restricted access Chapter 5. Florence I
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152 C h a p t e r 5 Florence I Unlike many of their peers, the grand dukes fairly quickly accepted the new Roman Inquisition, as indicated by the execution in Rome in 1567 of Pietro Carnesecchi, a scion of the Florentine establishment. Carnesecchi would have done well to stay in Venice (as many friends advised him to do); the Venetians, even after they reluctantly allowed the Inquisition to operate in their territory, almost always succeeded in keeping it under their control, especially when it came to extraditions, the most notorious exception perhaps being the case of Giordano Bruno. Still, if the matter were politically important, the grand dukes could put up impressive resistance to the Inquisition. They always tried at least to influence the appointment of the inquisitor of Florence, if not more actively to circumscribe his and his masters’ activity.1 The loss of most of the Florentine Inquisition’s archive makes it harder to discuss it than in the case of Venice or Naples, but a fair amount can be said about its inquisitors. The chance survival of part of one enormous processo, as well as pieces of others, allows us to get some idea of how the tribunal operated and related to the Congregation.2 Although there were inquisitors in Siena and Pisa, the tribunal in Florence took precedence already at the time of Cosimo I.3 Against the norm, its inquisitors were Conventual Franciscans instead of the more usual Dominicans .4 The first inquisitor of Florence in our period, Dionigi Sammattei da Costacciaro, also held office for by far the longest time, more than twentythree years, before his death on 7 July 1603. He first appears in June 1566 as theologian of Michele Della Torre, bishop of Ceneda and future cardinal.5 He was allegedly a famous preacher, but none of his sermons survive. Within his order he served as provincial of Umbria (1574) and helped to lead its 1577 general chapter. Immediately thereafter he became inquisitor of Siena, before Florence I 153 moving to Florence in late 1578 or early 1579.6 Sixtus V nominated him (along with Lelio Medici; see below) as general of the Conventuals in 1590.7 He is best known for his exoneration of Monna Gostanza at San Miniato in 1600 in a witchcraft case.8 A severe rebuke about his handling of another case the year before, which the Congregation dismissed, may have taught him a lesson.9 His vicar during much of his tenure was his relative Matteo Sammattei, who was ordered to inventory his property after his death.10 Costacciaro’s successor was one of the most distinguished men to hold the post of inquisitor, Lelio Medici (or Medici Bitturica) da Piacenza. Nevertheless , his tenure did not enjoy success. The Congregation never held its hand about criticizing inquisitors in Florence, but they kept an especially tight rein on Medici. By the early 1570s, when he was already pursuing a distinguished career as a teacher (bachelor of Bologna 1569, regent of Venice 1571), Medici preached widely. He became regent of Bologna in 1578 before becoming its provincial the following year, when he also took a doctorate in theology. With Costacciaro, he was one of Sixtus V’s four nominees for general of his order in 1590.11 By then he had been inquisitor of Pisa, whence he moved to Florence on 18 September 1603.12 His breve of appointment is dated 9 September.13 At first he did well, being praised for his diligence in February 1604.14 His vicar also performed well.15 Within a couple of months, the worm turned and both were in trouble, the vicar first being denounced for having books of astrology .16 While his case was quickly dismissed, Medici, despite his experience and stature, found himself in almost constant trouble with the Congregation from this moment forward. In an unusual move, in a case close to the grand duke’s heart, that of Jacopo Isparielli, Medici was summoned to Rome, where he sat in on at least two Inquisition meetings, on the second occasion facing a list of “defects” in his handling of the case. These were referred to the pope, who a week later ordered Medici to be “sharply faulted for this sort of defects” by Secretary Camillo Borghese, the future Paul V.17 A year later, reflecting its obsession with finances, the Congregation ordered him to send annual accounts and not to spend money except on inquisitorial business.18...


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