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  • Päpste und Kardinäle in der Mitte des 18. Jahrhunderts (1730–1777). Das biographische Werk des Patriziers von Lucca Bartolomeo Antonio Talenti
  • Irene Fosi
Päpste und Kardinäle in der Mitte des 18. Jahrhunderts (1730–1777). Das biographische Werk des Patriziers von Lucca Bartolomeo Antonio Talenti. Edited by Sabrina M. Seidler and Christoph Weber. [Beiträge zur Kirchen- und Kulturgeschichte, Band 18.] (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang. 2007. Pp. 690. $145.95. ISBN 978-3-631-56436-3.)

This volume publishes for the first time the lives of eighteenth-century cardinals and popes composed by the Lucchese patrician Bartolomeo Antonio Talenti, silk merchant, patron, man of learning, and collector. This edition, based on manuscripts in the Biblioteca Angelica, Rome, is complemented by an extended historical introduction by the editors. Here a full account of the Talenti family is offered, including their commercial activities that were still flourishing in eighteenth-century Lucca, a city linked closely to the republican tradition that had sustained its independence, successively, from the Medici and then from the Habsburg-Lorraine grand dukes of Tuscany. The editors have succeeded in recovering the cultural climate of the Republic, which was influenced by currents of Enlightenment thought; from Febronianism to anti-Jesuit polemics, which spread, not only in Italy, over the course of the eighteenth century. Due attention is also paid to the state of the Church, and that of the Lucchese Church in particular, which was racked by tensions caused by the spread of anti-Roman attitudes. Bartolomeo Antonio Talenti was distinguished for his rich and varied cultural and learned interests. His extensive library, examined in detail by the editors, demonstrates the extent of his interest in contemporary works; if Talenti might be considered anti-Jesuit, he was certainly no Jansenist (there are no works by French Jansenists listed in his library). Author of other learned works that reflected his wide interests, Talenti probably wrote these lives of popes and cardinals between 1763 and 1777. According to a tradition widespread since the middle of the fifteenth century, collections of the lives of popes and cardinals circulated widely in manuscript and then in print throughout of Europe. They were frequently the work of clerics, some of whom were also members of the Roman Curia itself. Their purpose was to inform the diplomats of Europe about the Court of Rome and its principal actors and factions, particularly when there was a conclave for the election of a new pope imminent. However, there also circulated biographies of leading figures of the Roman Court that had an explicitly satirical purpose. Talenti’s collection does not share any of these characteristics, and in this we see its originality. To begin with, it was written by a layman. Neither did it have as its purpose the desire to inform the diplomats of Europe about its subject nor to entertain them by means of satire. Instead, one can consider it a richly erudite study that becomes fuller of details of curiosity and interest as the biographies close in on the author’s own lifetime. The fulcrum of this collection is the life of Pope Clement XIV (pp. 572–622), which is full of information not only about the pope’s life and political standpoint but also about the extensive polemics and tensions that marked his pontificate. [End Page 620]

The biographies of the cardinals take different forms and are of varied length. Most are brief, but some are particularly lengthy, as in the case of Cardinals Silvio Valenti (pp. 333–66) and Domenico Passionei (pp. 412–22). Frequently, Talenti inserts into his texts contemporary sources, such as passages from other works, poetry, or eulogies. This collective biography is therefore a primary source of particular significance that enriches our understanding of the Roman Curia and its protagonists over a period that was particularly difficult for the papacy. At the same time, it shows how in the eighteenth century the Roman Court and its leading members were still the object of erudite attention for circulation throughout Europe.

Irene Fosi
Università “G. d’Annunzio,” Chieti-Pescara, Italy


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