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The ecclesiastical and political history of the popes of Rome during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (Volume 2) online

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Genoa had prohibited meetings held at the Jesuits'
colleges, because they endeavoured to control the
appointments to public offices ; Lucca had forbid-
den the execution of any decrees whatever of papal
officers without the previous sanction of the local
magistrates ; and certain ecclesiastics, guilty of hei-

* Les ambas?ades du cardinal du Perron, ii. 682, 736.


nous offences, had even been brought before the
temporal criminal court of Venice. It was the very
universality of this resistance that so inflamed the
official zeal and indignation of the pope. In every
case he interposed the most imperative orders, the
severest menaces. He even chose this moment to
extend the claims of the spiritual power. Amongst
other things, he maintained the unheard-of asser-
tion, that it was not the business of the state to
prohibit the intercourse of its subjects with protest-
ants ; that, he affirmed, was the aft'air of the church,
and one belonging exclusively to the spiritual juris-

Most of the Italian states looked upon these pro-
ceedings as the result of exaggerated notions which
experience would soon correct, and none of them
w^ished to be the first to break with the pope. The
grand-duke of Tuscany declared he had affairs in
hand which would make the pope furious, but that
he sought to postpone their execution ; that Paul V.
was a man who judged of the world from a town in
the States of the church territory, where everything
was conducted according to the letter of the eccle-
siastical law ; but that this could not last ; the Spa-
niards would be caught, and then they must either
be voluntarily set free, or they would tear the net
for themselves ; and that others had better wait for
their example*. The other powers were nearly of

* Relatione di IV ambasciatori. " II granduca ricordava che il
pontefice non era uso a governar come i^rincipe grande, perche
aver avuto qualche governo di citta delle chiesa, dove si procede


the same opinion, and at first gave way. Genoa
revoked her ordinance ; the duke of Savoy suffered
the disputed benefices to be transferred to one of
Paul's kinsmen ; even the Spaniards allowed their
regent to request and receive absolution before
numerous witnesses.

The Venetians alone, usually so prudent and so
pliant, disdained to adopt this policy. Venice had
indeed received greater provocation than the other
powers ; the matter in question afforded an example
how irritating the interference of the court of Rome
might become, especially to a neighbouring state.

This vicinity was in itself a great inconve-
nience, especially after the church had obtained
possession of Ferrara. The boundary disputes
which the republic had with the dukes were now
carried on with far greater eagerness and violence
by the court of Rome ; the Venetians were molested
in the work of clearing the channel of the Po, which
they were then carrying on at a great expense,
and in their ancient rights of fishing. They were
forced to protect their workmen with armed vessels,
and to make reprisals on the subjects of the pope
for some fishing boats which the legate of Ferrara
had captured.

In the meantime Paul also laid claim to the
rights of sovereignty in Ceneda, which Venice had
quietly exercised for centuries ; he attempted to
transfer the appeals from the episcopal court, which

col rigor ecclesiastico e da prete, non basta per saper governare
come capo supremo."



had appellate jurisdiction there, to Rome. The
hostility l)ecamc very sej-ious ; the pope's nuncio
proceeded to excommunications, while the Vene-
tian senate took measures to prevent any civil
consequences resulting from them*.

The disputes concerning the tithes for the clergy
were not less hitter. The Venetians declared that
they had hitherto levied them without consulting
the pope, and that they would not acknowledge his
permission to be necessary for the collection of that
tax. But it was still more exasperating to them
that the court of Rome daily increased the number
of exemptions from the payment of it. The cardi-
nals, who possessed very rich livings, the knights of
Malta, the monasteries, the mendicant friars, all
who were abroad on the service of the church, or
who could under any title be included in the pope's
household, and, lastly, even those to whom the
court of Rome had granted pensions payable out
of the revenues of Venetian benefices, were de-
clared exempt ; the three former classes from half,
and the others from the whole of the tax. The
consequence was, that the rich not being obliged
to contribute anything, the whole burden fell on the
poor, who were unable to support it. The revenue

* Nicolo Contarini : " Mentre si disputava, i)areva che da alcuno
fusse fuggita la conversatione de' censurati, (officers of the re-
public who had opposed the transfer of the appeals to Rome,) la
qual cosa giudicando il senato apportarli oftesa, primieramente
fece publicare un bando contra chi li havesse a schivo, e dope a
questi tutti in vita li fu data annua provisione quale era corri-
spondento alia loro fortune,"


of the Venetian clergy was estimated at eleven mil-
lions of ducats, whereas the actual tithes did not
exceed 1200 ducats a year*.

