Feast Day: April 04
This medieval scholar of Seville, Spain, was from a noble family that was probably of Roman origin. Two of his brothers, Leander and Fulgentius, are saints, as is his sister Florentina. He followed his brother Leander as bishop of Seville and during his forty years as bishop he succeeded in converting the cultural depredations and religious beliefs of the Visigoths (barbaric tribes) from Arianism to Catholicism.
An outstanding educator, Isidore founded an institute at Seville for the formation of the clergy and the laity and was its first master. The school became famous throughout Spain. At the Fourth Council of Toledo in 633, he called for toleration of Jews, uniformity in the liturgy, and close cooperation between Church and State. Additionally, it was agreed that bishops would establish seminaries in their cathedral cities, ensuring that an enlightened education would counteract the dangers of barbarism. The study of Greek and Hebrew was compulsory, but interest in law and medicine was also encouraged. These centers of learning were the forerunner of the famous universities.
Isidore was a prodigious writer and an erudite scholar of the literature of the Eastern Church. He was a great admirer of Origen and from among his many literary works the two most significant are “History of the Goths” and the “Book of Etymologies.” The latter work was greatly appreciated in the Middle Ages as an encyclopedia of all human knowledge. He completed the composition of the Mozarabic Missal and Breviary that had been started by his brother Leander. The Mozarabic liturgy is still in use in Toledo, Spain. This great scholar and educator ranks on a par with Saint Gregory the Great, Cassiodorus and Boethius.
Isidore was considered the most learned man of his age and the last of the ancient Christian philosophers. His influence on education in medieval Spain was incalculable. Given posthumous honors by the Eighth Council of Toledo in 653, he was canonized by Pope Clement VIII in 1598 and declared a Doctor of the Church in 1722 by Pope Innocent XIII. In liturgical art, he is depicted as a bishop, holding a pen and is considered the patron saint of computers and the Internet.
“Reading the Holy Scriptures confers two benefits. It trains the mind to understand them; it turns man’s attention from the follies of this world and leads him to the love of God.”
—St. Isidore, from “The Book of Sentences”
Bunson, Matthew, Margaret Bunson, and Stephen Bunson. “Encyclopedia of Saints-Revised.” Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor, 2003.
Heritage, Andrew, ed. “The Book of Saints: A Day-By-Day Illustrated Encyclopedia.” San Francisco: Weldonowen, 2012.
Lodi, Enzo. “Saints of the Roman Calendar.” New York: Alba House, 1992.