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The Catholic Historical Review 88.4 (2002) 745-746

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Genealogien zur Papstgeschichte. By Christoph Weber, with the collaboration of Michael Becker. [Päpste und Papsttum, Bände 29, 1,2.] 2 vols. (Stuttgart: Anton Hiersemann. 1999. Pp.cxxxii, 438; 439-980. €100.00; €100.00.)
Genealogien zur Papstgeschichte. By Christoph Weber, with the collaboration of Michael Becker. [Päpste und Papsttum, Bände 29, 3, 4.] 2 vols. (Stuttgart: Anton Hiersemann. 2001. Pp. xcii, 555; 558-981.€132.94; €90.00.)

Here are the first four volumes of a projected six-volume genealogy of the Italian nobility and its family connections to the Roman Catholic Church. All the more than five hundred families here delineated were related by blood or marriage to high office in the hierarchy. The overall impression of these stout tomes is stunning—from the sixteenth century to the nineteenth, the Italian ruling classes were, in effect, the leadership and administration of the universal church. The secular nobility and the ecclesiastical nobility were indistinguishable. The implications are vast—for church history, for Italian history, for European history—but I will confine myself here to a mere description. The indefatigable author, Christoph Weber, cites the technical assistance of Michael Becker in finding the graphic schemes which made the publication of these tables feasible, but the hard work of tracking down all of these families, the many thousands of names, through the libraries and archives of Italy was all his. It is difficult to imagine that he has accomplished this in one lifetime, even though he is adding this masterpiece to a long list of publications.

The first two volumes concentrate on Rome and the Papal State, Tuscany, and northern Italy, deliberately postponing inclusion of "sovereign houses of Italy" and important families such as the Gonzaga, Este, de'Medici, Farnese, Pico, and others (I, xxi). Volumes III and IV cover Piedmont and Monferrato, Sicily, the Venetian mainland, and Naples. These last also cover the remaining papal families—Cossa, Piccolomini, Borgia, de'Medici, Farnese, Carafa, and Ghislieri, "so that we approach a complete series of papal families from 1404 to 1922" (III, vii). Some few popes "who rose to the throne as 'homines novi'" are not included (III, vii). Remaining celebrated church-connected families—Colonna, Orsini, Caracciolo, Sanseverino, Gonzaga, Este, Ferrero, Gambara, Bentivoglio—and others await the publication of Volumes V and VI. [End Page 745]

The introduction to Volume I includes a trenchant analysis of the literature, both printed and manuscript, with numerous insightful comments on the authors and their productions. The author's survey of the various collections in local libraries and archives of Italy, many of them private, is a most welcome dividend to the usual bibliography.

Weber lists several "principles" he has adopted in formulating this work. One of the most significant of these, it seems to me, is the decision to include those families who had no members in the church hierarchy, but whose women married into "papal" families, a surprisingly large number. Treatment of women in local genealogies varied starkly from city to city, Weber tells us, from the Venetian nobility, which omitted women completely except for noting "daughter" without a name, to the Genoese, who not only included their women's names, but endowed them with affectionate diminutives. The pitfalls of family histories also caused the author problems: the number of infant deaths is not clear—parents sometimes gave the same name to succeeding siblings; names of mothers of the children are often obscure if the father is married two or three times; sons in general had more notice than daughters, although married daughters and their husbands came next in importance, then unmarried sons, whose places of honor depended on their rank in church or military office. Those physically or mentally handicapped were seldom mentioned, and younger sisters and brothers who entered the cloistered life were often recorded simply by number. Also, Weber found a curious absence of cases of suicide, incest, or children born to wives out of wedlock. Numerous "natural" offspring were all attributed to the fathers.

In addition to an exhaustive bibliography, preliminaries...


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