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  • I processi inquisitoriali di Vittore Soranzo (1550–1558)
  • Michaela Valente
Massimo Firpo and Sergio Pagano, eds. I processi inquisitoriali di Vittore Soranzo (1550–1558). 2 vols. Collectanea Archivi Vaticani 53. Rome: Archivo Segreto Vaticano, 2004. xcvii + 1062 pp. + 8 b/w pls. index. append. illus. tbls. €75. ISBN: 88–85042–40–6.

After the trials of Cardinal Giovanni Morone (6 vols., Rome 1981–95) and of Pietro Carnesecchi (2 vols., Rome 1998–2000) edited and published with Dario Marcatto, Firpo and Pagano (to whom we owe noteworthy essays and editions of sources),prefect of the Archivio Segreto Vaticano, have published the inquisitorial trials to the Bishop of Bergamo, Vittore Soranzo. The importance of the figure of Vittore Soranzo, a Venetian patrician, was discovered and highlighted by the researches of Pio Paschini (1925) and of Paolo Simoncelli (1988): Soranzo was one of those deeply representative figures of Counter-Reformation Europe of whose existence scholars of the period need to be constantly reminded for the role he played in Bergamo as for his beliefs during the religious crisis of the sixteenth century.

Through the documents collected in the Archive of the Holy Office, in Bergamo, Venice, and Florence, Firpo and Pagano outline Soranzo's figure and activities with an impressive survey of sources and a critically well-rehearsed introduction, and the documents with footnotes are an excellent sources for different patterns of European history.

Soranzo (1510–58) chose the religious life to gain ecclesiastical benefits and became Clement VII's chamberlain; in Rome, in 1539, he joined the group around Pietro Bembo, and there he was involved in the most important debates on literary issues and on theological doubts and uneases. In 1540 he met Valdés again, then he attended the ecclesia viterbiensis of Reginald Pole and in 1544 he was appointed Bishop of Bergamo. As bishop, Soranzo tried to remove superstitious beliefs, acts, and simony and to overcome the corrupt clergy. The editors underline that the main part of his charges came from the clergy who, after 1546, testified that Soranzo was Lutheran.

When Pope Julius III called Soranzo to Rome to face the Inquisition, the Venetian ambassador spoke for him; in May 1551 he expressed his doubts on the way the inquisitor gathered the clues against Soranzo ("He did not proceed with the Christian spirit he should," 221), but he refused all the witnesses on his behalf. This trial confirmed the harsh relationship between the pope and the Holy Office. As it emerged from the trial to Morone and to Carnesecchi, Julius III looked to stop (or to control) the inquisitorial activities. The attempt of the pope is also well analyzed by Dario Marcatto in his recent book ("Questo passo dell'Heresia": [End Page 609] Pietrantonio di Capua tra Valdesiani, Spirituali e Inquisizione, 2003), but it failed as Soranzo's efforts to put himself under the shield of the pope were doomed. It is within this context that these trials should be seen as an impressive and stimulating example of the new attitude and politics of the Inquisition and papacy.

Soranzo was considered guilty of heresy not only because of his acquaintance with the most dangerous heretics, such as Valdés, Altieri, Giannetti, Borri, and Carnesecchi, but for his ideas too (sola fides sine operibus, against the authority of the Church, no ecclesiastical celibacy).

First Soranzo defended himself against those charges, but then he was compelled to admit his heresies as well his friends when the inquisitors found the list of forbidden books he kept and read because of his curiosità incredibile (365), among them the Sommario della Sacra Scrittura and the Beneficio di Cristo. Soranzo told he did not realize those books were heretical. On 9 September 1551, Soranzo abjured, and the sentence was moderate, maybe because of the intervention of Venice. But his case was not closed, so when in 1555 Carafa became Pope Paul IV, investigations against him started again. In May 1557 he was ordered to Soranzo to go to Rome, but he refused, with Venetian protection, alleging as a reason ill health. The trial went on, and Soranzo was condemned, but after a week he died in May 1558.

This book traces...


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pp. 609-610
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