Encyclopedia of Renaissance Philosophy

Living Edition
| Editors: Marco Sgarbi

Juan de Segovia

Born: ca. 1393, probably Segovia
Died: 1458, Aiton
  • Dennis PulinaEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-02848-4_1192-1


Juan de Segovia was a Spanish theologian, best known for his role at the Council of Basel, as well as for his thoughts on a peaceful, rational resolution to the conflict between Christianity and Islam.



Little is known about Juan de Segovia’s early life. He began his studies at the University of Salamanca in 1407 and graduated with a baccalaureus from the Faculty of Arts in 1418. He was then appointed to a chair, most likely to interpret the scriptures. The title of magister in sacra pagina was bestowed upon him in 1422, and in 1432 he became magister in artibus. To confirm new statutes, he represented the University in 1421 before the Pope, and in 1427/1428 he became a papal referendarius in Rome. As part of the entourage of Juan II of Castile and León, he arrived in Medina del Campo in 1431, where he had a formative conversation with the Muslim ambassador of the Emir of Granada about Christians and Muslims. His time at the Council of Basel, where he was appointed in his own right in 1433, then in 1434 as a representative of the University of Salamanca, was a significant period in his life. He died in 1458 as Titular Archbishop of Caesarea in Aiton.

Heritage and Rupture with the Tradition

At the Council, he mainly represented the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary and devoted himself to theological issues associated with the Hussites and the Orthodox Church.

Later on, he began work on a monumental history of the Council and wrote ecclesiological works, including the Liber de magna auctoritate episcoporum in concilio generali, in which he considers the episcopal college as a mediating authority between the papacy and the Council. Due to the question of superiority between the Council and the Pope in Basel, de Segovia endorsed the election of Felix V as antipope. He argued for the Church as a corpus mysticum, whose head is Christ.

Motivated in particular by the fall of Constantinople, de Segovia dealt intensively with Islam from 1453 onwards. Opposing to the idea of Crusades, his important work De gladio divini spiritus in corda mittendo Sarracenorum is an expression of his policy of a via pacis et doctrinae for mediating with non-Christians. Although he accuses the Saracens of having a false image of Christianity, particularly because they charged Christians with idol worship and polytheism, de Segovia recognizes some true teachings in the Quran, noting that there are commonalities between the religions. On this basis, as well as due to his experiences in Spain, de Segovia pleads for intellectual discussions among scholars.

Innovative and Original Aspects

In his portrayal of Islam, de Segovia draws on many medieval elements, reproaching Islam in particular with an affinity for violence, a lax sexual morality, and the promise of a sensual paradise. In addition to further developing these arguments, he bases his reflections solely on the Quran, using no other sources, and clearly separates his argumentation into description, analysis, and refutation (De gladio, ed. Roth 2012). For this purpose, he studied Islam with great care and even had a trilingual edition of the Quran made in Arabic, Castilian, and Latin (which is now lost).


Primary Literature

  1. Johannes von Segovia. 1995. Liber de magna auctoritate episcoporum in concilio generali, ed. Rolf de Kegel. Freiburg (CH): Universitätsverlag.Google Scholar
  2. Johannes von Segovia. 2012. De gladio divini spiritus in corda mittendo Saracenorum, ed. Ulli Roth. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.Google Scholar

Secondary Literature

  1. Diener, Hermann. 1965. Zur Persönlichkeit des Johannes von Segovia. Ein Beitrag zur Methode der Auswertung päpstlicher Register des späten Mittelalters. Quellen und Forschungen aus italienischen Archiven und Bibliotheken 44: 289–365.Google Scholar
  2. Fromherz, Uta. 1960. Johannes von Segovia als Geschichtsschreiber des Konzils von Basel. Basel et al.: Helbing & Lichtenhahn.Google Scholar
  3. Mann, Jesse D. 2002. Truth and consequences: Juan de Segovia on Islam and Conciliarism. Medieval Encounters 8: 79–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Roth, Ulli. 2014. Juan of Segovia’s translation of the Qur’ān. Al-Qanṭara 35 (/2): 555–578.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Wolf, Anne Marie. 2014. Juan de Segovia and the fight for peace: Christians and Muslims in the fifteenth century. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Greek and Latin PhilologyAlbert-Ludwigs-Universität FreiburgFreiburg im BreisgauGermany

Section editors and affiliations

  • Alejandro Coroleu
    • 1
  1. 1.Faculty of Arts. Building B, Campus UAB, Department: Catalan LanguageUniversitat Autònoma de BarcelonaBellaterra (Cerdanyola), BarcelonaSpain