Spanish Rome, 1500-1700

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Spanish Rome, 1500-1700. By Thomas James Dandelet. (New Haven: Yale University Press. 2001. Pp. x, 278. $35.00.)

Strong in original material if weak in broader context, this remains an important book about a recurring historical topic, the relations between the Spanish empire and Rome, that has previously lacked a focused study. Its strengths lie in its depiction of Roman life in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the waxing and waning of the Spanish population in Rome, and the treatment of Rome in Spanish literature and imagination. It is solid on the presence of Spaniards among the Roman clergy, from the obvious like Ignatius Loyola, to the many others who served and preached. It catalogues the cardinals who enjoyed Spanish benefices and pensions for themselves and their kin and supported the interests of the Spanish monarchy. The chapter on piety makes good use of bequests in wills and treats well the concern of Spaniards from kings to commoners for the canonization of their countrymen, such as St. Theresa of Avila. But in describing the canonization of Diego of AlcalA, the author's seeming effort to appear matter-of-fact leaves the case looking slightly ridiculous.

It is in matters of high policy and statecraft that the weaknesses appear, above all on the Spanish side. While the use of Avvisi from the Vatican archives imparts a sense of immediacy to personalities, aims, policies, and events, they are not always reliable, especially when it comes to interpretation. To the author, the relations of Spanish kings and Roman pontiffs seem less tense than they do to most scholars. Materials from Spanish archives have been mined, though the limited selection leads to a tunnel vision that, had better secondary sources been consulted, could easily have been avoided. The citation of documents falls short: few are dated, though folio numbers are provided when available. It would certainly have helped if he gave dates or other indicators to unfoliated documents. (While the Spanish Archive at Simancas is catching up, documents I had photocopied from "Estado Roma" in 1971 did lack folio numbers.) A date would certainly have helped for one document the author quotes (p. 74) from Simancas (AGS, Estado, Roma, leg. 924, unfoliated), from Philip II to Gregory XIII, probably 1574, about what seem to be annual military costs. …