Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Paralella Cosmographica De Sede et Apparitionibus Doemonum. Liber Unus

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Paralella Cosmographica De Sede et Apparitionibus Doemonum. Liber Unus

Article excerpt

Paralella cosmographica de sede et apparitionibus doemonum. Liber unus. By Federico Borromeo. Edited by Francesco di Ciaccia. [Accademia di San Carlo, Fonti e studi, 5.] (Rome: Bulzoni Editore; Milan: Biblioteca Ambrosiana. 2006. Pp. 228. euro18,00 paperback.)

The virulent outbreak of the plague in Milan between 1629 and 1631 stands out for the extraordinary climate of panic it engendered.The Milanese not only sought to explain the epidemic conventionally as a form of divine punishment, but were also gripped by suspicions of demonic malfeasance.This led, notoriously, to the prosecution, torture, and brutal execution of two citizens suspected of having poisoned wells, doors, and walls with contagious substances. The case came to figure prominently in Pietro Verri's Enlightenment pamphlet against torture and gained further notoriety through Alessandro Manzoni's nineteenth-century rendition, La storia della colonna infame.

Caught in the middle of the crisis was Milan's archbishop Federico Borromeo (1595-1631).The learned ecclesiastic's response to the plague, in word and deed, was conflicted. In his public statements, he acknowledged his belief in divine as well as diabolical influence, but he also searched for naturalistic explanations, especially in his tract De pestilentia (1631). The crisis was a test for a humanist and church leader who, at a time in which demonic fears peaked across Europe, had long thought and written about the issue. One result was the treatise Paralella cosmographica de sede et apparitionibus doemonum, which is now made available in a useful new edition by Francesco di Ciaccia. The book offers three versions of the text: the manuscript draft in Italian, the Latin version printed in 1624, and the editor's Italian translation of the latter, enriched with annotations. …

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