The French humanist, Franciscan, Benedictine secular priest, physician, canon, and priest François Rabelais was probably born in 1494 (but the year may also have been 1483) in Chinon (close to Tours) as the youngest son of a lawyer. He entered the Franciscan convent La Baumette in the vicinity of Angers to become a monk in 1511.
François Rabelais took advantage of the opportunity to further educate himself in terms of humanism and learned Greek. Around 1520, he received the ordination as a priest. With the help of the Bishop of Poitiers, François Rabelais was able to switch to his Saint-Pierre abbey in Maillezais and intensively dedicated himself to his studies there. Around 1526, he succeeded in gaining the status of a secular priest.
However, he left this monastery in 1528 to travel. He began his studies of medicine in Paris and enrolled at Montpellier in 1530. In 1532, François Rabelais wrote the first section of his five-volume cycle of novels called Gargantua et Pantagruel. The others followed in 1534, 1545, 1552, and 1564.
During the years 1532–34, he became a hospital doctor at Hôtel-Dieu de Notre-Dame de la Pitié in Lyon and accompanied the Archbishop of Paris, Jean du Bellay (1492–1560), as his private physician and secretary on several trips to Rome. With the help of the papal brief from Pope Paul III, François Rabelais was given the opportunity to enter a Benedictine monastery and simultaneously continued his practice of medicine. In 1537, he acquired medical license in Montpellier and taught medicine in Lyon. He received a medical doctorate in Montpellier.
In the entourage of King Francis I of France (1494–1547; King of France beginning in 1515), Rabelais participated in a meeting with Emperor Charles V (1500–58; Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire beginning in 1530) in 1538 at Aigues-Mortes. In the following year, he accompanied Guillaume du Balley (1491 – 1543), the cardinal’s brother, to Turin. The humanist was employed as the city physician in Metz in 1546. A second trip to Rome with the Cardinal du Balley occurred in 1547-48. In 1551, he received the Meudon and Saint-Christophe-du-Jambet parishes.
François Rabelais died on April 9, 1553 in Paris.