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Francisco de Vitoria

Francisco de Vitoria

[vi-tawr-ee-uh, -tohr-; Sp. bee-taw-ryah]

Francisco de Vitoria (Francisci de Victoria; c. 1492 – 12 August, 1546) was a Spanish Renaissance Roman Catholic philosopher and theologian, founder of the tradition in philosophy known as the School of Salamanca, noted especially for his contributions to the theory of just war and international law. He is considered the "father of international law".


Francisco had Jewish converso ancestry. He became a Dominican in 1504, and was educated at the College Saint-Jacques in Paris, where he met Erasmus and went on to teach theology from 1515 (under the influences of Pierre Crockaert and Thomas Cardinal Cajetan). In 1523 he returned to Spain to teach theology at the monastery of St. Gregory at Valladolid. Three years later, he was elected to the Prime Chair of theology at the University of Salamanca, where he was instrumental in promoting Thomism (the philosophy and theology of St. Thomas Aquinas) until 1546. He renewed the methods of theology and natural or public law.

A noted scholar, he was publicly consulted by Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain. An important part of his influence was the justification of the imposition of Spanish imperial power over the indigenous inhabitants of America, although he was not as thoroughgoing in these justifications as the emperor might have liked. His works are known only from his lecture notes, he himself having published nothing in his lifetime, nevertheless his influence, such as on the Dutch legal philosopher, Hugo Grotius, was significant; Relectiones XII Theologicae in duo libros distinctae was published posthumously (Antwerp, 1604).


Notes of his lectures from 1527-1540 were copied by students and published under the following titles:

  • De potestate civili, 1528
  • Del Homicidio, 1530
  • De matrimonio, 1531
  • De potestate ecclesiae I and II, 1532
  • De Indis, 1532
  • De Jure belli Hispanorum in barbaros, 1532
  • De potestate papae et concilii, 1534
  • Relectiones Theologicae, 1557
  • Summa sacramentorum Ecclesiae, 1561
  • De Indis De Jure Belli (1917 translation of a large part of the Relectiones Theologicae)


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