Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Appropriating Sacred Space: Private-Chapel Patronage and Institutional Identity in Sixteenth-Century Rome-The Case of the Office of Ceremonies

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Appropriating Sacred Space: Private-Chapel Patronage and Institutional Identity in Sixteenth-Century Rome-The Case of the Office of Ceremonies

Article excerpt

The author explores the efforts of papal ceremonialist Paris de' Grassi (1504-28) to transform the Office of Ceremonies from a group of semi-corporate, specialized papal attendants into a curial college with fixed regulations and social clout. The reform bull Pastoralis officii (1513) permanently reserved benefices at the Church of Ss. Celso and Giuliano in Rome, where de' Grassi served as archpriest. Between 1524 and 1551 ceremonialists endowed three private chapels at Ss. Celso and Giuliano; in 1578 another ceremonialist established a chapel at the Church of San Lorenzo in Lucina, where a personal monument did not reference or depend on de' Grassi's legacy. The construction of memorial chapels at Ss. Celso and Giuliano allowed ceremonialists to establish both individual and collected corporate identities and reveals the continued entwining of private and institutional goals in both patronage and the papal bureaucracy.

Keywords: Church of Ss. Celso and Giuliano; Church of San Lorenzo in Lucina; de' Grassi, Paris; liturgy; patronage

In 1448 the Florentine merchant-banker Tommaso Spinelli received permission from the chapter of the Church of Ss. Celso and Giuliano to endow a chapel for his private use. The license issued by the chapter confirmed the chapel's dedication to the Apostle Thomas, the chapel's location within the church, and the chapter's continued goodwill toward Spinelli. As patron and holder of ius patronatus, Spinelli's obligations included the chapel's decoration and provision, as well as financing a chaplain to perform religious services. In the 1440s Spinelli joined Pope Nicholas V and the dello Mastro family as patrons of the church in rione Ponte.1 As a result of this endowment the chapter and Spinelli established a connection that provided substantial reciprocal benefits. The chapter of canons acquired a wealthy patron who was bound to contribute financially to the church for the foreseeable future. Spinelli expanded his patronal identity through valuable institutional and spiritual connections that asserted his honor and position in the Roman social and curial hierarchy. Emphasizing the practical benefits of this connection, in a will dated 1468, Spinelli instructed his heirs to maintain the chapel if they wished to continue doing business in Rome.2

This article presents a series of Roman chapels that go beyond the common mold of a private memorial chapel in the Spinelli vein, in which a single patron initiates the endowment through private wealth for the cultivation of his own soul. Although individually the chapels fulfill this model, the series reveals a pattern that reflects a greater strategy for institutional patronage and appropriation of ecclesiastical space. The earliest chapel foundation set the standard for later patrons, all of whom belonged to the same corporate group, the papal Office of Ceremonies.3 The series includes three chapels, endowed by papal ceremonialists between 1524 and 1551 at the parish church of Ss. Celso and Giuliano in Rome, as well as a fourth chapel founded by a later ceremonialist at the Church of San Lorenzo in Lucina in 1578. This series highlights the multipurpose nature of ecclesiastical endowments and the process of constructing identity through spaces and institutional connections over several generations.4

Paris de' Grassi, the papal master of ceremonies (1504-28),5 endowed the earliest chapel in 1524 in his capacity as archpriest of Ss. Celso and Giuliano, and as part of a campaign to expand and codify the privileges and stature of the Office of Ceremonies. De' Grassi used his unique dual position to appropriate ecclesiastical space in the service of the Office. In the early-sixteenth century the Office was a semi-corporate collection of specialized papal attendants, which, following the 1513 reform bull Pastoralls offící,became a curial college that was bureaucratically consistent with the larger colleges of apostolic secretaries and protonotaries. …

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