To these grievances were added innumerable
points of difference regarding individuals rather
than the state. I will only cite one instance.

It is well known how the press flourished in Ve-
nice during the early part of the sixteenth century ;
the republic Avas justly proud of this honourable
branch of industry, which however w^as gradually
ruined by the ordinances of the curia.

There was no end of prohibitions of books in
Rome : first, all protestant works, then all publica-
tions against the morals of the clergy, against the
immunity of the church, all that in the slightest de-
gree departed from its dogmas, and all the works of
any author wdio had in any one instance incurred an
ecclesiastical censure. The trade could now only be
carried on in articles of unimpeachable orthodoxy ;
in a purely mercantile point of view, it certainly re-
vived a little by means of the splendid decorated
missals and breviaries, forwhich the revival of catho-
lic feelings and tastes now created a considerable
demand. But even this was soon materially dimi-

* From a memorandum presented to the government at Rome :
" Mentre s'esagera sopra la severita del magistrato, non si ritro-
vava fin hora essersi conseguiti piii di 12 m. ducati, per li quali
non si doveva far tanti richiami, e le fortune della republica per
gratia di dio non erano tali che ne dovesse far conto piü che tan-
to." Certain arrangements were hereupon made, intended to
avert the evil. But Contarini says, " In effetto monto poco per-
ciocch^ il foro era giä fatto e I'abuso troj^po confermato che dis-
tornarlo era piü che malagevole."


nished ; the court of Rome set on foot certain emen-
dations in these books, which, in their new form,
were to be pubUshed only at Rome*. The Venetians
remarked, with the exasperation always produced by
an abuse of public authority for private ends, that
several of those employed in the congregation of the
Index to superintend the affairs of the press, shared
the profits of the printing-offices at Rome.

Under such circumstances, the relations subsist-
ing between Rome and Venice were of course ex-
clusively those of hatred and constraint.

It is easy to conceive how powerfully this temper
of the public mind at Venice must have fostered
that politico-religious opposition which conduced
so essentially to the success of Henry IV. as early
as 1589. Henry's victory, and the whole current
of the affairs of Europe now confirmed and encou-
raged it. Even the disagreement with the pope
contributed to throw the conduct of affairs into the
hands of the representatives of these opinions ; since
none appeared more fit to defend the interests of the
republic against the encroachments of the spiritual
power. Accordingly, in January 1606, Leonardo
Donato, the chief of the anti-romanist party, was
elected doge ; he admitted all the friends who had
assisted him in the secret struggles of party, to a
participation in power. Whilst the tiara was worn
by a man who overstrained all liis doubtful and dis-
putable claims with blind and reckless zeal, the

* Contarini : " Al prescnte s'era clevenuto iii Roma in questo
pensiero di ristampar messali et altro, levando di poterlo far ad


government of Venice fell into the hands of men in
whom hostility to the domination of Rome had
grown into a personal feeling ; who owed their rise
to it, and maintained the principle of resistance the
more strenuously, because it enabled them to keep
down their antagonists in the republic itself.

The character of both the powers rendered it in-
evitable that their coUisions should every day be-
come more hostile and more extensive.

The pope demanded, not only that all spiritual
offenders should be delivered up to him, but also
that two laws lately renewed by the Venetians,
forbidding the alienation of immoveables to the
clergy, and rendering the erection of new churches
dependent on the civil authority, should be repeal-
ed. He declared that he would not tolerate ordi-
nances so directly at variance with the decrees of
the councils, the constitutions of his predecessors,
and to all rules of canon law. The Venetians
would not yield one hair's-breadth ; they said that
such were the fundamental laws of their state,
transmitted to them by their ancestors, who had
rendered such essential services to Christendom,
and that the republic must keep them inviolate.

