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  • Papato e politica internazionale nella prima età moderna ed. by Maria Antonietta Visceglia
  • David Chambers
Papato e politica internazionale nella prima età moderna. Edited by Maria Antonietta Visceglia. (Rome: Libreria Editrice Viella. 2013. Pp. 649. €42,00 paperback. ISBN 978-88-6728-019-3.)

This is a wide-ranging collection of more than twenty studies representing the work of several different centers of research and coordinated by Maria Visceglia of the Sapienza in Rome. Most are in Italian (except for three in English, four in French, and one in Spanish), but after the index, there are English summaries of them all. Visceglia herself contributes (in English) a synthesizing introduction packed with interesting ideas and learning. The main purpose of the book is to explore strategies employed to restore and reinterpret papal authority, both spiritual and temporal, from the end of the Great Schism to the early-eighteenth century; there is some stress on developments during and after the 1580s with new initiatives of Pope Gregory XIII and his successors. Political and diplomatic operations in Europe and the Mediterranean region are discussed and, in global perspective, wider perceptions about the papacy and missions conducted by new religious orders.

A first grouping, focused on ideology and political expedients, begins with the policy of compromise. Marco Pellegrini (the only contributor much concerned with the fifteenth century) provides a masterly analysis of the concordats between the papacy and secular powers from 1418 to 1516 (when he shows that King Francis I retreated slightly from Gallican claims to support Pope Leo X’s neo-crusading agenda). Concordantia is also the subject of Maria Rosa’s contribution, but in an eighteenth-century context, after other authors expound on some policies that are more robust. First, revisiting Prodi’s theme of a monarchy with two souls, a revival of papal universalism is perceived by Heinz Schilling, with reference to the claims of sacrality and visual splendor intended to make Rome seem a truly world capital. Alain Taillon then discusses papal attempts to act—not very successfully—as a neutral force or as arbiter in international disputes even though punitive violence was also sometimes pursued (and not only in defense of Italian temporalities). There follow Silvano Giordano’s useful analysis of curial officialdom, including the role of the cardinal-nephew, and Giovanni Pizzorusso on the foundation in 1622 and functions of Propaganda Fide.

The second grouping is largely devoted to the theme of “the frontier,” meaning the frontier regions of Catholic Christendom. It starts, perhaps surprisingly, with two essays concerned with Protestant Swiss, the first of them interestingly focused on Milan’s role as a religious and military border city. Two studies consider Inquisitorial policy in the Empire and on the crucial importance of Bohemia; Stefano Villani deals with England, underlining the near possibility of a reconciliation with Rome under King Charles I through the network of agents around Queen Henrietta Maria. He draws attention to the Scotsman George Conn, a rather unlikely candidate for a pro-English cardinal’s hat, and some little-known correspondence of a gossipy Frenchman, from which, disappointingly, he does not quote [End Page 821] directly. The frontier then moves east, to border regions of Islam: different studies discuss Spanish attempts to make the Magreb an urgent field for crusading initiatives, provide curious details about the mixed Christian minorities in Albania and their connections with nearby Apulia, and explore the situation in nearby Ragusa and Venetian Cattaro. There is an investigation, perhaps out of place here, tending to authenticate Pope Alexander VI’s dubious dealings with the Ottoman sultan and, finally, two studies of attempted Catholic penetration of the Slav lands and Syria that seem to suggest that reconciliation with the Eastern Churches was not a papal priority, and in the case of Russia, a hopeless cause. The final section moves into the transoceanic world, with one essay about the South American missionary field, as well as a rather miscellaneous trio about relations with the Safavid court of Persia, about oriental languages taught and used for publishing purposes in Rome, and about the papal legation in Peking in the eighteenth century—this reveals the unacceptability or incomprehensibility of papal claims of...


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