Chapter 2 City, Church, and Court: Roman Culture in the Age of Sforza Pallavicino

In: Sforza Pallavicino
Maria Pia Donato
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Sforza Pallavicino was a nobleman and an ecclesiastic, a poet and an art theoretician, a theologian and a historian. Over the course of his career, he became a prelate, a local governor, and a lecturer; he was a Jesuit and later also a cardinal. This essay does not delve into his biography or analyse his works and achievements. Rather, it sets the stage for his career and the variety of activities in which he was involved. It provides the backdrop of the complex institutional landscape in which he was embedded: Baroque Rome.

Since Paolo Prodi’s ground-breaking Il sovrano Pontefice: un corpo e due anime in 1981, and later its translation, published in 1989,1 a considerable body of scholarship has delved into Early Modern Rome, highlighting the peculiarities that resulted from the dual nature—spiritual and temporal—of papal sovereignty and elective monarchy. Both the centre of the Catholic world and the capital of a state, papal Rome possessed many mutually dependent features: an overrepresentation of the nobility and ecclesiastics in the government and in the city population in general; a supranational court that was the point of convergence for not just European diplomacy but also large communities of foreigners of all social standings; a peculiar, highly competitive pattern of elites and bureaucracy formation; and, most importantly, polycentrism, the papal court being just one of the clusters where politics occurred, not least because of the court’s rapid turnover. The Counter-Reformation recast such intertwining of politics and religion in all regards, and made it more pervasive than ever.2

This interconnectedness affected cultural life profoundly. More than ever, the arts and sciences were meant to extol the normative universal message of the Church and the papacy, which the city of Rome had to express, symbolise, and make visible all at once.3 Patronage of culture and art also affirmed the authority of religion and the pope, while crafting individual and collective identities. A myriad of institutions cooperated toward this goal, but also competed with each other to define the message itself. The image of the beehive that Leone Allacci (1588–1669) exploited in his Apes Urbanae in praise of Urban VIII and the Barberini (whose emblem was the bee) to celebrate Rome’s force of attraction—and among whose viri illustri the young Pallavicino figured—in many ways encapsulates such cooperation and competition.4 Similarly, the popular metaphor of the theatre captured how Rome thought of itself vis-à-vis the world.

The peculiar nature of papal Rome makes it very difficult to trace a divide between what we would now consider scientific or literary pursuits and artistic or religious ones. Theology was a science and a form of culture; conversely, rhetoric was a social asset and a ‘tool of the trade’ in most curial positions. Although expertise in canon law or in theology generally led to different positions, the two pursuits were never completely separated in the career patterns of Roman prelates, who could find themselves in positions requiring rather dissimilar skills and activities. Not only was turnover high in most capacities, but for each and every prelate, as well as members of religious orders, the highest possible reward was a cardinal’s red hat.5 Those prelates who did not have the background, money, or protection to mettersi in prelatura (that is, begin a career in the curial offices), or who did not enter a religious order or a professional one, commonly worked at various jobs, as teachers, librarians, or secretaries, and also earned some ecclesiastical income if they were priests. Hence, an individual had to cope with various needs depending on his position and the demands of his patrons, be it his religious superiors, a cardinal, a nobleman, or the pope himself. Most of the time, he had not one but a constellation of patrons, as each new pope brought a new distribution of honours and powers, along with possibly novel nuances in his religious and political orientations.6 In other words, everyone had to be a polymath to a certain extent, able to negotiate the different exigencies of a career in this complicated and volatile interaction of institutions, individuals, and interests.7 Such were the heights and pitfalls of the system that Pallavicino experienced.

Before setting out to explore some cultural assets of Rome, following Pallavicino’s path, two caveats are necessary. First, this chapter will only tangentially deal with the arts, whether they be the ‘arts of drawing’ (painting, sculpture, and architecture), poetry, or music, although these were as relevant as other intellectual activities in the fabric of Baroque Rome as a cultural icon, and were central to Pallavicino’s interests.8 Second, the timeframe is important. From Sixtus V to Alexander VII and onward, the aim of all popes was to restore the political, religious, and cultural centrality of Rome. In the period spanning Pallavicino’s life, from Paul V (r. 1605–1621) to Alexander VII (r. 1655–1667), however, the triumphant phase of the Counter-Reformation shifted to the post-Westphalian fallback of the Holy See in European politics. Pope Chigi’s Roma restaurata, for which Pallavicino was a source of inspiration and a policymaker, must be understood against such a backdrop.

1 The Repositories of Knowledge: Libraries and Archives

It seems obvious to begin our journey within the cultural fabric of Baroque Rome, in those repositories of knowledge to which the papacy devoted the greatest of care, the Secret Archive and the Vatican Library. Pallavicino, the future historian of the Council of Trent, was still a child when, in the 1610s, in the midst of the Interdetto conflict with the Republic of Venice, Paul V created a general archive, the Archivum novum, separating archival material from the manuscript collections of the Vatican Library. Three halls, the Sale paoline, were refurbished and decorated with allegorical and historical episodes from the pope’s life to host the new archive to assist the Holy See in asserting its temporal and spiritual prerogatives. In 1630 Urban VIII turned the archives into a separate institution with his own praefectus, Felice Contelori, and ordered the transfer of the papal registers, the acta originalia of the Council of Trent, the minutes of the Briefs chancellery, and several other volumes and folders from the library.9 The archive and library thus formed a major repository of knowledge and authority for the papacy.

