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  • Imperator et Pontifex: Forschungen zum Verhältnis von Kaiserhof und römischer Kurie im Zeitalter der Konfessionalisierung (1555–1648) by Alexander Koller
  • Robert Bireley S.J.
Imperator et Pontifex: Forschungen zum Verhältnis von Kaiserhof und römischer Kurie im Zeitalter der Konfessionalisierung (1555–1648). By Alexander Koller. [Geschichte in der Epoche Karls V., Band 13.] (Münster: Aschendorff Verlag. 2012. Pp. x, 494. €69,00 paperback. ISBN 978-3-402-13994-3.)

Alexander Koller, the longtime acting director of the German Historical Institute in Rome, has become the leading scholar of papal-imperial relations during the early-modern period, more specifically between the Peace of Augsburg (1555) and the Peace of Westphalia (1648). This valuable volume is made up of twenty-four of his articles or lectures, some of which have been published in relatively obscure periodicals and are now made available to a wider readership. They show the importance of the papacy with its twofold nature as both a religious and a secular institution for the international relations of the period as well as for the Catholic Reform and the Counter-Reformation even as its influence diminished toward the end of the period. Koller draws on a wide variety of sources but especially on the nunciature reports and above all on the Hauptinstruktionen (or Le istruzioni generali) published in outstanding editions since 1995 for the papacies of Clement VIII (1592–1605), Paul V (1605–21), and Gregory XV (1621–23). These are the detailed instructions drawn up for a nuncio at the start of his tenure describing the policies and procedures that he was to follow. Those for Urban VIII (1623–44) are now in preparation. But to acquire a complete picture of papal policy one must also consult the regular nunciature reports, for it is there that one sees the application of general principles to particular situations. Koller’s articles and lectures are organized into three parts: “Emperor and Pope,” “Rome and the Habsburg Hereditary Lands,” and “The Papal Nuncios in the Empire.”

Space permits the mention of only several of the author’s articles. In the first part, in “Was the Pope a Militant, Warmongering Catholic Monarch?”, Koller asks [End Page 162] whether the pope encouraged military means to defeat the Protestants and so contributed to a religious fundamentalism. Koller contends that this was not the case certainly after the start of the papacy of Clement VIII in 1592, except for the brief, if significant, pontificate of Gregory XV from 1621–23. Over the objections of Spain, Clement absolved Henry IV of France, quietly accepted the Edict of Nantes, and mediated the Peace of Vervins between Spain and France in 1598. One might add that he was more concerned with the advance of the Turks during the Long Turkish War (1593–1606). Both Paul V and Urban VIII (1623–44) were slow to respond to the cries for financial assistance from the German Catholic princes. Koller cites two reasons for papal reluctance to take a more militant stance toward the Protestants: their responsibility as a secular ruler and their desire to advance the fortunes of their families.

In “‘Quam bene pavit apes, tam male pavit oves.’ Urban VIII and the Criticism of his Pontificate,” Koller, after weighing the pros and cons of Urban’s papacy, agrees with the contemporary ditty about Urban: “As well as he looked after the bees [the symbol of the Barberini], so badly did he look after the sheep.” So Koller agrees with most current scholarship that Urban subordinated the welfare of the Church to the advancement of his family. The role of Fabio Chigi, the future Pope Alexander VII, at the Treaty of Westphalia is the topic of “Fabio Chigi as Papal Mediator at Münster.” Recent popes, including Urban VIII, had considered themselves to be the “padre comune” who mediated disputes between Christian states. But the papal refusal to allow its representatives to deal directly with heretics prohibited Chigi from negotiating with Protestants and so greatly minimized his role at the conference. But his protests against the terms of the treaty as well as the formal protest of Pope Innocent X in 1650 did not completely remove the...


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