Dudith, Andreas

Dizionario di eretici, dissidenti e inquisitori nel mondo mediterraneo [ISBN 978-88-942416-0-0]

Andreas Dudith (Sbardellatus) (Buda, 16 February 1533 - Wrocław, 22 February 1589).


Dudith was born to a newly-ennobled Croatian father Hieronymus, who died untimely, and an Italian mother Magdalena Sbardellati who had Venetian patrician origins. His uncle Agostino Sbardellati († 1552), bishop of Vác was one of the most powerful councillors of Emperor Ferdinand I, who initially financed Dudith’s studies through church benefices. Dudith first studied at the cathedral school of Wrocław, then from 1551 in Italy, probably along with his two brothers. His Italian cousins from Rovereto may have eased his entry into the literary circles of Northern Italy and especially that of Cardinal Reginald Pole. By 1552 he had already corresponded with Paolo Manuzio and had also probably contacted other members of the Italian evangelical movement. In 1553 he left Italy and, as Reginald Pole’s secretary, visited Brussels and London, and studied Greek and philosophy in Paris (c. 1554-7). In 1556, in order to fund his studies, he contacted Celio Secondo Curione. Dudith wanted Curione to act as an intermediary between himself and Matteo Gribaldi Mofa, with whom he wished to study, but Dudith’s endeavours ultimately failed. Dudith claimed he could easily obtain the backing of Roman prelates, but he felt he was different from them in religion and habits. Dudith later returned to Padua (1558) and was able to spend another period (1559-60) there with the support of Nicolaus Olahus, archbishop of Hungary. He returned to Italy with the excuse of legal studies, but engaged in fact with Greek philology. By that time, not only he had established excellent contacts with French scholars, but he also had studied shoulder to shoulder with the best humanists in the circles of Gian Vincenzo Pinelli and Paolo Manuzio. Among them, Michele Sofianòsbecame his closest study partner. For Manuzio’s press he published the Latin translation of Dionysius Halicarnasseus’s commentaries on Thucydides (De Thucydidis historia iudicium), which was its first printed work. In the preface to this edition he commented upon his conception of history, his translation methods, and announced his other translation projects (described by Costil), which never saw the light. It was presumably also in this period that he wrote his Latin paraphrase of the fifth oration of Themistius, written in support of religious tolerance. The work was published in 1605 by Georg Rehm as Themistius’s lost oration to Emperor Valens.


Back to Hungary, Dudith was appointed secretary to Archbishop Olahus. It was after the recommendation of Zaccaria Dolfin (papal legate in Vienna) that Emperor Ferdinand decided to send him to the Council of Trent offering him a (nominal) bishopric title (December 1561). While in Trent (1562-63), his speeches supporting communion in both kinds for the laity had great success among the reform-minded. Dudith also prepared an oration for the abolition of celibacy, and allegedly circulated some writings on Erasmus. Encouraged to do so by Stanislaus Hosius and Giovanni Morone, he translated into Latin the manuscript biography of Reginald Pole by Ludovico Beccadelli, to which he added details of some of his personal experiences. This was just another means of resisting the conservative orientation of the pope.

Diplomacy and marriage

While in Vienna (1563-65), Dudith (who held the bishopric of Pécs) soon became one of the most trusted councillors to Emperor Ferdinand († 1564) and preserved his influence also under Maximilian II. Although he was apparently appointed vice-chancellor of Hungary, he could not take up the office, probably because of Archbishop Olahus. Instead, he was sent on a diplomatic mission to Cracow with the secret aim of preparing Habsburg succession in Poland. Given that his political and ecclesiastical ambitions remained unfulfilled, in 1567he eventually decided to marry his lover Regina Straszówna (the queen’s lady-in-waiting). Although the emperor was shocked, just as the larger public, Dudith was not removed from service. He was given an annual stipend while the Polish king provided him security (through an indigénat) against the Inquisition, which had put him on trial, condemned,and executed him in effigie. He invested his money in some manors and resumed his scholarly activity with a new interest in astronomy. While his scandalous marriage made him a target of Protestant groups, it also allowed him to reveal (secretly and temporarily) his fascination towardsAntitrinitarianism. The death of Sigismund II Augustus (1572) and the election campaigns that followed offered him an opportunity for political rehabilitation. In 1574, after his beloved wife’s death, he married the wealthy Elisabeth of the powerful Zborowski family. Although his election campaigns for Maximilian failed, he was duly compensated and could buy large estates in Moravia in 1576. Yet, country life did not please him and in 1579, he sold his estates and moved to Wrocław, living on different investments and his yearly pension (being officially still an agent of Rudolf II) and dedicating his time to studies and his large network of learned friends.

The fight for religious tolerance and the zeal for sciences

In 1569-70, as a reaction to the approach of the Calvinists, Dudith launched a fierce attack against Protestant intolerance, addressing letter-treatises to theologians Johann Wolf and Theodore Beza. He harshly condemned the persecutions of anyone because of questions of faith, the arrogance typifying the new churches and the way the Scripture was appropriated by everyone for his own purposes. He said to be desperate about people denouncing each other as heretics, especially as religious divisions had already turned nations against each other. His letters circulated widely and one of them, addressed to Beza, also got published as an attachment to an edition of a work authored by Mino Celsi (first by Perna in 1577). The period of religious disputes did not last long, and Dudith later tried to get on good terms with Beza. His main interest slowly shifted toward mathematical sciences (astronomy and medicine) as fields where, relying on experience and observation, truth claims could be better founded than in theology or philosophy. Although he remained an amateur in astronomy, he had friends like Paul Wittich or Tadeáš Hájek with whom he was able to discuss matters of advanced astronomy, including the Copernican system. His most famous scientific contribution is a tract against cometary astrology, also published by Perna in 1579 and 1580, where he claimed that human and natural phenomena had their own direct causes that needed to be searched in relevant fields.


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  • Lech Szczucki, Ars dissimulandi. (Andrzeja Dudycza rozstanie z Kościołem) [A. D. parting from the Church], in Kultura polska a kultura europejska, ed. Maria Bogucka and Jerzy Kowecki, Państ. Wydaw. Naukowe, Warsaw 1987, pp. 189-204.
  • Lech Szczucki, Some Remarks on Andrew Dudith’s Mental World, in György Enyedi and Central European Unitarianism in the 16-17th centuries, ed. Mihály Balázs, Balassi Kiadó, Budapest 2000, pp. 347-354.
  • Cesare Vasoli, Andreas Dudith-Sbardellati e la disputa sulle comete, in Id., I miti e gli astri, Guida, Naples 1977, pp. 351-387.

Article written by Gábor Almási; English revision by Gianmarco Braghi Ereticopedia.org © 2017

et tamen e summo, quasi fulmen, deicit ictos
invidia inter dum contemptim in Tartara taetra
invidia quoniam ceu fulmine summa vaporant
plerumque et quae sunt aliis magis edita cumque

[Lucretius, De rerum natura, lib. V]