View All CollectionsFrancis and Clare of Assisi: Early SourcesPope Francis and Francis of AssisiCustodians of the TraditionMore Research Tools


Blessed Contardo Ferrini: Legal Scholar and Secular Franciscan

By Dominic Monti, OFM
Published in History & Saints
October 20, 2021
2 min read
Blessed Contardo Ferrini: Legal Scholar and Secular Franciscan

On October 20, Franciscans celebrate the memory of Blessed Contardo Ferrini (1859-1902), a brilliant Italian legal scholar and professor and fervent Secular Franciscan.

Intellectually curious

Ferrini was born into a professional family in Milan. He was a precocious child who developed a deep intellectual curiosity and an equally strong religious devotion. Several scholarly priests were influential in his formation, including the prefect of the Ambrosian Library in Milan, who encouraged him to learn to read the Bible in the original languages.

Active in charitable organizations

In 1876 he began the study of law in Pavia. A brilliant student, he was not popular with his fellows because of his serious nature. Graduating in 1880, Ferrini won a government scholarship that enabled him to study Roman law at the University of Berlin. There he also became active in the St. Vincent de Paul Society and other charitable organizations.

Blessed Contardo Ferrini School of Law Pavia 700pxls

Contardo Ferrini attended the School of Law at the University of Pavia, Italy.

Expert on Roman law

By the time he left Berlin in 1883, Ferrini had gained the reputation of a major scholar. He taught at a number of universities before finally settling at Pavia in 1894. His scholarly output was prodigious, and he was recognized as probably the world's leading expert in Roman law.

Vowing celibacy

Already as a student in Berlin in 1881, Ferrini had made a private vow of celibacy; he told friends his work was his wife and passion. He did have a wide interest in art and poetry and a great love of nature, especially through mountaineering in the Alps.

Nourished by Franciscan sources

Contardo’s spirituality was nourished by Franciscan sources, and he became a Secular Franciscan in 1886. He resonated with Francis’s love of nature and also involved himself in social work and public service. He strenuously defended Christianity at a time of growing secularism in Italian culture.

Advocating to bring together religion and science

Unfortunately, in 1900 Contardo developed a heart lesion; in the summer of 1902 he went to his family’s villa in Suna, on Lago Maggiore, to rest and recuperate, but he developed typhoid fever and died there on October 17. He was beatified in 1947; his remains were brought to the Chapel of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan as he had long advocated an Italian Catholic university to bring together religion and science.

Blessed Contardo Ferrini Suna Italy 700pxls

Contardo Ferrini’s family lived in a village in Suna, now part of city of Verbania, Verbania-Cusio-Ossola, Piedmont, Italy.

Wisdom of Blessed Contardo Ferrini

Our life must reach out towards the Infinite, and from that source we must draw whatever we can expect of merit and dignity.


Nature lives by the breath of God's omnipotence, smiles in its joy of him, greets him, eternally young, with the smile of its own youth. For the spirit of God by which nature lives is a spirit forever young, incessantly renewing itself, happy in its snow and rain and mist, for out of these come birth and life, spring ever renewed and undaunted hope. . . .


If on any particular day we do nothing more than give a little joy to a neighbor, that day will not be wasted.

Dominic Monti, OFM

Dominic Monti, OFM

Professor of Franciscan Research in the Franciscan Institute of St. Bonaventure University

Dominic V. Monti, OFM, is a Franciscan Friar of Holy Name Province (USA) and currently professor of Franciscan Research in the Franciscan Institute of St. Bonaventure University. He devoted the greater part of his ministry to teaching the History of Christianity, in particular the history of the Franciscan movement. He has contributed two volumes to the Works of St. Bonaventure series and is author of Francis & His Brothers, a popular history of the Friars Minor. 


In Memoriam
© 2024, All Rights Reserved.
Commission on the Franciscan Intellectual Tradition (CFIT),