Francis Aidan Gasquet

Francis Aidan Gasquet,
Vatican Librarian and Archivist of the Holy Roman Church
Ordination 19 December 1874 (Priest)
Created Cardinal Cardinal deacon 25 May 1914; elevated to Cardinal priest 18 December 1924
Rank Cardinal deacon of San Giorgio in Velabro (1914–1915); Cardinal deacon, later Cardinal priest, of Santa Maria in Portico (1915–1929)
Personal details
Born 5 October 1846
Somers Town, London, England
Died 5 April 1929 (aged 82)
Palazzo San Callisto, Rome, Italy
Buried Downside Abbey, Stratton-on-the-Fosse, Somerset, England
Nationality British
Denomination Roman Catholic Church
Parents Raymon Gasquet and Mary Apollonia Gasquet (née Kay)

Francis Aidan Gasquet, O.S.B. (5 October 1846 – 5 April 1929 in Rome) was an English Benedictine monk and historical scholar.[1] He was created Cardinal in 1914.


Educated at Downside School, he entered the Benedictines in 1865 at Belmont Priory. He moved to Downside Abbey where he was professed and, on 19 December 1871, ordained a priest. From 1878 to 1885 he was prior of Downside Abbey, resigning because of ill health.

Upon his recovery he became a member of the Pontifical Commission to study the validity of the Anglican ordinations (1896) leading to Apostolicae curae, to which his historical contribution was major. In 1900, he became abbot president of the English Benedictines. He was President of the Pontifical Commission for Revision of the Vulgate, 1907. He also authored the major history of the Venerable English College at Rome.

He was created Cardinal-deacon in 1914 with the titular see of San Giorgio in Velabro. He was conferred with the titular see of Santa Maria in Portico in 1915.

In 1917, he was appointed Archivist of the Vatican Secret Archives. In 1924, he was appointed Librarian of the Vatican Library and elevated to Cardinal Priest of Santa Maria in Portico.

As a historian

His historical work has been attacked by later writers. Geoffrey Elton wrote of "the falsehoods purveyed by Cardinal Gasquet and Hilaire Belloc."[2] His collaboration with Edmund Bishop has been described as "an alliance between scholarship exquisite and deplorable."[3] A polemical campaign by G. G. Coulton against Gasquet was largely successful in discrediting his works in academic eyes.[4] One of his books contained an appendix "A Rough List of Misstatements and Blunders in Cardinal Gasquet's Writings.[5]

David Knowles wrote a reasoned piece of apologetics on Gasquet's history in 1956, Cardinal Gasquet as an Historian.[6] In it he speaks of Gasquet's "many errors and failings", and notes that he "was not an intellectually humble man and he showed little insight into his own limitations of knowledge and training." Coulton, though, he felt was in error, through over-simplifying the case.[7]

Eamon Duffy said in an interview:

...Cardinal Francis Aidan Gasquet, a great Benedictine historian, was both a bad workman and not entirely scrupulous about what he said. So you can be a churchman and a lousy historian.[8]





  1. "Gasquet, Right Rev. Francis Aidan". Who's Who. Vol. 59. 1907. pp. 662–663.
  2. Elton, Geoffrey Rudolph (2002). The Practice of History. Oxford; Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, p. 96.
  3. Christopher Nugent Lawrence Brooke et al. A History of the University of Cambridge: University to 1546 (1988), p. 420.
  4. Nicholson, Ernest Wilson (2003). A Century of Theological and Religious Studies in Britain. Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 172.
  5. Coulton, G.G. (1915). "A Rough List of Misstatements and Blunders in Cardinal Gasquet's Writings." In: Medieval Studies. London: Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent & Co.
  6. Reprinted in David Knowles, The Historian and Character, and Other Essays. Cambridge University Press, 1963, pp. 240–263.
  7. Knowles (1963), pp. 261–2.
  8. "Confronting the Church's Past: An Interview with Eamon Duffy," Commonweal, Vol. 127, No. 1, January 2000.
  9. "Review: The Greater Abbeys of England by Abbot Gasquet". The Athenaeum. No. 4208. June 20, 1908. pp. 767–768.


External links

Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Francesco di Paola Cassetta
Archivist of the Holy Roman Church
28 November 1917 – 5 April 1929
Succeeded by
Franz Ehrle
Preceded by
Alfonso Capecelatro
Vatican Librarian
9 May 1919 – 5 April 1929
Succeeded by
Franz Ehrle
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