The Evangelical Pope of Universal Accord

Guillaume Postel, the Evangelical Pope of Universal Concord

POSTEL, Guillame. Grammatica Arabica (Paris, 1538)

Provenance: unknown


The French scholar Guillaume Postel (1516-1581) was a founder of Arabic studies in early modern Europe and an outspoken religious eccentric. In his writings he expounded his belief in a universal Christian kingdom under the leadership of the King of France. In 1535-1537 Postel joined the French ambassador on a diplomatic mission to the Ottoman Empire and in Istanbul he learned Arabic from a Turkish Christian. Upon his return to France in 1538 he was appointed professor of Arabic at the Collège Royal in Paris.

His missionary zeal and his increasingly esoteric tendencies made him suspect in the eyes of the Church, and his writings were put on the papal Index of prohibited books. He travelled to Rome to vindicate himself, only to find himself arrested and imprisoned. In 1562 he returned to Paris, but was arrested again. He was released soon afterwards, but early in 1563 he was finally committed to a lunatic asylum, where he spent the rest of his days in a relatively mild confinement that allowed him to study and teach. To Ignatius de Loyola,like himself a former pupil of the Collège Sainte-Barbe, he had claimed to be the " Evangelical Pope of Universal Concord".