At that time the Vatican Library was one of the richest and most celebrated in the whole of Europe. In the last decades of the sixteenth century, it had moved into the new Sixtine hall and galleries on the Belvedere, designed by Domenico Fontana. In the course of the seventeenth century the library’s premises expanded further and incorporated numerous collections of printed and manuscript material. Two main acquisitions occurred during Pallavicino’s lifetime: in 1623 Maximilian I of Bavaria confiscated the Heidelberg university library and donated it to the pope as a trophy of Catholicism over heresy, and in 1657 Alexander VII purchased the collection of the Dukes of Urbino.10

The Vatican Library was pivotal to Rome’s intellectual life in many ways. The fact that Paul V, Urban VIII, and Alexander VII all appointed their nephews ‘cardinal librarian’ is both a manifestation of nepotism and an indication of the importance they attached to the Library.11 Many among its custodians (librarians) and scriptores enjoyed a good scholarly reputation and established networks of patronage and erudite exchange both in Rome and in the broader Republic of Letters. They had access to a wealth of materials which they used for their own research, for works written at the command of their patrons, and for the sake of confessional controversy. In the wake of Cesare Baronio (1538–1607), the eminent cardinal librarian and historian of the Counter-Reformation, the library’s custodians and scriptores often also functioned as library employees, members of other congregations and commissions, historians, editors of texts, experts on bibliography, facilitators of the circulation of books, and censors. Last but not least, they sometimes worked in other libraries too. The German philologist, geographer, and antiquarian Lukas Holste, with whom Pallavicino continually crossed paths, for instance, was not only librarian to Cardinal Francesco Barberini, but also a custodian at the Vatican and an advisor to Queen Christina of Sweden for her own book collection.12

Indeed, the Vatican was surrounded by several other libraries, both private and public. Possessing a library, as well as a collection of works of arts and antiques and a cabinet of naturalia, was common among the European nobilities and social elites, a sign of rank and taste. The culture of collecting was especially strong in Rome, however, because of the obvious link with Ancient Roman heritage and also because cardinals and prelates were supposedly an aristocracy of learning and virtue; libraries were therefore their best adornment.13 Libraries were acts of piety to benefit both future generations and the glory of Rome.

The Catholic reformation of knowledge was intended to reinforce the exemplarity of Rome, where all forms of culture were on display to render visible the Church’s ability to reconstitute a Christian empire. This generated what Paula Findlen has called ‘a competitive ethos of display’.14 Papal nephews such as Francesco Barberini and Flavio Chigi amassed books, paintings, and curiosities, and cardinals and noblemen competed with each other to make their palaces the most sumptuous in town. Thanks to the princely revenues of Cardinal Francesco, by 1681 the Barberini library in the family’s palace on the Quirinale amounted to 25,000 titles.15

Specific publications and city guides enumerated all these libraries adorning Rome.16 The main colleges, primarily the Collegio Romano (which actually had a ‘common’ general library as well as a secret one), figure in such catalogues, and those of the main convents of Angelica and Vallicelliana, created respectively in 1595 and 1582, also stood out. Two seventeenth-century foundations are also worth mentioning—the Alessandrina in the new complex of the Sapienza university, which Alexander VII entrusted to Francesco Borromini, and the library in Propaganda Fide’s Collegio Urbano near Piazza di Spagna. Pallavicino’s own library was listed as one ‘of sciences and of sacred and moral erudition as well as philology that serve the wisdom of such an eminent and illustrious princely cardinal’ in one of the most famous descriptions of the wonders of Rome, the Nota delli musei, attributed to Giovan Pietro Bellori.17 Some of these libraries were designed by famous architects and lavishly furnished, as the seventeenth century witnessed the transformation of libraries from the Renaissance studioli to theatres of knowledge. As Bartolomeo Piazza put it in his Eusevologio: Trattato delle opere pie, libraries are a ‘theatre of the books of the deceased authors whose scope is to instruct the living’.18

Enumerating Roman libraries and collections (even those of only a few thousand volumes) was important in augmenting Rome’s role as the norm-creator at a time when competition with the great European monarchies and their capital cities, especially Paris, was rapidly escalating. Many of these private libraries did not outlive their owners, however. Few owners had the money to transform their libraries into public facilities, though many tried to preserve their legacy by bequeathing collections to bigger libraries, such as those of their order or patron, or the Vatican and the Angelica. Except for a few manuscripts, Pallavicino himself left his books to the so-called common library at the Collegio Romano for the sake of future generations of gentlemen and Jesuits like himself.

2 Publishing and Printing—and Censoring—Books

Early modern Rome, while rich in books, was not renowned as a hub for the book trade and industry, especially compared with Venice, where prints were a substantial part of the city’s economy. True, several dozen local and international booksellers, who also often acted as publishers and commissioning editors, had shops in Rome, but the circulation of books was made difficult by confessional divides and, for most of the seventeenth century, war.

To some extent, the weakness of the Roman printing industry would seem more a historiographical blind spot than historical fact: studies generally focus on single printers, and it is not easy to obtain an overview of their output in terms of quantity, quality, circulation, and commercial success. Marco Santoro, however, has noted that in the seventeenth century the gap narrowed considerably between Rome and Venice’s book production, in particular of religious publications.19

In addition, several scholars have highlighted the non-commercial nature of many books printed in Rome.20 Costly publications in natural history, the arts, church history, and the antiquities came into being largely thanks to a patron, part of the all-pervasive Roman patronage system: authors needed a patron to publish their works, and published their works to secure a patron. The Stamperia Vaticana, Stamperia camerale, and Propaganda Fide’s polyglot printing office were undoubtedly not commercial enterprises. By the 1640s, the latter could print in twenty different languages and several alphabets, and employed a significant number of translators and men of letters from various backgrounds.21 In 1655 Allacci, whom we have already met as a panegyrist of Barberini Rome, was appointed director of Propaganda typography. His case exemplifies how it was possible to create a position in Baroque Rome thanks to linguistic and scholarly skills: he was a lecturer, a scriptor graecus at the Vatican Library, an author on Byzantine history, philosophy, medicine, literature, and theology, librarian to Francesco Barberini, and eventually custode at the Vatican. His case also exemplifies how fragile and uneven such a career could be.22

A large portion of the Roman book trade comprised isolated sheets related to ritual and festive occasions, not meant for commercial use.23 Francesco Corbelletti, for instance, who printed young Pallavicino’s thesis, De Universa philosophia, in 1625, created a significant output of such publications for both the Collegio Romano and the University of Rome. But Corbelletti also printed teaching books and scholarly works, and was in fact one of the Jesuits’ favourite printers. Pallavicino maintained a longstanding relationship with Corbelletti, who printed all his early works on philosophy and literature, including Del bene in 1644 and Trattato dello stile e del dialogo in 1646.24

Nevertheless, seventeenth-century Rome witnessed the rise of commercially successful publishers too, such as Giacomo Mascardi (1567–1634), another of Pallavicino’s publishers. Over time, Mascardi’s officina near the Collegio Romano and the Dominican church of S. Maria sopra Minerva took over several other firms, produced hundreds of titles, and earned a name for publishing and printing scientific books; the writings of Galileo and most of the Linceans came off their press.25 In 1660 Vitale Mascardi published an abridgement of Pallavicino’s Istoria del Concilio di Trento,26 and in 1662 reprinted Trattato dello stile. In fact, Pallavicino was a bestselling writer for whose works printers competed. His Istoria del Concilio di Trento, originally printed by Angelo Bernabò in association with Giovanni Casoni in 1656–1657, went through three editions and several abridgements during his lifetime, and Arte della perfezione cristiana, also printed by Bernabò, was rapidly reprinted in Venice in cheaper, smaller editions.

