Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Giacomo Antonio Marta: Antipapal Lawyer and English Spy, 1609-1618

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Giacomo Antonio Marta: Antipapal Lawyer and English Spy, 1609-1618

Article excerpt

Giacomo Antonio Marta (1557/58-1629) of Naples was a distinguished legal scholar and professor at several Italian universities. His education, warm feelings for the Jesuits, and career should have made him a papal defender in an era of church-state jurisdictional conflict. But in a legal work of 1609 he limited papal temporal rights and became a spy for James I of England. He published an anonymous pamphlet which excoriated the papacy for its alleged sins and called for a general council to depose Paul V. But not even his enemies believed that he was anything but a Catholic.

The most important and hardest fought political and legal battles in Europe in the first years of the seventeenth century were struggles over the jurisdictional claims of church and state. Popes and civil governments quarreled bitterly over which had jurisdiction in certain kinds of criminal cases and in other church-state matters.These clashes occurred because Europe's civil governments were expanding their control over the inhabitants and institutions in their states at the expense of the powers and rights of the Church and, ultimately, the papacy. Outside of war, church-state jurisdictional clashes became the most important political issue in Europe, because the matter was fundamental: would the Church or the state exercise authority and jurisdiction over some of the most important areas of civil, religious, and institutional life? secular rulers, jurists, theologians, cardinals, and polemicists of all persuasions argued the issues in virulent pamphlets and measured legal treatises. And some participants took unexpected positions. The distinguished legal scholar and university professor Giacomo Antonio Marta was such a person. His upbringing, education, and career should have made him a papal defender.Yet, Marta opposed papal jurisdictional claims and excoriated the papacy for its alleged sins. He wrote a pamphlet calling for a general church council to depose Paul V And he spied for the Protestant James I of England. Marta's actions and views illustrate unexpected turns found in this period of church-state conflict.

1. Civil and Ecclesiastical jurisdiction

Giacomo Antonio Marta was born in Naples in 1557 or 1558, perhaps of affluent parents, and he probably grew up in Naples.1 In his will Marta stated that the Jesuits raised him from the age of ten, and that he had come under the protection of Father Alfonso Salmerón (1515-1585), one of the original Jesuits and the provincial of the Jesuit Province of Naples from 1558 to 15752 In other words, Marta was probably orphaned and Salmeron looked after the little boy. In these circumstances it is very likely that he attended Jesuit schools. As a young adult he wrote several short philosophical works which coincided with Jesuit views. At the age of twelve he began legal studies.3 But the details of his legal education are unknown.

In or about 1583 Marta went to Rome, where Cardinal Luigi d'Este (1538-1586), a philo-French cardinal, initially supported him. Marta probably spent most of the years between 1583 and 1597 in Rome. At this time and in later publications Marta called himself an "advocate [i.e., lawyer] at the Roman Curia."4 Because some of the agencies that made up the Curia also functioned as courts to resolve disputes involving assignment of clerical offices and benefices, taxes, marriage disputes, dowries, the granting of favors, and much else, they needed lawyers to represent them. It is likely that Marta was accredited to represent clients who had cases before the Curia. He was acquainted with some prominent figures in the papal legal establishment. He acquired an insider's knowledge about legal, jurisdictional, and political actions at the papal court. In 1597 he left Rome to become ordinary professor of civil law at the University of Pisa, during which time he published three legal works.5 Marta left the University of Pisa in 1603, possibly to return to Rome in some capacity. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.