Peter Ransanus
1428 - 1492

A brief biography.

Pietro Ranzano (1428-1492) was a Dominican friar, historian, humanist and scholar who is best known for his work, 'De primordiis et progressu felicis Urbis Panormi', a history of the city of Palermo from its beginnings up until the contemporary period in which Ranzano was writing.[1]
The composition is influenced to some extent by humanistic conceptions of historical research, offers glimpses into the world view of a Sicilian intellectual of the Renaissance period on Jews and Jewish culture, as well as Sicily’s past.

Pietro Ranzano was born in 1428 in Ranzano in Sicily. He studied Latin at the school of humanist Antonio Cassarino, who at the time was a teacher of young children (magister scholae parvulorum) in Palermo.[2]
Like other scholars of his era, he would study at various institutions which were headed by various masters such as Pietro Arentino in Florence, Tommaso Pontano in Perguia, and Vitaliano Borromeo and Pietro Candido Decembro in Milan and Pavia.[3]

Ranzano would go on to join the Dominican Order at the age of sixteen and by the time he was twenty-eight, he had become Provincial of the Dominicans in Sicily from 1455 till 1459 and from 1463 till 1567.  Around the year 1464, Ranzano would be appointed Papal Nuncio in the kingdom of Sicily and he would be entrusted with the organization of the crusade against the Turks in conjunction with preaching and collecting funds for the aforementioned crusade.[4]
While in Palermo, Ranzano taught at the Dominican College. Ranzano’s personality and education influenced his work, creating a particular mixture of secular and religious learning that arguably can be perceived as the hallmark of Sicilian humanism.
In 1478 he was appointed Bishop of Lucera in Apulia, Italy.

Petrus Ransanus was as delegate of King Ferdinand of Napoli two years at the Hungarian court, where he gave an address to King Matthias and his consort Beatrix in 1488. This major event is depicted in a miniature of the end of the 15th century made in the South of Italy.

King Matthias acquired a magnificent library holding over two thousand volumes with codices containing the finest miniatures, known as Bibliotheca Corvina.

Ransanus would proffer his work ‘Epitome rerum Hungaricarum’ illuminated with many miniatures (finished about 1480) to King Matthias, but the King died in 1490, and so the autograph remained in Dominican possession and was never part of the Bibliotheca Corvina.
Only a tenth of the Bibliotheca Corvina survives today, dispersed over 43 cities in the world.

History of Palermo .

Pietro Ranzano’s work 'History of Palermo' were very popular in the time in which they were written. However, his account of Palermo’s history served as a model for later Sicilian historians. The composition was written in first person and it includes various personal earmarks such as Ranzano illustrating his own ideas and spending a great deal of time on his search for ancient sources and his efforts to pursue his story by all possible means. The writing utilizes foundation legends which epitomize the way in which narratives on the origins of cities were formulated.[5]

Ranzano’s investigations with regards to attempting to learn of the origins of Palermo (circa quista origini di la mia patria), place him in the context of the prevailing quest in the Renaissance era for sources (ad fontes) and his quest would lead him to an inscription which he would assume to be "Chaldean" characters which were inscribed on a tower which stood above the Porta Patitelli in Palermo.[6]

The inscription would later be discovered to be a forgery therefore rendering Ranzano’s deduction that the city of Palermo originated from the Chaldeans as erroneous. However, the writing he composed is still important as it gives an insight as to the views held by Sicilian intellectual elite’s near the time of the expulsion of the Jews from Sicily.

Ranzano and the Jews.

If looking at Ranzano’s writings of the Jews on the surface, one would conclude that it presents an image of positive relations between Jews and Christians in Palermo. However, looking deeper into his descriptions reveals that he perceives local Jews as holding an ancestral memory of the Chaldean inscription but not having historical evidence to back up their ‘memories’ of the past; they told Ranzano about the existence of an ancient book but they had no copy of it.

In contrast, a Pisan Jew, Isaac Guglielmo, who owned the book which the local Jews where referring to and showed it to Ranzano.[7] Correlating with Augustinian tradition, Ranzano would perceive the Jews as custodians of the past who could corroborate the writings in the inscription.