Admittedly, one difficulty in printing and selling books in Rome was censorship. It might seem odd to mention censorship in an essay on Rome’s cultural assets, yet any account of Roman intellectual life would be incomplete without such a discussion. In the past twenty years censorship has come to be regarded by historians as a normal condition of the book trade all across early modern Europe. This is true for Rome, too. Since the opening of the archives of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1996, a considerable body of scholarship has investigated many aspects of the activities of the Holy Office of the Roman Inquisition and Sacred Congregation of the Index of Prohibited Books (created in 1571), and scholars now tend to consider them as part of a web of institutions competing to define orthodoxy and to control culture. What stands out as peculiar to Rome, however, is the absolute dominance of the clergy over the laity, as well as the complexity of censorship, with several bodies and institutions overlapping, each with their own internal tensions.27

Recent research on the Inquisition has revealed the complexities of its internal composition and its relationships with scholars in the Catholic, and even the Reformation, world. After an initial phase dominated by Dominicans and Franciscans, the Holy Office and the Index came to include various religious orders; because of collegiality and plurality, the external debates echoed loudly within both congregations. Therefore, the revision of books and the evaluation of doctrines and ideas was an extremely complicated process, and shifts in the balance of opinions and ‘schools’ were not infrequent. On a number of controversial doctrines and devotions, the Holy Office could not issue any formal statement, and either resorted to prohibiting any further debate or else tried to find a middle ground, affecting opposite sides alternately. In other cases, a condemnation, however formal, failed to induce compliance.28

The Index also relied on a number of referees (consultores), who were sometimes secular priests and even laymen of letters, so that a significant number of intellectuals in Rome were engaged both in cultural life and in those institutions that were meant to regulate it. Preventive censorship—that is, gaining the licence to print from the Master of the Sacred Palace—proved an intricate matter for Roman authors, who had to pull together their networks to secure an imprimatur, or to get a licence from the Congregation of the Index to read prohibited books.29 Federico Cesi and his fellow Linceans mastered this kind of networking to secure the academy’s publications. And yet the system was subject to shifts in politics and the balance of power at court, partly because that system relied on patronage and courtesy. At any rate, having an imprimatur did not suffice to avoid persecution; Galileo’s Dialogo sopra i due massimi sistemi del mondo is the most notorious victim of such shifts (it also entailed the disgrace of Pallavicino and his master and friend, Giovanni Ciampoli).30

Moreover, in 1625, Urban VIII prohibited anyone living in Rome from publishing elsewhere without a special licence. Prospective authors tried to circumvent the prohibition, but members of supranational communities like the Jesuits did so more easily. In 1653, Pallavicino printed his Disputationum in primam secundae D. Thomae in Lyon, a city where the book trade flourished outside a system of privilege and where the Jesuits were powerful.

Sometimes, authors chose to cooperate as a necessity, and accepted self-censorship or the expurgation of their own writings as the lesser evil. Especially among lay writers and readers, a truly asymmetrical relationship tied them to those ecclesiastics and cardinals in charge who determined what was licit and what was not. After all, it was theologians trained in scholastic philosophy and theology who judged Galileo, and Descartes three decades later—one of whose judges was Pallavicino himself, by then an influential cardinal inquisitor.31 Any learned person could find himself to be both censor (revisore) and censored. An appointment to the Holy Office or the Index generally came after someone had gained a name through writing and teaching. Such an appointment, however, did not prevent that person from writing further on those very topics upon which he made dogmatic pronouncements. In addition, the orders, the Society of Jesus foremost, had their own internal censorship, which could coalesce strong internal tensions.

While regular clergy largely followed their order’s tradition, they also had their own personal inclinations and tenets. The Jesuits, for instance, were far from unanimous in their thinking about moral theology and the boundaries between theology, metaphysics, and physics. Astronomy and the ‘world system’ were but one aspect of the problem, and in the course of the seventeenth century theories of matter and atomism came more prominently to the fore. Not all Jesuits agreed on how to salvage and modernise Aristotelian philosophy and, more generally, how to cope with innovation, and an inherent tension existed between the order’s efforts to maintain doctrinal uniformity and remain at the forefront of modern culture.

In other words, any author—or more accurately, any ecclesiastic—could teach one doctrine and defend a different one based on what he considered the greater good of his order or the Church and the papacy. Pallavicino was in constant struggle with such entanglements, and other chapters in this volume deal in greater detail with the key controversies in which he took part. I therefore shall only hint at the turning point of the late 1640s and early 1650s, when the Society of Jesus was torn by contrasting tendencies and scholasticism was under attack both in moral theology and natural philosophy.

As a professor of theology, Pallavicino was the target of the conservative Society’s hierarchy: his treatises De incarnatione, De gratia, De caritate and De fide were blocked by the censors for years, and not published until 1649. The censors nonetheless asked that he at least retract his Zenonist teachings on continuum.32 When General Vincenzo Carafa died in June that year, Pallavicino received permission to publish his polemical Vindicationes, which have been considered a manifesto of the ‘modernist’ tendency inside the order but which are more aptly described as proposing a middle ground agenda. More precisely, Pallavicino refuted the need for strict adherence to Aristotelianism and Thomism in all aspects of natural philosophy, while calling on the defence of those core Catholic teachings in sacramental theology under attack by modern philosophies, especially atomism.33

The modernist line was altogether defeated in the Ninth General Congregation, and a commission was appointed to draft a list of ‘propositiones non docendae’ to be included in the Ordinatio pro studiis superioribus issued in 1651. A number of these concerned mathematical and physical atomism and were meant to rebut all novelties and accommodations once and for all. Pallavicino played a relevant part. As early as 1650, in his Assertionum theologicarum, he duly wrote against the opinions that atoms lack substantial form and that all is made of ingenerable and incorruptible atoms.34 In those same years, as a qualificator for the Holy Office, he contributed to making the tribunal take a firmer position against non-Aristotelian physics in relation to transubstantiation.35

