Petrarch also known as Francesco Petrarca was a famous Italian writer, scholar, and poet. He is considered to the “Father of Humanism”. His writings along with Dante Alighieri and Giovanni Boccaccio crafted the model of modern Italian Language.

Petrarch portrait by Altichiero

He also crafted the first sonnet which was used by other European languages. Humanism is credited with sparking the start of the 14 century Renaissance period.

Childhood years

Petrarch was born Francesco Petrarc in 1304 C.E. in Arezzo, Tuscany. His father was Ser Petracco and a friend of Dante Alighieri as well as a lawyer. His mother was named Eletta Canigiani. He spent the early years of his childhood near Florence. His family was then be exiled from Florence by the Black Guelphs and his family moved to Avignon to follow Pope Clement V.

Petrarch studied law at the University of Montpellier and in Bologna until 1323 C.E. Although he studied law his true love was literature produced by the ancient Greeks and Romans. While at university he wrote numerous letters to academics like Boccaccio and Dante.

After his father passed away in 1326 C.E. he left Bologna and returned to Avignon. In Avignon he started working as a government clerk and eventually as an ambassador for the Church.

The first tourist

In 1336, Petrarch climbed to the top of Mont Ventoux. He took on the challenge with his brother and two servants. He viewed climbing the mountain as recreation and not for a specific reason. He was advised by an elderly peasant not to climb.

He would later write a fascinating letter about his experience that was more like mountaineering than simply climbing. His letter to his friend Dionigi had a modern tone towards the scenery. The climb seemed to be a culmination of a virtuous Christian life by reaching the summit.

While on the summit he read a book by one of his mentors Saint Augustine. At this point Petrarch decided to turn from the outer world of nature to the inner world of the soul.

Since Petrarch was an ambassador of the Church, he was forbidden to marry. No one is sure who gave birth to his two children Giovanni in 1337 C.E. and Francesca in 1343 C.E. In later years he would legitimize his children but unfortunately Giovanni died of the plague in 1361 C.E.

After moving back to Avignon, he developed problems with Pope Innocent VI and moved to Milan and then Venice to escape the plague. While living in Venice he was awarded a house for the promise of donating all of his books he had gathered throughout his travels. He passed away in Arqua in 1374 C.E.

Works of literature

Petrarch wrote his first epic poem named Africa in 1340 C.E. The poem was a eulogize for ancient Roman general Scipio Africanus who helped defeat Carthaginian general Hannibal during the Second Punic War. In 1341 C.E. Petrarch became the first poet laureate after the antiquity period.

Petrarch was an avid traveler. While he was an ambassador for the Church he roamed Europe looking for ancient Latin manuscripts. His big discovery came in 1345 C.E. when he found numerous letters from the Roman philosopher Cicero. During this time Petrarch is credited with coining the term “Dark Ages”.

Dark Ages

His greatest piece of literary work is known as Songbook and the Triumphs. Both books were a collection of Italian poetry. He also wrote My Secret Book which was based on imaginary conversions with Saint Augustine. His writing called On Famous Men was a series of moral biographies. He also wrote a book on self-help named The Remedies for Fortune Fair and Foul.

Important facts about Petrarch

  • Petrarch was born in 1304 C.E. in Tuscany. His father Ser Petraccco was a lawyer.
  • His family was exiled from Florence by the Black Guelphs and they moved to Avignon, France.
  • He studied law at two different universities but his true love was ancient Greek and Roman literature.
  • While working as an ambassador for the Church, He traveled extensively earning him the title of “The First Tourist”.
  • When traveling he looked for damaged ancient manuscripts.
  • Petrarch first acclaim in writing was a poem named Africaabout the Roman general Scipio Africanus.
  • He is considered to one of the “Fathers of Humanism”.
  • His most famous works are collections of Italian poetry named Songbookand Triump


  1. Petrarch was exiled from Florence by what group of people?

Black Guelphs

  1. What was name of his two famous pieces of Italian poetry?

Songbook and Triumph

  1. What mountain did Petrarch climb?

Mont Ventoux

  1. Dante, Boccaccio, and Petrarch are considered to be the founding fathers of what type of philosophy and writing?