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Panvinio was born in Verona. At the age of eleven, he entered the order of Augustinian Hermits and in 1539 he went to Rome and became fascinated by the city, whose topography and inscriptions, ancient and medieval history, writers and great papal families he would document through a spectacularly productive brief lifetime.
After graduating in Rome as bachelor of arts in 1553 and teaching the novices of his order in Rome and Florence, in 1557 he obtained the degree of doctor of theology. He visited the libraries of Italy, pursuing historical research and went to Germany in 1559. Refusing the position of bishop, he accepted the more grateful office of corrector and reviser of the books of the Vatican Library in 1556. He died in Palermo while accompanying his friend and protector Cardinal Farnese to the Synod of Monreale, 1568.
He was recognized as one of the greatest church historians and archaeologists of his time. The scholarly printer Paulus Manutius called him antiquitatis helluo ("a glutton for antiquity"), and Julius Caesar Scaliger styled him pater omnis historiae ("father of all history").
His great archaeological map of ancient Rome was produced in 1565. About the same time he began to collaborate with the French engraver Étienne Dupérac, who continued to provide illustrations for posthumous printings of Panvinio's works. Not all of his numerous historical, theological, archaeological, and liturgical works were published, even posthumously; some are preserved in manuscript in the Vatican Library.
De antique Romanorum religione; "On the ancient religion of the Romans";
Karl Gersbach, OSA, has published numerous articles on aspects of Panvinio's career. Philip Jacks set his career in the context of early antiquarian investigations in The Antiquarian and the Myth of Antiquity: The Origins of Rome in Renaissance Thought. (Cambridge University Press) 1993. Jean-Louis Ferrary's study, Onofrio Panvinio et les antiquités romaines (Rome) 1996, focuses on Panvinio's works on Roman antiquity. For a modern biography of Panvinio, see Stefan Bauer, The Invention of Papal History: Onofrio Panvinio between Renaissance and Catholic Reform (Oxford University Press, 2020).
^"The map, the description, the monuments of ancient Rome, have been elucidated by the diligence of the antiquarian and the student," wrote Edward Gibbon in the last chapter of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1787), but in a footnote (ch. 13, note 75 on-line text) remarked Bernard de Montfaucon's dismissal of Panvinius, as a scholar qui omnes obscuravit, "who obscured everything".
^Panvinio's discussion of the Christian catacombs was text-based; the physical exploration of them was the life work of Antonio Bosio.
^Onuphrii Panvinii Veronensis De Ludis Circensibus Libri II - De Triumphis Liber unus - Quibus universa fere Romanorum veterum sacra, ritusque declarantur, ac figuris aeneis illustrantur, cum notis J. Argoli J.U.D. et additamento N. Pinelli, Padova, 1642.