In the following years, the Jesuits continued to explore the liminal areas between theology and natural philosophy. At the same time, however, especially at the Collegio Romano, the Society guarded orthodoxy against non-scholastic or atomist explanations of the Eucharist, as did, for instance, Pallavicino’s student and successor, Silvestro Mauro (1619–1687).36 Long after Pallavicino’s death, sacramental physics and the problem of transubstantiation polarised the theological warfare among religious orders, intertwined with moral controversies, but his influence remained strong in the Holy Office ‘because in that time [i.e., in Pallavicino’s time] atomistic opinions had already been renewed’.37

3 Universities, Colleges, and ‘Glocal’ Higher Education

Like many Jesuits, Pallavicino spent several years of his life teaching. He moved swiftly through the classic progression of Jesuit readers: logics, natural philosophy, metaphysics, and, from 1644 onward, theology. He also served two years as dean (prefetto degli studi) at the Collegio Romano. Long before that, he had spent many years in the Collegio Romano as a student.

The Collegio Romano, founded in 1543, and inaugurated in its monumental premises in 1584, was in fact a complex of facilities. In addition to the library, it included an observatory and a large collection of naturalia and artificialia set up by Athanasius Kircher (1602–1680), a professor of mathematics, a collection that in 1651 was moved into a new vast exhibition hall on the ground floor. As the central institution for the educational activity of all Jesuits, and the place where the Ratio studiorum was elaborated, the Collegio Romano was nothing less than a showcase of the order’s intellectual excellence.38 It attracted the best minds in the Society in all domains: from rhetoric to mathematics (Christoph Clavius taught there from 1560 to 1610),39 and from natural philosophy to theology. In 1556 it was granted permission to offer degrees in philosophy and theology.

Such a privilege made the Jesuits a formidable competitor of the city’s ‘secular’ university, the Sapienza. Established in the thirteenth century and re-founded in the humanistic, multidisciplinary scope of a studium generale in 1406, the Sapienza underwent several reforms that by the end of the sixteenth century had put it under the firm control of the Collegio degli avvocati concistoriali, and ultimately the cardinal chamberlain (camerlengo), and, of course, the pope. As a matter of fact, in Rome as elsewhere in Italy, law and medicine formed proper faculties governed by a corporate body or privileged college, whereas theology was less structured, and university theologians were closer to the ‘lesser’ faculty of arts. Hence, rather paradoxically in a theocratic state like Rome, theologians at the main papal university were challenged by other institutions, such as the Collegio Romano, and the studia of other powerful religious orders. The university was probably one of the places where the tension between Rome as a city and Rome as the centre of the Catholic world was most acute.

Furthermore, several colleges in Rome trained national missionary clerics—colleges where Catholics from different ‘frontier lands’ were trained to return later to their homelands and propagate the Roman credo. The German college, founded in 1552 and later merged with the Hungarian one, was the first. It was soon followed, under Gregory XIII (r. 1572–1585), by a Greek college in 1577, then one for Englishmen in 1579, and another for Maronites in 1584. Scottish, Irish, and Basilian colleges were created in 1600, 1628, and 1634 respectively. Meanwhile, in 1627, an apostolic (that is, universal) Collegio Urbano for prospective missionaries opened and quickly attracted students from very remote lands. In 1641 it was put under the control of the Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith (Propaganda Fide) and reformed under Alexander VII to enhance its international appeal further.40 Although the prestige of these institutions and their teachers should not be overrated, as they were more like residence halls for students attending the Sapienza and the Collegio Romano, they were sites of culture where ‘exotic’ languages and expert knowledge were cultivated; the papal court especially prized oriental scholarship.41 The Jesuits in fact ran several of these institutions, as well as the Seminario Romano, which was technically the diocesan seminary but, again, recruited students and teachers beyond the diocese’s limits.

In other words, higher education in seventeenth-century Rome was as ‘glocal’ as the court and city—as global in appeal and intent as its source, yet tightly focused within the local context, at once universal and stately. Nevertheless, the role of the university in such a system should not be underestimated. As a papal university in supranational Rome, the Sapienza never completely acquired the features of the studium of an average city, even though the seventeenth century is commonly viewed as a period of decline and localism—a view that originated in the age of Reforms in the eighteenth century. The number of students was relatively small (except for those studying law) and their origin less diverse than elsewhere, but lecturers came from the whole of Italy and beyond. They often taught for only a few years, either because they left for better paying positions in other universities or because they were promoted to more prestigious positions in the Church or Curia—especially those teaching theology (all of whom were members of religious orders anyway) and law. As previously mentioned, the turnover of curial personnel was rapid, and religious, intellectual, and political careers overlapped considerably. Because a university lecturer position was often a junior, and not very prominent, one, lecturers were sometimes second-rank figures, or they might gain a wider fame after being promoted to a higher rank: the Dominican Vincenzo Maculano and the Franciscan conventual Lorenzo Brancati da Lauria, for example, were lecturers, inquisitors, and, later, cardinals.42

Popes periodically intervened to suffuse new life into the Sapienza, however. They appointed reputable lecturers, as Urban VIII did with Benedetto Castelli and Paganino Gaudenzi (who then immediately left for Padua), or modernised its facilities, as Alexander VII did. The grandiose new fabbrica designed by Borromini was a manifesto of Chigi’s restoration of Rome’s authority. And all caveats aside, several lecturers who enjoyed the repute of learned men in Pallacivino’s epoch could be mentioned in the Sapienza book of honours: men like the mathematician Antonio Santini, the controversial theologian Francisco Macedo, the Arabic and ‘Syrian-Chaldean’ readers Abraham Ecchelensis, Fausto Nairone, Filippo Guadagnoli, and Ludovico Marracci, and the physician professor of materia medica and natural historian Johannes Faber.43 The faculty of medicine held a place of its own, and for obvious reasons lacked the interchange with curial apparatuses that the faculty of law had, though physicians could combine a university lectureship with a position in one of the city hospitals as well as a private practice, sometimes at court. Many seventeenth-century medical professors were also prolific authors who kindled the tradition of Rome as a centre of medical learning.

