Francois Rabelais – Biography of Francois Rabelais

Francois Rabelais He was probably born in Chinon, in La Devinière, an estate located in the French region of Touraine, on a date between 1484 and 1494. The most probable, commonly accepted date is February 4, 1494. However, beyond the biographical uncertainties, his merits as a satirical, comic, ironic and grotesque writer, author of the famous saga of Pantagruel and Gargantua, the two giants of French folklore.

Prominent and controversial figure of the Renaissance, Rabelais He is also considered one of the most influential anti-classists. Licentious monk with a strong personality, often in collision with the official clergy, and also a doctor, he remained a great figure of the humanistic Renaissance, convinced and of great culture, he was also an expert in ancient Greek.

He was born into a wealthy family, his father, the lawyer Antoine Rabelais, was Seneschal de Lerne. According to historians of the time, around 1510 the writer entered the Franciscan monastery of La Baumette, erected off the Maine coast, at the Chanzé Angers castle, where he immediately began to dedicate himself to purely theological studies. Some give it as a pupil at Seuilly Abbey, but there is no confirmation. He was appointed a Franciscan friar at the Puy Saint-Martin convent in Fontenay-le-Comte, where he moved to complete his extensive cultural and theological training, between October 1520 and 1521.
In that period, both in the religious institution and outside of it, Rabelais He was known for his great intellectual gifts, considered by many as a humanist scholar and scholar. With the well-known philologist Guillaume Budé, in those years he maintained a correspondence of great intellectual depth, where the in-depth study of Latin and, above all, of Greek can be seen. Right in that language, the friar stood out and gave evidence in his translations of some of the most important Greek works, from the “History” of Herodotus to the philosophical writings of Galen, which he carried out a few years later.

His fiery personality led him to write and comment on some works in an unorthodox way, being for this reason suspected of heretical tendencies. He was incriminated by the Greek texts that he had in his library, as a result of the prohibition imposed by the Sorbonne on owning books in the Greek language. The Franciscan order used the excuse and ordered his kidnapping. However, Francois Rabelais He managed to escape thanks to the protection he enjoyed by Bishop Geoffroy d’Estissac, who wanted him as his personal secretary, helping him to pass from the Franciscan order to the Benedictine.

The monk began to accompany the bishop on his inspection tours in various French convents. He was staying at the priory of Ligugé, the habitual residence of Geoffroy d’Estissac, he met Jean Bouchet, becoming his friend, and passing through the monastery of Fontenay-le-Comte, he met the noble abbot Antoine Ardillon. He traveled through many provinces of France, and remaining anonymous, he attended some universities, such as those of Bordeaux, Toulouse, d’Orléans and Paris. Around 1527 Rabelais attended the University of Poitiers where he took courses in law. However, he could not bear the monastic rules and in 1528 he gave up the habits.

He passed through the French capital, joined a widow, with whom he would have had two children, and after having started to study medicine, he decided to enroll on September 17, 1530, at the Montpellier Faculty of Medicine. There, the doctor, philologist and former monk, learned about the teachings of Hippocrates and Galen, two of his favorite authors, and in a year he skillfully surpassed the Baccalaureate, becoming a doctor.

From 1532 he practiced as a doctor at the Hôtel-Dieu de Lyon, the center of the French Renaissance. There the atmosphere was ideal for the monk’s literary talent to finally emerge. Meanwhile, he joined some important personalities and continued his scientific publications. That same year came the publication of the first volume of the series that bears his name, which focused on the two bizarre giants drawn from French folklore, Pantagruel and Gargantua. Francois Rabelais I think “Pantagruel“, in 1532, under the pseudonym of Nasier Alcofribas (an anagram of his name). At the same time, he wrote a letter to Erasmus of Rotterdam, in which he declared that all his humanistic descent came from a passion for the philosopher and for his great thoughts. He declared in the letter his will to have tried to reconcile pagan and Christian thought, giving life to the so-called Christian humanism.

The Sorbonne, a true autocratic law of French academicism, blocked and tried to prevent his publications, all of them related to his pseudonym, now known not only in Lyon. With this signature Rabelais also published “Gargantua“, in 1534, which completely takes up the hero protagonist of the French saga, also narrated verbally by the chansonniers of France. His previous book, the one linked to Pantagruel, tells the story of the probable son of the historical protagonist of the saga.

The French author resumed his institutional travels and settled in Rome, accompanied by Jean du Bellay, his protector, in the house of Pope Clement VII. His mentor became a cardinal and was acquitted of the crimes of apostasy and irregularities of which he was accused, together with a large group of prelates of the French clergy, as a result of the operation des Placards, dated 1534, and in connection with a series of communications in open conflict in relation to the Roman clergy.

During the following years, the former monk was still in Rome, this time with his former protector, Geoffroy d’Estissac. From this moment, his return to papal grace began, as evidenced by a letter dated January 17, 1536, sent by Paul III, which included the authorization to Rabelais to practice medicine in any Benedictine monastery, as long as no surgical operations were performed. The French writer chose the monastery of Cardinal du Bellay, in Saint-Maur-des-Fosses.

In 1540, François and Junie, illegitimate children he had Rabelais during their stay in Paris, they were legitimized by Pope Paul III. Having obtained the royal privilege for printing the previous year, in 1546 the former public friar, signing with his real name, the so-called “Third Book“, which takes up the previous two in their entirety, uniting his two heroes, in a choral saga. The following year he retired to Metz, being appointed doctor of the city.

In July 1547 Rabelais he returned to Paris, again in the wake of Cardinal du Bellay. The year later eleven chapters of “Fourth Book“of the saga, before the publication of the complete version, in 1552.

On January 18, 1551, du Bellay awarded Rabelais the parish of Meudon and Saint-Christophe-du-Jambet. However, after two years of official activities, it is not known whether or not the writer has fulfilled his priestly duties. Theologians, however, after the publication of “Fourth Book“He was censored without appeal. On January 7, 1553, therefore, the author resigned as a priest. Francois Rabelais died in Paris shortly after, on April 9, 1553.

In 1562 it was published “Sonnante Island“, which would include some of the chapters of the alleged”Fifth book“From the ex-monk. However, even after the full publication of the work, there are many linguists who have questioned its authenticity. However, they recognize some minor works as autographs, such as the so-called burlesque prophecy”Pantagruelin Forecast” Y “Sciomachia“, a report made to celebrate the birth of a son of King Henry II.