City of God


Saint Augustine of Hippo (354–430) is generally considered one of the greatest Christian thinkers of all time. He was born in Thagaste (present-day Souq Ahras, Algeria) in Roman-ruled Africa, the son of a pagan father and a Christian mother (Saint Monica). After studying in Carthage and teaching rhetoric in his native city, he moved to Rome in 383 and to Milan in 384. Under the influence of his mother and Ambrose, bishop of Milan, he converted to Christianity in 387. He was ordained a priest in 391 and rose to become Bishop of Hippo (present-day Annaba, Algeria). He wrote more than 100 works, of which his Confessiones (Confessions) and De civitate dei (City of God) are the best known. In De civitate dei, Augustine set out to refute the pagan claim that the sacking of Rome by the Visigoths in 410, an event that profoundly shook the Roman world, was caused by the rise of Christianity. The fundamental problem that Augustine grappled with is the spiritual church in a secular world: the city of God in the city of this world. Enormously influential in the Middle Ages, De civitate dei continues to be read and studied by theologians and philosophers. Shown here is the 1475 printing by Nicolas Jenson. A native of France, Jenson was one of the most important printers in 15th-century Venice. Between about 1470 and 1480, he produced approximately 150 books. The quality of his work greatly influenced the revival of fine printing in Britain in the 19th century. This copy is the oldest volume in the John M. Kelly Library at Saint Michael's College, University of Toronto.

Last updated: January 7, 2014