- Jesuits and Fortifications: The Contribution of the Jesuits to Military Architecture in the Baroque Age by Denis De Lucca
Although historians now recognize the important role played by the Society of Jesus in many aspects of the early-modern world, they have largely ignored one important realm in which many Jesuits were active: military architecture. De Lucca’s book seeks to rectify this lacuna by exploring Jesuit contributions to fortification mathematics, a key area that furthered the so-called European military revolution of the period. De Lucca makes the case that Jesuits were lively participants in the period’s military culture in the classroom, in political courts, in active service, and in the overseas missionary activities of the order.
Chapter 1 offers an overview of Jesuit interest in military matters, tracing such enthusiasm to the ex-soldier and founder of the order, St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491–1556). Here, De Lucca lays the foundation for the remaining chapters through an analysis of Loyola’s rhetoric, a survey of Jesuit mathematical teaching, and a discussion of internal arguments regarding the appropriate role of individual Jesuits in secular political and military conflicts. Chapters 2 and 3 move from these more general observations to specific accounts of where and how Jesuit mathematicians taught military architecture. Arguing for the strong links between the Jesuit order and the European nobility, De Lucca explores programs of study established in Italy, France, Portugal, and Spain, as well as the role of Jesuit mathematicians in providing instruction and practical advice in overseas missions in the Americas, the Philippines, and Ming and Qing China. Chapter 3 offers a more in-depth examination of the content of Jesuit treatises on fortification, which continued to be written and taught despite repeated warnings from Rome and a 1648 ban issued by Superior General Vincenzo Carafa (1585–1649). A case study of the career of Giacomo Masò (1626–74), who taught and advised on military architecture in Malta before leaving the Jesuit order in 1664, is the subject of chapter 4; De Lucca argues that Masò’s career exemplifies the internal tensions experienced by many Jesuits between their spiritual calling and their interest in military matters. Finally, chapter 5 considers the contributions of ex-Jesuits to works on military matters after the order’s suppression in 1773.
De Lucca succeeds in demonstrating that a good many Jesuit mathematicians had an interest in fortification, established programs of study to teach the subject, and wrote extensively on it. The book’s main strength is in its archival finds and detailed descriptions of programs of study and treatises on military architecture. [End Page 661] Although De Lucca gestures toward Jesuits’ involvement in political and military engagements in the period, the vast majority of his analysis focuses on theoretical contributions to military architecture. What Jesuits taught and when is more clearly defined than the more controversial activities of individual Jesuits who advised on warfare and consulted in political matters. Historians familiar with the broader historiography on European universities of the period may be frustrated by De Lucca’s close focus on Jesuit teaching and the book’s lack of extensive comparisons with other institutions, for fortification was also a common topic taught by university professors of mathematics more generally, especially in private courses to the nobility. Treatment of locales outside Europe also could be better contextualized with greater attention to local circumstances and sources.