At Italy On This Day you will read about events and festivals, about important moments in history, and about the people who have made Italy the country it is today, and where they came from. Italy is a country rich in art and music, fashion and design, food and wine, sporting achievement and political diversity. Italy On This Day provides fascinating insights to help you enjoy it all the more.

14 January 2019

Alberico Gentili – international lawyer

Academic gave the world its first system of jurisprudence

Alberico Gentili moved to London after becoming a Protestant
Alberico Gentili moved to London after
becoming a Protestant
Alberico Gentili, who is regarded as one of the founders of the science of international law, was born on this day in 1552 in San Ginesio in the province of Macerata in Marche.

He was the first European academic to separate secular law from Roman Catholic theology and canon law and the earliest to write about public international law.

He became Regius Professor of Civil Law at the University of Oxford in England and taught there for 21 years.

Gentili graduated as a doctor of civil law in 1572 from the University of Perugia but was exiled from Italy in 1579 and eventually went to live in England because he became a Protestant.

He taught at Oxford from 1581 until his death in 1608 and became well-known for his lectures on Roman law and his writing on legal topics.

In 1588 Gentili published De jure belli commentatio prima - First Commentary on the Law of War. This was revised in 1598 to become Three Books on the Law of War, which contained a comprehensive discussion on the laws of war and treaties.

Gentili advised Queen Elizabeth I of England
Gentili advised Queen
Elizabeth I of England
Gentili believed international law should comprise the actual practices of civilised nations, tempered by moral, but not specifically religious, considerations.

Although he rejected the authority of the church, he used the reasoning of the canon law as well as the civil law whenever it suited his purpose.

The Dutch jurist Hugo Grotius, who wrote On the Law of War and Peace in 1625, drew extensively on Gentili’s work.

Legal scholars say Gentili was the first to attempt to provide the world with anything like a regular system of natural jurisprudence.

In 1584 Queen Elizabeth I’s ministers called on Gentili and another expert in international law, Jean Hotman, to advise them on how to deal with the Spanish ambassador in London, Don Bernardino de Mendoza, who was implicated in a conspiracy against the Queen.

De Mendoza was suspected of being involved in the Throckmorton Plot, which was a conspiracy to replace Elizabeth on the throne with her Catholic cousin, Mary Queen of Scots and to restore Catholicism to England.

The Church of St Helen Bishopsgate in the City of London, where Gentili is buried
The Church of St Helen Bishopsgate in the City of
London, where Gentili is buried
Elizabeth’s Privy Council wanted De Mendoza tried for treason but they weren’t sure of the legality of this move.

Gentili and Hotman’s legal advice was that ambassadors were protected by diplomatic immunity ‘infallibly within the sanctuarie of the lawe of nations.’ They said the Privy Council’s only recourse was to order the recall of De Mendoza. Their advice was followed and when Mendoza ignored the order, he was transported to Calais.

From about 1590 Gentili practiced in the High Court of Admiralty in London where continental civil law rather than common English Law was applied.

In 1600 he was called to the Honourable Society of Gray’s Inn, one of the four Inns of Court in London.

Gentili died in London in 1608 and was buried in the Church of St Helen Bishopsgate in the City of London.

The square in the centre of San Ginesio in the Marche region, where Gentili was born
The square in the centre of San Ginesio in the Marche
region, where Gentili was born
Travel tip:

San Ginesio, where Gentili was born, is a town of 3,500 inhabitants in the province of Macerata in the Marche region, about 60 km (37 miles), southwest of Ancona. It is surrounded by imposing 14th century castle walls with all the defensive structures of the period still visible.  Buildings of note in the town include the Ospedale dei Pellegrini - The Hospital of the Pilgrims of St. Paul - a 13th century building with a low-column portico and loggia,and the Collegiate Church of San Ginesio, which has a noteworthy  terracotta decoration attributed to Enrico Alemanno, the only Florentine gothic style work in the Marche region.

Hotels in San Ginesio from

The Piazza della Repubblica in Perugia
The Piazza della Repubblica in Perugia
Travel tip:

Gentili graduated from the 14th century University of Perugia, in the capital city of the region of Umbria. A stunning sight on a hilltop, Perugia, which was one of the main Etruscan cities of Italy, is also home to a second university for foreign students learning Italian.  Some 34,000 students bolster the population each year. Perugia is a notable centre for culture and the arts, hosting the world-renowned Umbria Jazz Festival each July. It also hosts a chocolate festival – Perugia being the home of the Perugina chocolate company, famous for Baci.  The artist Pietro Vannucci, commonly known as Perugino, lived in nearby Città della Pieve and was the teacher of Raphael.

Hotels in Perugia from

More reading:

The medieval lawyer who wrote more than 3,000 opinions

Giuseppe 'Peppino' Prisco - lawyer and football administrator

The feast day of Ercolano, patron saint of Perugia

Also on this day:

1451: The birth of Franchino Gaffurio

1883: The birth of dress designer Nina Ricci

1919: The birth of political survivor Giulio Andreotti


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