The contending parties did not long confine
themselves to the immediate subjects of dispute.
On the one hand, the church considered itself in-
jured by the entire constitution of the Venetian
republic ; a republic which forbade reference to
Rome ; excluded, under the name of papalists,
those who, by holding spiritual offices had been in
any degree connected with the curia, from any par-


ticipation in discussions on spiritual affairs ; and
even ventured to impose taxes on the clergy. The
Venetians, on the other hand, declared that these
provisions were quite insufficient. They demanded
that their benefices should he given only to natives
of Venice, who should also have the sole direction
of the inquisition ; that every bull should be sub-
mitted to the approval of the state ; that every
spiritual assembly should be held in presence of a
secular president, and that all pecuniary aid to
Rome should be forbidden.

Nor did they stop even here, but proceeded from
the immediate questions in debate to general prin-

The Jesuits had long ago deduced the most im-
portant consequences to the rights of the church
from their doctrine of the supremacy of the pope ;
and these they did not delay to bring forward anew.

Bellarmine said, that in like manner as the
spirit guides and governs the flesh, and not the
flesh the spirit, so the secular power should not
dare to exalt itself above the spiritual, or attempt
to guide, to order, or to restrain it ; for that this
would be a rebellion, a heathenish tyranny*: that

* Risposta del CI. Bellarmino ad una lettera senza nome dcU'
autoi'c. (Pam2)lilet of 1606.) " La raggione indrizza c rcgge e
comanda alia came e talvolta la castiga con digiuni e vigilic, ma
la came non indrizza ne regge ne comanda ne punisce la ragione :
cosi la potesta spirituale e superiore alia secolare e pero la puo e
dcvc drizzare e rcggerc c comandarli c punirla quando si porta
male ; ma la potesta secolare non i suiicriore alia spirituale ne
la put) drizzare ne reggerc ne gli puo comaudare ne punirla se


the priesthood had its own sovereigns, whose office
it was to govern it not only in spiritual but also in
temporal affairs ; it would therefore be impossible
for it to acknowledge anj^ temporal sovereign,
since no one could serve two masters : that the
priest was to judge the emperor, not the emperor
the priest, since it would be absurd for the sheep
to attempt to guide the shepherd*. Neither
ought a prince to levy any taxes on ecclesiastical
property ; he should draw his revenues from the
laity ; — the clergy contributed the far more effect-
ual aid of prayer and sacrifice. The clergy were to
be exempt from all burthens on person or property;
they belonged to the family of Christ ; this exemp-
tion, if not founded on an express command of holy
scripture, at all events rested on inferences drawn
from it, and on analogy; the ministers of the gospel
were entitled to the same rights as the Levites in
the Old Testamentf.

These doctrines were calculated to secure to that
spiritual repubhc which exercised so material an
influence on political government, an equal de-

nen di fatto per ribellione e tirannidc, come hanno fatto talvolta
li principi gentili o heretici."

* Bellarminus de clericis, i. c. 30 : " Respondeo, principem
quidem ovem ac spiritualem filium pontificis esse, sed sacerdo-
teni nullo modo filium vel ovem principis dici posse, quoniam
sacerdotes et omnes clerici suum habent principem spiritualem,
a quo non in spiritualibus solum sed etiam in temporalibus rc-

t These maxims may be found verbatim either in the above-
mentioned Risposta, or in Bellarmine's book, De clericis, parti-
cularly in lib. i. c. 30.


gree of independence from its reactions. The
greatest pains were taken at Rome to establish
them by innumerable proofs and arguments from
scripture, and by passages from decrees of councils
and imperial and papal constitutions, and they were
generally regarded as beyond the reach of refuta-
tion. Who in Venice would venture to oppose a
Bellarmine or a Baronius ?

But in the person of their consulter of state,
Paolo Sarpi, the Venetians possessed a man so
formed by nature and circumstances, and placed in
such a situation, that he could dare to take up arms
against the spiritual power.

Paolo Sarpi was the son of a merchant who had
come from St. Vitus to Venice, and of a lady of
the Venetian family of Morelli, which enjoyed the
privileges of citizenship. His father was a man
of small stature, dark complexion, and turbulent,
quarrelsome temper, who ruined himself by im-
prudent speculations. His mother was one of those
tall and beautiful Venetian blondes who are still
not unfrequently to be seen, and was remarkable
for modesty and good sense. Her son resembled
her in his features*.