4 The Theatre of All Virtues: Academies as Interface between Culture, Society, and Politics

The academies of Rome reflected Roman culture and its very peculiar configuration, entangled as they were in the logics of court and Curia. Since the Renaissance, the city had witnessed the spectacular growth of different forms of academic sociability. Dozens of academies, mostly ephemeral, emerged as signs of a city that was a cultural and symbolic capital.44 Many cardinals promoted academies of letters and philosophy as part of their princely status, paired with the gravity and learning of the ecclesiastical condition as part of their cultural and political strategy. The crown’s ambassadors and the most prominent noblemen, along with religious orders and other institutions, all pursued similar activities. The number of academies is arguably a measure of the plurality of powers competing in the public arena, with the pope’s court surrounded by a circle of cardinals and a circle of noblemen. In the ‘theatre of the world’ that was Rome, academies allowed the grandees to increase their visibility and prestige.

The large number of academies was also an outcome of the attraction that Rome exerted upon the intellectuals and social elites of Italy and beyond. For all those men flocking to Rome in search of fame and fortune, entering a learned assembly would mark their ‘romanisation’, and gave them the opportunity to show their talents and find a patron to secure their career in the Church or in curial offices. They were indeed the interface between the court(s), the Church, and society at large, and facilitated the meeting of people of different social standing, civil status, and age, as they enrolled ‘people who are considered remarkable for their noble birth, their not-insubstantial learning, or their excellence in some respectable art’.45 Cardinals were patrons (protettori), princes, or special guests of these learned and noble assemblies.

Of course, academies were primarily a form of cultured leisure, an honest and decent otium literarium, and a literary occupation for gentlemen in the tradition of Renaissance refinement, in which declamatio and disputatio combined genteelly. But the educational purpose of academies was clear: academies represented a ‘school’ for curial personnel at the beginning of their careers, where they were introduced to the secrets of the court and Church. Gaining oneself a position implied a careful self-representation. It is not by chance that in seventeenth-century academic prose certain themes recur around the courtier-academician—the appropriate conduct for life at the court, the perils and opportunities of courtly life, and the appropriate education and talents—the most successful embodiments of these themes being Girolamo Aleandro, Agostino Mascardi, and Matteo Peregrini.46

Whenever the papacy targeted a new subject of controversy, it resorted to academies as the best means to train and promote the younger prelates and scholars who would address it. Under Urban VIII, at a time when Rome had revived the hopes of a reunion with the Greek Orthodox Church to counterbalance Protestantism, an Academia Basiliana was formed at Holste’s suggestion, where experts on sacred antiquities and students and novices at the oriental colleges met to elaborate historical arguments and sometimes serve the activity of the cardinals’ congregations, such as the Congregation of Rites.47 Thirty years later, under Clement IX, the idea to recreate an academy to cultivate sacred history, especially the history of the councils in response to contemporary (French) erudition, was taken over by Giovanni Giustino Ciampini and eventually established at the Collegio Urbano of the Propaganda Fide.48

Such a large plurality of actors entailed several partly incongruous phenomena. First, most academies were short-lived, and ceased to exist when their patron died or simply lost interest or time. As Holste wrote regarding the Academia Basiliana, ‘our Greek academy has been lost […] or to put it better, it has fallen into desuetude because of the other more urgent occupations of my lord the most eminent Cardinal [Barberini]’.49

Second, they permitted and enhanced a variety of opinions. Each meeting could launch ‘messages whose political significance, though not overtly expressed, could not fail to be understood by an audience skilled in grasping the most obscurely worded allusions’.50 However, no tenet should gain complete hegemony, just as no academy could really rise to the status of an official, overtly dominant institution. Early modern academies were inherently pluralistic, producing consensus rather than assent, and even more so in Rome: more than collective bodies and autonomous institutions with distinctive intellectual agendas, academies are better understood as ways of making public those involved as promoters and academicians to affirm their moral, celebrative, and professional goals.

Even successful academies were not exempt from such basic dynamics. In a way, it can be argued that the struggle for hegemony, both internal and public, doomed the two academies, the Umoristi and the Lincean, which had staged the entry of a brilliant young Pallavicino onto the Roman cultural scene. Both academies came to be progressively identified with a distinct aesthetic or philosophical option. The Lincean Academy became so engaged with Galileo’s cause as to represent themselves as a ‘militia’, putting their own members at a distance. Both academies, furthermore, enjoyed favour at court and were particularly well connected to the Barberini family and entourage, so that the election of Maffeo Barberini propelled them into high honours. The prohibition of Giambattista Marino’s Adone in 1627, Cesi’s death in 1630, and Galileo’s trial in 1632–1633, however, reduced their ambition of embodying a supposedly official cultural politics and, in the case of the Linceans, simply put an end to their existence for want of a patron after the Galileo affair.51 In fact, Galileo’s trial created a void for several years, and it was only in Florence that the Lincean Academy’s controversial heritage could be enacted again, under the aegis of the Medici. Not until the second half of the seventeenth century did a reaction against the most obsolete forms of late baroque humanism instil new energy into academic life, simultaneously changing its intellectual focus in Rome.

Academies also fashioned the hierarchy of disciplines and areas of knowledge. Toward the end of Pallavicino’s lifetime, a noticeable shift occurred in this regard, a development in which his disapproval of nepotism played a small part. As the need for decent, learned prelates became more pressing, positive theology, Church history, and antiquarianism were regarded as the most suitable occupation for any learned assembly that wanted to increase the glory and credit of Catholic Rome, while contributing to implementing the deeply sought-after neo-tridentine reform of Church and court.52

Later in the century, in the decades from the end of Alexander VII’s reign to that of Innocent XI, even scientific academism blossomed. Cardinals and prelates more actively encouraged the exploration of the realms of the so-called new science. After all, the Cimento had shown how fruitful—yet safe—the patronage of experimental philosophy could be, and some eight academies devoted some or even most of their gatherings to natural philosophy and medicine.53 The effect of such developments, however, was that literary skills lost currency in a curial career, and the idea of sacred poetry, especially in Latin, as a universal message, which had been a feature of Pallavicino’s Rome, dissolved.54

Pallavicino did not witness the fullness of such a development. He died on 4 June 1667, a few days after the death of his friend and patron Alexander VII. In his last will and testament, he asked to be buried in Sant’Andrea on the Quirinal Hill, the Jesuits’ novitiate church, in a modest floor tomb. The inscription he dictated mentioned only his cardinalate, as if Pallavicino had once and for all relinquished any past involvement with the world of letters and chosen his role as a prelate of the Holy Roman Church over everything else. And yet, very soon afterwards, the publication of his correspondence by his former secretary, Giovanbattista Galli Pavarelli, retrieved his multiple identities of nobleman and ecclesiastic, poet, art theoretician, theologian, and historian.55


Prodi P., Il sovrano Pontefice: un corpo e due anime. La monarchia pontificia nella prima età moderna (Bologna: 1981); translated as The Papal Prince: One Body and Two Souls: The Papal Monarchy in Early Modern Europe, trans. S. Haskins (Cambridge: 1989).


