One of the most attractive and amiable characters among the humanists of the fifteenth century was the learned Augustinian friar, Andrea Biglia of Milan.
In view of Biglia's short lifetime (he died at about forty), he must be reckoned an extraordinarily fertile author.
Scion of a noble house, Andrea Biglia was born in Milan, probably around or a little before 1394. Concerning his background, little is known, but it has been established that his father’s name was Pietro, that both his parents were buried in the Church of Sant' Eustorgio in Milan, and that he had a sister eight years younger than himself.
His blood relative, Giovanni Biglia, rose to the high position of castellan of the castello of Pavia. The political affiliation of the Biglia family was to the Guelf party.
The family's commercial concern was metalworking, in which they enjoyed a monopoly throughout Italy.
The family coat of arms, which Andrea had emblazoned on at least two, still extant, manuscripts of his own works, displays three gold bandlets on a blue field with B majuscule in its sinister portion.
Gian Galeazzo, the first Duke of Milan, died in 1402. In the ensuing political turmoil that shook northern Italy generally and the Duchy of Milan in particular, the family Biglia, with their monopoly in metalworking, could hardly avoid involvement, for the forging of weapons and the casting of cannon are, after all, of the metal artificer's craft. And though still a boy, Andrea was himself pressed into the war effort, having to count levies in the treasury.
It was from this political strife that Andrea Biglia removed himself in l4l2 to the tranquillity of the cloister. He took the habit of the Order of St. Augustine in the Monastery of San Marco in Milan, which belonged to the Augustinian province of Lombardy.
His year of novitiate probably spent in this same house, he was sent to study philosophy in the Augustinian studium generale at Padua. But he must have finished his studies there by the summer of 1418, because in September of that year Biglia was at the university in Florence, where, holding the degree of lector, he taught moral philosophy, poetics and rhetoric for four successive academic years, from September 1419, to June 1423.
It was probably during his stay in Florence that he was ordained to the presbyterate. An entry in the registers of Agostino Favaroni da Roma, Prior General of the Augustinian Order, dated 29th November 1423 stated that Biglia, a baccalaureus at the university of Florence, had begun to lecture there on the Sentences of Peter Lombard. The Prior General gave him permission to leave Florence and to go either to the university of Bologna or at that of Padua until his promotion to the degree of magister (today called a doctorate) of theology.
Biglia chose the University of Bologna. There, probably in 1425, Biglia achieved the degree of magister (now called the doctorate) with outstanding success, and then became a member of the faculty there.
Just as at Padua Biglia had come to know the intellectuals, Gaspafirro Barzizza, Raffaele Fulgosi, and Paolo Veneto (Nicoletti), and the future humanists, Vittorino da Feltre, Francesco Filelfo, Antonio Raudense, Pier Candido, and Sicco Polenton, and similarly at Florence he had made the acquaintance of the scholars, Niccolo Niccoli, Leonardo Bruni, and Ambrogio Traversari, so too at Bologna he met the future greats and near greats, Giovanni Lamila, Giovanni Toscabella, Leon Battista Alberti, Antonio Panormita, Giovanni Aurispa, Francesco Filelfo, Alberto da Sartiano, and Tommaso Parentuccelli, this last being the future Pope Nicholas V.
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