At the time we are now considering, the brother
of Paolo's mother, Ambrosio Morelli, was at the
head of a school enjoying a very high reputation,
and principally devoted to the education of young

* Sarpi, born August 14, 1552. His father was named Fran-
cesco, his mother Elisabetta. Fra Fulgentio, Vita di Paolo Sarpi,
Griselini, Meraorie di Fra Paolo Sarpi, translated into German
by Lebret, p. 13.


nobles. The nephew of the master naturally shared
in the instruction ; among his companions were
Nicolo Contarini and Andrea Morosini, with both
of whom he became very intimate : thus on the very
threshold of life he formed ties which had the
strongest influence on his future destiny.

He did not however allow either his mother, his
uncle, or these friends to deter him from indulging
his inclination for solitude, and as early as his 14th
or 15th year he entered a convent of Servites.

He spoke little and was always serious ; he never
ate meat, and till his thirtieth year drank no wine ;
he hated all lewd conversation : " there comes the
virgin," said his companions when he approached;
" let us talk of something else." Every wish,
aspiration and desire he was capable of was di-
rected to study, for which he possessed extraordi-
nary aptitude.

He was endowed with the invaluable gift of a
quick and accurate perception; thus he recognised
any person he had once seen ; as soon as he went
into a garden he saw and remarked everything in
it at a glance ; in short, he was furnished, both
bodily and mentally, with clear and penetrating
vision*. He dedicated himself to the study of the
physical sciences with remarkable success. His ad-
mirers ascribe to him the discovery of the valves in

* According to Fra Fulgentio (p. 38.), he himself spoke of his
" gran passibilta, perch^ non sola I'oggetto in lui facesse moto,
ma ogni minima reliquia." " Come un perito suonatore," con-
tinues Fulgentio, " ad un sol tocco fa giudicio del instrumento,
cosi con far parlar le persone con prestezza ammirabile conosceva
i fini, gli interessi," etc.


the blood-vessels, and of the expansion and contrac-
tion of the pupil of the eye*, the first observation
of the polar attraction of the magnet, besides several
other magnetic phenomena ; and it cannot be de-
nied that he took an active share in the labours of
Aquapendente, and still more of Portaf . To his
physical studies he united mathematical calcula-
tions, and the observation of the phenomena of the
human mind. In the library of the Servites at
Venice, there is a copy of Vieta's works, in which
the numerous mistakes of that author are corrected
by the hand of Fra Paolo ; there was in the same
place a small treatise of his on the origin and de-
cline of the opinions of men, which, judging from
the extracts given by Foscarini, contained a theory
of the intellectual powers which assumed sensation
and reflection as their basis, and had considerable
resemblance to that of Lockej, although not so en-
tire a one as some have supposed. Fra Paolo wrote
no more than he w^as forced ; he had by nature no

* See also Fischer, Geschichte der Physik, i. 169.

f "Aquo," says Porta of him, "aliquadidicissenon solum fateri
non erubescimus, sed gloriamur, quum eo doctiorem, subtiliorem,
quotquot adhuc videre contigerit, neminem cognoverimus ad ency-
clopciediam." Magise natur. lib. vii. i^rsef. Griselini, 1. § 20, 24.

X His explanation of substance was peculiarly striking. Paolo
Sarpi, according to Foscarini and Griselini, infers substance from
the multiplicity of ideas existing on a basis uhich we cannot
discover ; and in this unknown basis, he says, consists what we
call substance. Griselini, i. p. 46, German translation. Locke,
Human Understanding, vol. ii. ch. 23 : " Not imagining how the
simple ideas can subsist of themselves, we accustom ourselves to
suppose some substratum wherein they do subsist and from which
they do result, which therefore we call substance."


inclination for producing ; he read incessantly, and
appropriated what he read or observed : his mind
was distinguished by sobriety and comprehensive-
ness, method and boldness, and went steadily for-
ward in the paths of free investigation.

Such were the mental powers now directed to
questions of theology and ecclesiastical law.

It has been said that Fra Paolo was in secret a
Protestant ; it is not however probable that his
protestantism went beyond the first simple principles
of the confession of Augsburg — if indeed he held
those ; at all events he said mass every day during
his whole life. It would be difficult to define to
^ what form of Christianity he was inwardly attached;
it was one often held in those times, especially by
men who had devoted themselves to the physical
sciences ; — a religion bound by none of the esta-
blished systems, original, speculative, but neither
absolutely defined nor completely worked out.