See, for example, Fiorani L. – Prosperi A. (eds.), Storia d’Italia: Roma, la città del papa, Annali 16 (Turin: 2000); Signorotto G. – Visceglia M.A. (eds.), Court and Politics in Papal Rome, 1492–1700 (Cambridge: 2002); Ciucci G. (ed.), Roma moderna (Rome – Bari: 2002); Visceglia M.A. (ed.), Papato e politica internazionale nella prima età moderna (Rome: 2013); Jones P.M. – Wisch B. – Dicthfield S. (eds.), A Companion to Early Modern Rome, 1492–1692 (Leiden: 2019).


Ditchfield S., “Reading Rome as a Sacred Landscape, c. 1586–1635”, in Coster W. – Spicer A. (eds.), Sacred Space in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge: 2005) 167–192.


Allacci Leone, Apes Vrbanae, siue De viris illustribus, qui ab anno 1630. per totum 1632. Romæ adfuerunt, ac typis aliquid euulgarunt (Rome, Ludouicus Grignanus: 1633).


Partner P., The Pope’s Men: The Papal Civil Service in the Renaissance (Oxford: 1990); Ago R., Carriere e clientele nella Roma barocca (Bari: 1990); Reinhard W., “Le carriere papali e cardinalizie: Contributo alla storia sociale del papato”, in Fiorani L. – Prosperi A. (eds.), Roma, la città del papa (Turin: 2000) 261–290; Rosa M., La curia romana in età moderna. Istituzioni, cultura, carriere (Rome: 2013).


Caffiero M. – Donato M.P. – Romano A., “De la catholicité post-tridentine à la République romaine: splendeurs et misères des intellectuels courtisans”, in Boutier J. – Marin B. – Romano A. (eds.), Naples, Rome, Florence. Une histoire comparée des milieux intellectuels italiens (XVIIeXVIIIe siècles) (Rome: 2006) 171–208.


Donato M.P. – Kraye J. (eds.), Conflicting Duties: Science, Medicine and Religion in Rome 1550–1750 (London: 2009). For a reappraisal of constraints and liberty in Baroque Rome in regard to arts, see Montanari T., La libertà di Bernini (Turin: 2016).


Delbeke M., The Art of Religion: Sforza Pallavicino and Art Theory in Bernini’s Rome (Farnham: 2012).


Religiosa archivorum custodia: IV Centenario della Fondazione dell’Archivio Segreto Vaticano (1612–2012) (Vatican City: 2014); Pagano S. – Maiorino M., “Dalle camere segrete all’archivio apostolico: la separazione dell’archivio papale dalla Biblioteca Vaticana”, in Montuschi C. (ed.), La Vaticana nel Seicento (1590–1700): Una biblioteca di biblioteche (Vatican City: 2014) 243–278.


Bignami-Odier J., La Bibliothèque Vaticane de Sixte IV. à Pie XI: recherches sur l’histoire des collections de manuscrits (Vatican City: 1973); Montuschi (ed.), La Vaticana nel Seicento.


For a comparison of the three households and their strategies, see Völkel M., Römische Kardinalshaushalte des 17. Jahrhunderts: Borghese, Barberini, Chigi (Tübingen: 1993) and Karsten A., Künstler und Kardinäle. Von Mäzenatentum römischer Kardinalnepoten im 17. Jahrhundert (Cologne: 2003).


Rietbergen P., Power and Religion in Baroque Rome: Barberini Cultural Policies (Leiden: 2006) 256–295; Vian P., “Un bibliotecario al lavoro: Holste, la Barberiniana, la Vaticana e la biblioteca della regina Cristina di Svezia”, in Montuschi (ed.), La Vaticana nel Seicento 205–238.


Fragnito G., “Cardinals’ Courts in Sixteenth-Century Rome”, Journal of Modern History 65 (1993) 26–56; Petrucci A., “I libri della porpora”, in Cavallo G. (ed.), I luoghi della memoria scritta (Bari: 1994) 303–309. Donato M.P., “Cardinals and the Culture of Libraries and Learning”, in Hollingsworth M. – Pattenden M. – Witte A. (eds.), A Companion to the Early Modern Cardinal (Leiden: 2019) 493–508.


Findlen P., “Scientific Spectacle in Baroque Rome: Athanasius Kircher and the Roman College Museum”, Roma moderna e contemporanea 3 (1995) 625–665, at 627; Feigenbaum G. (ed.), The Display of Art in the Roman Palace 1550–1750 (Los Angeles: 2014).


Index Bibliothecae qua F. Barberinus magnificentissimas suae Familiae ad Quirinalem aedes magnificentiores reddidit (Rome, Typis Barberinis, Excudebat Michael Hercules: 1681).


Serrai A., “La Vaticana e le altre biblioteche romane”, in Montuschi (ed.), La Vaticana nel Seicento 47–72, lists 126 libraries recorded in guidebooks from the 1590s to the 1690s.


Bellori Giovan Pietro, Nota delli musei, librerie, galerie, et ornamenti di statue e pitture ne’ palazzi, nelle case, e ne’ giardini di Roma (Rome, Biagio Deuersin – Felice Cesaretti: 1664) 42. The attribution is contested: see Pierguidi S., “Due autori per la Nota delli Musei del 1664: Giovanni Pietro Bellori e Fioravante Martinelli”, Bibliofilia: rivista di storia del libro e di bibliografia 113.2 (2011) 225–232.


