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  • Scipione Borghese als Kardinalprotektor: Studien zur römischen Mikropolitik in der frühen Neuzeit
  • Robert Bireley
Scipione Borghese als Kardinalprotektor: Studien zur römischen Mikropolitik in der frühen Neuzeit. By Martin Faber. (Mainz: Verlag Philipp von Zabern. 2005. Pp. x, 544. €51.)

This valuable volume belongs to the series of studies of the "micropolitics" of the early modern papacy undertaken by Wolfgang Reinhard and his students over the past thirty years. Many of them center around Cardinal Scipione Borghese (1579-1633), papal nephew of Pope Paul V, because of the rich documentation surrounding him that survives. The book follows upon and confirms in many ways the findings of Birgitte Emich, Bürokratie und Nepotismus unter Paul V. (1605-1621) (Stuttgart, 2001) (reviewed ante, 90 [January, 2004], 127-129), who showed that Borghese devoted most of his energy to the exercise of patronage with a view to the establishment of the Borghese as a leading family in Rome and the Papal States while leaving his nominal obligations in the secretariat of state and the government of the Papal States to others. But this volume goes well beyond the examination of Borghese's role as cardinal-protector; it also provides us along the way with a provisional overview of the development and function of the institution of the "cardinal-protector," about which little scholarship exists.

The author shows the difficulty that one encounters in attempting to define the role of the cardinal-protector; it varied greatly from instance to instance but nearly always was associated with a form of patronage and the exercise of influence. It did not bring direct financial gain. Faber divides Borghese's fifty-one protectorates, derived from a list that the cardinal drew up in 1625, soon after the death of his papal uncle, into three categories, on behalf of religious orders and congregations, of nations and cities, and the broadest category of all, of pious works (luoghi pii) which stretched from the Holy House of Loreto to the Pauline Chapel in Santa Maria Maggiore to confraternities in Rome to the German College. Protectorates over religious orders dated back to the request of St. Francis of Assisi in the thirteenth century for a cardinal-protector. The protector was expected to represent the interests of the order in the Curia, but his role in the internal affairs of an order differed greatly. Generally speaking, Faber contends, it was the request or need of an order for assistance that led to the appointment of a cardinal-protector, not the desire of the cardinal to expand his influence. Faber discusses at length Borghese's exercise of this position with the Dominicans and with the Olivetans, an Italian Congregation of Benedictine monks founded in 1319. In [End Page 172] neither case was he concerned significantly with the policy of the order or movements for reform; this he left up to his uncle the pope or other authorities. He involved himself chiefly in personnel decisions on the basis of requests from inside or outside the orders, such as recommending that a member be moved to another house or awarded an academic title. In this way he built up his contacts and clients, to the benefit of the Borghese family. Faber contrasts sharply Borghese's activity with the Olivetans with his predecessor's as cardinal-protector, Paolo Sfondrati, himself the papal-nephew of Gregory XIV, who for many years virtually micro-managed the congregation.

The office of cardinal-protector for nations, as well as other political entities, had come into existence in the fourteenth century, and it involved the representation of the interests of a particular ruler at the papal court; it brought prestige to the cardinal. But already in the sixteenth century it was losing its significance with the development of diplomatic institutions. Faber looks in detail at Borghese's service as protector of the German nation which he began in 1611. The author points out the conflicts of interest which the office could create for a cardinal, and especially for a cardinal-nephew, whose first loyalty was to the pope, for example, when during the early years of the Thirty Years' War the emperor sought to obtain financial support...


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