Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Correspondance De Giovanni Battista De Rossi et De Louis Duchesne (1873-1894)

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Correspondance De Giovanni Battista De Rossi et De Louis Duchesne (1873-1894)

Article excerpt

Correspondance de Giovanni Battista de Rossi et de Louis Duchesne (18731894). Edited by Patrick Saint-Roch. [Collection de L'Ecole Frangaise de Rome, 205.] (Rome: L'Ecole Francaise de Rome. 1995. Pp. 729.) "At that time, as the result of the excavations of De Rossi in the catacombs, it was piously stylish to secure as a relic the body of a martyr." This observation of the biographer of Basil Anthony Moreau, while chronologically inaccurate, testifies to the justifiably celebrated reputation De Rossi earned as the Father of Christian Archaeology," his chief fame stemming from his work in the Roman catacombs. In 1847, however, De Rossi was only twenty-five-years old and had not yet begun the research that would bring him such fame and establish such pious, if for some tastes rather grisly, styles; indeed, at that date he had just finished his legal studies.

Twenty-six years later, however, when young Louis Duchesne wrote him for the first time-requesting a recommendation for admittance to the Chigi Library-De Rossi's professional achievement was already manifest. The flood of his scholarly publications was at high tide, and his uncovering-literally-of Ia Roma sotterranea had revolutionized the methodologies traditionally employed in the study of the primitive Church. He had, moreover, established contacts with some of the greatest European scholars of his time: Cardinals Mai and Pitra had been his teachers, Bartolomeo Borghese his colleague, and he counted among his intimates and collaborators the likes of Mommsen and Kraus, Delisle and Le Blant, Northcote and Brownlow.

For the last twenty-one years of De Rossi's life, Louis Duchesne joined this august company, but not, to be sure, on an equal footing. When this correspondence began, Duchesne, at the age of thirty,had just emerged from his studies at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes in Paris and had assumed a junior position at the newly opened Ecole Francaise de Rome. His thesis-a critical edition of the Liber Pontificalis of the sixth century-had been well received in learned circles, while some of its conclusions appeared alarmingly daring in hierarchical ones. As his distinguished career unfolded, climaxing with election as an Immortal of the Academy, Duchesne was to skid into trouble more than once with ecclesiastical authority, though, unlike his most famous pupil, Alfred Loisy, he managed to maintain his clerical status. …

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