Saint Isidore of Seville (560 – 636) was born in Carthagena, Spain, to wealthy parents of Roman descent. He had three siblings, all of whom are canonized saints. Saint Leander, the eldest, preceded him as Archbishop of Seville. His sister, Saint Florentina, was a nun who is said to have ruled over forty convents. His younger brother, Saint Fulgentius, was Bishop of Astigi.
St Isidore received his elementary education at the Cathedral school of Seville where his brother, St Leander, was one of the teachers. He quickly learned Latin, Greek and Hebrew. Upon completion of his studies he was ordained a priest, and when his brother Leander died, in the year 600 or 601, he was named Archbishop of Seville, a post he retained until his death.
The ruling class in Spain at that time were the Visigoths, a tribe of barbarians which had invaded the kingdom approximately 150 years earlier. They were Arians, had little love for knowledge and despised Greek and Roman culture which, in consequence, was in peril of being lost. St Isidore, realizing the importance of safeguarding these cultural treasures for the economic and social progress of his people, set about establishing schools throughout the kingdom where the Greek and Roman classics, as well as law and medicine, were taught. In order to combat the heresy of Arianism, he set up a seminary in each of his dioceses and wrote several books and treatises in defence of the faith. He was the first Christian writer to set about the task of compiling for his co-religionists a summa of universal knowledge. The encyclopaedia that was created contained all learning, ancient as well as modern and preserved several fragments of the classics which otherwise would have been lost.
During the last six months of his life, St Isidore increased his charities to such an extent that his house was filled from morning till night with the poor seeking assistance. He died on April 4, 639. Thanks to his tireless efforts, by the time of his death Arianism had been extinguished in Spain.