1304 – 1374
Francesco Petrarca, known as Petrarch in English, was one of Italy’s great scholars, poets, and writers of the middle ages. Petrarch was born in Arezzo, but his family moved to Avignon in the south of France when he was young. His father, a lawyer, insisted Petrarch study law, even though his interests were in Latin and literature.
He studied law in France and in Bologna, but eventually focused his attention on his studies of classical authors. He travelled extensively throughout Europe in search of classical manuscripts, and through his writings explored the connections between classical culture and Christianity. By bringing these two contrasting ideals together in his writing, Petrarch became the founder of the great Renaissance intellectual movement called Humanism.
Petrarch’s contribution to poetry is also immense. At a young age, he saw a woman named Laura in the Church of St. Clare in Avignon, and thus began his famous chaste love. Throughout his life, he worked on a series of poems, today called the Il Canzoniere, in which he wrote about his love for Laura. While he wrote predominately in Latin, his poems to Laura were written in the vernacular Italian. These poems would go on to inspire the Renaissance flowering of lyric poetry