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Cardinal, celebrated canonist, born at Padua, 10 August, 1360; died at Constance, 26 September, 1417. He studied jurisprudence at Bologna (1378-83) chiefly under the famous Giovanni di Lignano, and at Florence, where he was graduated in 1385. He taught canon law at Florence (1385-90) and at Padua (1390-1410). Having taken minor orders in 1385, he became vicar of Bishop Acciajuoli of Florence and pastor at the Church of Santa Maria in Pruncta near Florence. After the resignation of Bishop Acciajuoli in 1386, Zabarella was elected his successor, but he pope had previously appointed another as bishop. In 1398 he was made archpriest of the cathedral at Padua. The Paduan Government repeatedly employed him on diplomatic missions, and towards the end of 1404, he was one of two ambassadors sent to King Charles VI of France to obtain the latter's assistance against Venice, which was preparing to annex Padua. When Padua had become part of the Venetian Republic in 1406, Zabarella became a loyal supporter of Venice. In 1409 he took part in the Council of Pisa as councillor of the Venetian legate. On 18 July, 1410, John XXIII appointed him Bishop of Florence and papal referendary, and on 6 June, 1411, cardinal deacon with the titular church of SS. Cosma e Damiano.
Though he never received major orders, he was one of the most active and influential cardinals of John XXIII, whose interests he supported at the Council of Rome (1412-3). When this council failed to end the lamentable schism, John XXIII sent Cardinals Zabarella and De Challant as legates to King Sigismund at Como in October, 1413, with full powers to come to an understanding with the latter concerning the place and time for holding a new council. It was arranged to open the new council at Constance, 1 November, 1414, where Zabarella was one of the chief supporters of John XXIII. When the latter fled from Constance 20 March, 1415, in order to thwart the election of a new pope, Zabarella remained as his representative. It was chiefly through his influence that John XXIII finally resigned the papacy unconditionally in April, 1415. Nevertheless the council continued its proceedings against John, and commissioned Zabarella with four other cardinals to inform him of his suspension, and, later, of his formal deposition by the council. In the proceedings against the Avignonese Pope Benedict XIII, Zabarella proposed, at the session held 28 Nov., 14167, that Benedict be cited before the council. He also took part in the proceedings of the council against Huss, Jerome of Prague, and Jean Petit. His attempts to induce the two former to signed a softened form of retraction proved useless. From April till the end of July he sought to regain health and strength at a neighbouring watering place. On 28 July he was again at Constance, and up to the time of his death exerted all his influence to hasten the election of a new pope. He is buried in the cathedral at Padua.
His most important literary production is an ecclesiastico- political treatise, "De schismatie" (Strasburg, 1515). It consists of independent portions, written at different intervals (1403-5-6- 8), and contains various suggestions for ending the schism. His chief canonical writings are: "Lectura super Clementinis" (Naples, 1471); "Commentarius in libros Decretalium" (Venice, 1502); "Consilia" (Venice, 1581). He also wrote "De felicitate libri III" (Padua, 1655); "De arte metrica"; "De natura rerum diversarum"; "De corpore Christi": and a few small juridical treatises. A large number of his letters are in the imperial library of Vienna, Cod. Lat. 5513.
KNEER, Kardinal Zabarella, Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte des grossen abenlandischen Schismas, I (Munster, 1891); FINKE, Acta Concilii Constantiensis, I, Munster, 1896); KEPPLER, Die Politik des Kardinalskollegiums in Konstans, (Munster, 1899); VEDOVA, Memoric intorno a Francesco Zabarella (Padua, 1829); PINTON, Appunti biografici intorno al grande giurista ed umanista Card. Zabarella (Potenza, 1895); ZARDO, Francesco Zabarella a Firenze in Arch. stor. Ital., XXII, 1-22, and separately (Florence, 1898).