Death and Legacy .

Ranzano’s History of Palermo remains the only Sicilian historical account which takes a significant look at the Jews as well as Jewish culture. The composition offers a look at Jews and Christians with regard to cultural encounters in fifteenth-century Sicily.
The story of Palermo exhibits many of the facets of the Renaissance culture of that period. In addition, the history illustrates the sophistication of an area which was at a cultural crossroads between Italy and the Hispanic world along with facing adversity with regard to various ethnic groups presence; most notably the Muslims and the Jews.

Ranzano’s death on 1491 marks the end of an era, that being of multicultural Sicily as that year would coincide with expulsion of the Jews from Sicily.

The Dominican historian Pietro Ranzano  wrote the first biography abut the Dominican Vincent Ferrer ((23.1.1350-5.4.1419).


1.^ Morso, Salvatore. Descrizione di Palermo antico. Ricavata sugli autori sincroni e i monumenti de’ tempi. Palermo: Lorenzo Dato, 1827.
2.^ Figliuolo, Bruno. La cultura a Napoli nel secondo Quattrocento. Ritratti di protagonisti. Udine: Forum, 1997.
3.^ Zeldes, Nadia. 2006. "The Last Multi-Cultural Encounter in Medieval Sicily: A Dominican Scholar, an Arabic Inscription, and a Jewish Legend." Mediterranean Historical Review 21 (2): 159-91., 160.
4.^ Simonsohn, Shlomo. The Apostolic See and the Jews. 10 vols. Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1990.
5.^ Bietenholz, Peter Gerard. Historia and Fabula. Myths and Legends in Historical Thought from Antiquity to the Modern Age. Leiden: Brill, 1994.
6.^ Fazello, Tommaso. De rebus siculis decades duae. Palermo, 1560.
7.^ Zeldes, 177.

Bibliography, see Wikipedia.  Retrieved from Wikipedia. February 2009.

Peter Ransanus and the Hungarian King Matthias I Hunyadi.

Peter Ransanus had connections with the Hungary’s most significant, and certainly most popular King Matthias I Hunyadi (23 February 1443, - King 24 January 1458 - 6 April 1490). He is also known as Matthias Corvinus for the black raven in his crest, lives on in numerous legends and children’s tales. He was elected King with the acclamation of the country’s noblemen in the middle of the frozen River Danube, and proved a strong ruler against the wilful lords, securing the support of the nobility against the barons.

He established centralized rule, increased taxes, and set up a permanent mercenary army, which, as the “Black Army”, became the stuff of many legends.
After he succeeded in securing the southern border against the Turks, he marched against Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia, which he was able to hold until his death. In 1485 he took Wien, and thus made Austria a province of his Kingdom.

Matthias was a fierce man who did not shy away from involving himself in diplomatic intrigues, and he stood as one of Europe’s wealthy Renaissance sovereigns. With his connections through his second wife, Beatrice of Aragon, daughter of the King of Napoli, he established a Humanist court in Buda that equalled the court of any Italian duke.

In 1448, Peter Ransanus gave an address to King Matthias I and his consort Beatrix. The King ordered works from the leading Italian artists of the time, such as Mantegna, Filippino Lippi, or Pollaiuolo. Perhaps even Botticelli made him paintings, and Verrocchio created two bronze reliefs, and the greatest artist of all, Leonardo da Vinci, painted a Madonna on his order.

On Hunyadi's request Peter Ransanus wrote the 'Epitome Rerum Hungaricarum', 1480.
He would present his work at the Court in Buda, but the King was deceased 6 April 1490.  So his work, known as Climae 248, was preserved in the library of the Dominican priory in Napoli.


Peter Ransanus gave an address to King Matthias I
and his consort Beatrix in 1448. Miniature from
Ransanus’ work :'Epitome Rerum Hungaricarum'
(middle 1480)), South Italy.

Known as Clmae 248, miniature F 17a.

Hungary 1970, Mi 2607, Sc bl 283a.



Known as  ??


Hungary 2008, Mi 5266, Bl 317, Sc - .






Return to   REGISTER A              Return to   HOMEPAGE