Piazza Carlo Bartolomeo, Euseuologio romano, ouero Delle opere pie di Roma, accresciuto, & ampliato secondo lo stato presente. Con due trattati delle accademie, e librerie celebri di Roma, vol. 5 (Rome, Domenico Antonio Ercole: 1698) cxxviii–cxxx.


Santoro M., Storia del libro italiano: libro e società in Italia dal Quattrocento al Novecento (Milan: 2008) 246–248, 228, to be set against the Venetian backdrop sketched by Infelise M., L’editoria veneziana nel ’700 (Milan: 1989). It should be noted, however, that the seventeenth century is commonly considered to be a period of crisis. For an informative overview on the sixteenth-century book trade, see Nuovo A., The Book Trade in the Italian Renaissance (Leiden – Boston: 2015).


Andretta E., “Dedicare libri di medicina: medici e potenti nella Roma del XVI secolo”, and Brevaglieri S., “Editoria e cultura a Roma nei primi decenni del Seicento: lo spazio della scienza”, both in Romano A. (ed.), Rome et la science moderne. De La Renaissance aux Lumières (Rome: 2008) 207–255 and 257–319 respectively.


Henke W., “The Polyglot Printing-Office of the Congregation”, in Metzler J. (ed.), Sacrae Congregationis de Propaganda Fide Memoria Rerum vol. 1 (Rome – Freiburg – Vienna: 1971) 335–350. For an earlier period, see Sachet P., Publishing for the Popes: The Roman Curia and the Use of Printing (1527–1555) (Leiden: 2020).


Cerbu T., Leone Allacci (1587–1669): The Fortunes of an Early Byzantinist (Ann Arbor: 1987) 197–204.


Franchi S., Le impressioni sceniche. Dizionario bio-bibliografico degli editori e stampatori romani e laziali di testi drammatici e libretti per musica dal 1579 al 1800 (Rome: 1994) leaves no doubt in this regard; Rice L., “Jesuit Thesis Prints and the Festive Academic Defence at the Collegio Romano”, in O’Malley J.W. et al. (eds.), The Jesuits: Cultures, Sciences, and the Arts, 1540–1773 (Toronto: 1999) 148–169.


Both works, however, can arguably be considered teaching texts, given the centrality of rhetoric in the Society’s pedagogy, on which see Battistini A., “I manuali di retorica dei gesuiti”, in Brizzi G.P. (ed.), La ‘Ratio studiorum’. Modelli culturali e pratiche educative dei Gesuiti in Italia tra Cinque e Seicento (Rome: 1981) 77–120.


Mascardi also met international success with books on medicine and the antiquities; see Franchi S., “Mascardi, Giacomo”, in DBI, vol. 71 (Rome: 2008),; for a further case study, see Ceresa M., Una stamperia nella Roma del primo Seicento: annali tipografici di Guglielmo Facciotti ed eredi, 1592–1640 (Rome: 2000).


Istoria del Concilio di Trento scritta dal padre Sforza Pallauicino della Compagnia di Giesù […] compendiata dal padre f. Calisto Puccinelli lucchese […] (Rome, Mascardi: 1660).


See, as an introduction to a still growing body of scholarship, Fragnito G. (ed.), Church, Censorship and Culture in Early Modern Italy (Cambridge: 2001); Wolf H. (ed.), Inquisition, Index, Zensur: Wissenskulturen der Neuzeit im Widerstreit (Paderborn: 2001). More generally, on censorship as a normal feature of early modern intellectual life, see Tortarolo E. et al. (eds.), Censorship in Early Modern Europe, special issue of Journal of Modern European History 3 (2005).


Neveu B., L’erreur et son juge: remarques sur les censures doctrinales à l’époque moderne (Naples: 1993); Donato M.P., “Les doutes de l’Inquisiteur. Philosophie naturelle, censure et théologie à l’époque moderne”, Annales HSS 64 (2009) 15–43; Cavarzere M., La prassi della censura nell’Italia del Seicento: tra repressione e mediazione (Rome: 2011).


Brevaglieri S., “Science, Books and Censorship in the Academy of the Lincei: Johannes Faber as Cultural Mediator”, in Donato – Kraye (eds.), Conflicting Duties 109–134. See further Marcus H., Forbidden Knowledge: Medicine, Science and Censorship in Early Modern Italy (Chicago: 2020).


Camerota M., Galileo Galilei e la cultura scientifica nell’età della Controriforma (Rome: 2004); Heilbron J.L., Galileo (Oxford: 2010); Favino F., La filosofia naturale di Giovanni Ciampoli (Florence: 2015) and her “Sforza Pallavicino editore e ‘galileista ad un modo’”, Giornale critico della filosofia italiana 6.20 (2000) 280–315.


Redondi P., Galileo Heretic, trans. R. Rosenthal (Princeton: 1987) 200–202, 264–290; Armogathe J.R. – Carraud V., “La première condamnation des Oeuvres de Descartes, d’après des documents inédits aux Archives du Saint Office”, Nouvelles de la République des Lettres 2 (2001) 103–138.


Costantini C., Baliani e i Gesuiti. Annotazioni in margine alla corrispondenza del Baliani con Gio. Luigi Confalonieri e Orazio Grassi (Florence: 1969) 97–102.


Pallavicino Sforza, Vindicationes Societatis Iesu quibus multorum accusationes in eius institutum, leges, gymnasia, mores refelluntur (Rome, Dominici Manelphi: 1649) 180. On the various forms of ‘accommodation’ of Jesuit natural philosophy, see Baroncini G., “L’insegnamento della filosofia naturale nei Collegi italiani dei Gesuiti (1610–1670): un esempio di nuovo aristotelismo”, in Brizzi (ed.), La ‘Ratio studiorum’ 163–215; Baldini U., Legem impone subactis: Studi su filosofia e scienza dei gesuiti in Italia 1540–1632 (Rome: 1992); Feingold M. (ed.), Jesuit Science and the Republic of Letters (Cambridge, MA: 2003). On the moral controversies within the Society of Jesus, in a vast body of literature, see Gay J.P., Jesuit Civil Wars: Theology, Politics and Government under Tirso González (1687–1705) (Farnham: 2012).