This however is certain, that Fra Paolo enter-
tained the most determined and irreconcileable
hatred towards the secular influence of the papacy;
probably the only passion he ever cherished. Some
have ascribed it to the refusal of a bishopric for
which he was a candidate ; and certainly no one can
deny the effect that a mortifying rejection which
shuts out the prospect from natural ambition may
have, even on a manly spirit. Fra Paolo's feelings
however had a far deeper foundation. His was a
mingled political and religious sentiment, allied to
all his other convictions, strengthened by study and
experience, and shared by those friends and con-


temporaries who had formerly met at the house of
Morosini, and who were now at the helm of the
state. The chimerical arguments with which the
Jesuits had endeavoured to support their assertions,
vanished before the clear-sighted and searching
inquiry of Fra Paolo.

Indeed, the Jesuitical doctrines were entirely
founded on a devotion to the holy see, arising
from a bygone state of society.

It was not without labour that Sarpi at first
wrought conviction in the minds of the jurists
of his own country. Some held, with Bellarmine,
that the exemption of the clergy was a rule of the
divine law ; others maintained, that at least the
pope had the power to command it ; they appealed
to the decrees of councils, in which that exemption
was expressly declared, and urged that what had
been within the competence of a council was far
more within that of a pope. The former of these
disputants were easily confuted ; to the others Fra
Paolo's main argument in reply was, that the coun-
cils with which this power rested were convoked by
temporal sovereigns, and were to be regarded as
assemblies of the empire by which a multitude of
other political laws had been enacted*. This is a

* Letter from Sarpi to Leschasser, 3rd of February, 1619, in
Lebret's Magazine, i. 479. A remark so much the more im-
portant in those times, as Mariana, for instance, deduced from
the resolutions of the Spanish councils the most extensive worldly
privileges for the clergy. It may, however, be constantly re-
marked, that even then, spiritual and temporal pretensions were
already either confounded or at variance. The old Gothic monar-


point upon which the doctrines inculcated by Fra
Paolo and his friends were mainly grounded.

They set out from the principle which had been
so warmly and successfully asserted in France, —
that the kingly power was derived immediately from
God, and was subject to no human control ; — that
the pope had no right or authority even to inquire
whether the political acts of a country were sinful
or not. For to what would such a right lead ? Was
there one which might not be sinful as respecting
its objects ? The pope would have to examine
everything, to interfere in everything; — the tempo-
ral authority would, in short, be annihilated.
^ But to this authority the clergy, as well as the
laity of a country, were subject. All power, says
the apostle, is of God. No one is exempt from
the obligation of obedience to the established au-
thorities, any more than from that of obedience to
God. The sovereign enacts the laws, administers
justice, and raises taxes ; in all these particulars
the clergy are equally bound to obey him as the

It is not denied that the pope has jurisdiction

chy in Spain contained, in fact, a strong spiritual element ; for old
laws are generally grounded upon circumstances belonging to a
remote state of society.

* Risposta d'un dottore in theologia ad una lettera scrittagli
sopra il breve delle censure. " Sono dunque tutti gli ecclesias-
tici et i secolari de jure divino soggetti al principe secolare. Om-
nis anima potestatibus sublimioribus subdita sit. E la ragione
si e perche siccome niuno e eccettuato dall' ubbidienza che deve
a dio, cosi niuno e eccettuato daU' ubbidienza che deve al prin-
cipe : perche comme soggionge Tapostolo, omnis potestas a dec."


also; but that jurisdiction is exclusively spiritual.
Did Christ exercise any temporal jurisdiction ? He
could not transfer, either to St. Peter or his suc-
cessors, what he never claimed for himself.

The exemption of the clergy cannot therefore be
traced to any original divine right*; it can rest
only on the consent of the sovereign. The sove-
reign had granted to the church, property and ju-
risdiction : he is its protector, its general patron ;
and therefore to him naturally and justly belong
the nomination of the clergy and the publication of

It is not competent to the sovereign to re-
nounce his power, if he would ; since it is a
trust committed to him, which he is bound in
conscience to transmit unimpaired to his successor.

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