Pallavicino Sforza, Assertionum theologicarum. Liber sextus de sacramentis (Rome, Typis Haeredum Corbelletti: 1650) 419–456.


ACDF, Vatican City, Sancti Officii, St. St. O3f. On the 1651 watershed, see Hellyer M., “The Construction of the Ordinatio pro Studis superioribus of 1651”, Archivum historicum Societatis Iesu 143 (2003) 3–43. On Pallavicino’s stance on moral issues within the Inquisition, see Tutino S., Uncertainty in Post-Reformation Catholicism: A History of Probabilism (Oxford: 2017) 208–246 and 478–457.


Mauro Silvestro, Quaestionum philosophicarum libri quatuor (Rome, Ignatij de Lazeris: 1658). Mauro assisted Pallavicino on his deathbed, upon which he wrote “Ultimi momenti del Cardinale Pallavicino”, BNCR, Ms. Gesuitico 1526, 7.


ACDF, Vatican City, Sancti Officii, St. St. O3f, fol. 443v (1671). On the connection between moral philosophy, Eucharist theology and atomism, see Donato M.P., “Scienza e teologia nelle congregazioni romane: la questione atomista, 1626–1727”, in Romano (ed.), Rome et la science moderne 595–634.


On the Collegio Romano, see the standard source, Villoslada R.G., Storia del Collegio Romano dal suo inizio (1551) alla soppressione della Compagnia di Gesù (1773) (Rome: 1954); “Il Collegio Romano”, special issue, Roma moderna e contemporanea 3 (1995); Fois M., “L’organizzazione dell’insegnamento alla Gregoriana prima del 1773”, Gregorianum 85.1 (2004) 113–131. More broadly, see Giard L. (ed.), Les jésuites à la Renaissance. Système éducatif et production des savoirs (Paris: 1995).


Romano A., La contre-réforme mathématique. Constitution et diffusion d’une culture mathématique jésuite à la Renaissance (1560–1640) (Rome: 1999) 85–178.


These colleges are the object of uneven, largely celebrative scholarship, but see Schmidt P., Das Collegium Germanicum in Rom und die Germaniker: zur Funktion eines römischen Ausländer-seminars, 1551–1914 (Tübingen: 1984).


Pizzorusso G., “Tra cultura e missione: la congregazione di Propaganda Fide e le scuole di lingua araba nel XVII secolo”, in Romano (ed.), Rome et la science moderne 121–152; Girard A., “L’enseignement de l’arabe à Rome au XVIIIe siècle”, in Grévin (ed.), Maghreb- Italie. Des passeurs médiévaux à l’orientalisme moderne (Rome: 2010) 209–234.


Renazzi F.M., Storia dell’università degli studj di Roma detta comunemente La Sapienza che contiene anche un saggio storico della letteratura romana dal principio del secolo XIII sino al declinare del secolo XVIII (Rome: 1803–1806); Cherubini P. (ed.), Roma e lo Studium Urbis: spazio urbano e cultura dal Quattro al Seicento (Rome: 1992); see also the themed issue of Annali di Storia delle Università italiane 4 (2000).


Favino F., “Matematiche e matematici alla Sapienza tra ’500 e ’600. Un’introduzione”, Roma moderna e contemporanea 7.3 (1999) 395–420; Heyberger B. (ed.), Orientalisme, science et controverse: Abraham Ecchellensis (1605–1664) (Turnhout: 2010); Girard A., “Was an Eastern Scholar Necessarily a Cultural Broker in Early-Modern Academic Europe? Faustus Naironus (1628–1711), the Christian East, and Oriental Studies”, in Hardy N. – Levitin D. (eds.), Faith and History: Confessionalisation and Erudition in Early Modern Europe (Oxford: 2017) 240–263; Fosi I., “Johannes Faber: prudente mediatore o ‘estremo persecutore dei protestanti?’”, in I primi Lincei e il Sant’Uffizio: questioni di scienza e di fede (Rome: 2005) 185–202.


Quondam A., “L’Accademia”, in Asor Rosa A. (ed.), Letteratura italiana I: Il letterato e le istituzioni (Turin: 1982) 823–898, at 896.


These were the requirements of the academy of Umoristi in 1611, quoted in Alemanno L., “L’accademia degli Umoristi”, Roma moderna e contemporanea 3 (1995) 97–120. See further Campanelli M. – Petteruti Pellegrino P. – Russo E. (eds.), Le accademie a Roma nel Seicento (Rome: 2020).


Bellini E., Umanisti e lincei: letteratura e scienza a Roma nell’età di Galileo (Padua: 1997).


Herklotz I., Die Academia Basiliana: griechische Philologie, Kirchengeschichte und Unionsbemühungen im Rom der Barberini (Rome: 2008).


Donato M.P., Accademie romane. Una storia sociale, 1671–1824 (Naples: 2000).


Quoted by Herklotz, Die Academia Basiliana 129.


Rosa M., “‘The World’s Theatre’: The Court of Rome and Politics in the First Half of the Seventeenth Century”, in Signorotto G. – Visceglia M.A. (eds.), Court and Politics 78–98, at 82.


Bellini E., “l papato dei virtuosi’. I Lincei e i Barberini”, in I primi Lincei 47–97.


Neveu B., Érudition et religion au XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles (Paris: 1994); Donati C., “La Chiesa di Roma tra antico regime e riforme settecentesche (1675–1766)”, in Chittolini G. – Miccoli G. (eds.), Storia d’Italia, Annali 9, La Chiesa e il potere politico dal Medioevo all’età contemporanea (Turin: 1986) 721–766.


Donato M.P., “Late Seventeenth-Century ‘Scientific’ Academies in Rome and the Cimento’s Disputed Legacy”, in Beretta M. – Clericuzio A. – Principe L.M. (eds.), The Accademia del Cimento and its European Context (Sagamore Beach, MA: 2009) 151–164.


Fumaroli M., L’âge de l’éloquence: rhétorique et res literaria de la Renaissance au seuil de l’époque classique (Geneva: 1980).


Galli Pavarelli Giovanbattista (ed.), Lettere dettate dal card. Sforza Pallavicino di gloriosa memoria. Raccolte, e dedicate alla santità di N. Sig. papa Clemente nono (Rome, Bernabò: 1668).

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Sforza Pallavicino

A Jesuit Life in Baroque Rome