Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Renaissance Cardinals and Their Worldly Problems

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Renaissance Cardinals and Their Worldly Problems

Article excerpt

Renaissance Cardinals and Their Worldly Problems. By D. S. Chambers. Variorum Collected Studies Series, CS553.] (Brookfield, Vermont: Ashgate Publishing Company. 1997. Pp. xii, 360. $98.95.)

The Variorum series presents us here with a collection of articles by David Chambers that date from 1966 to 1987, with an additional "postscript" from 1997. The problem with the volume is that most of the essays do not deal with Renaissance Cardinals at all, but rather with one man-Francesco Gonzaga (1444-1483), the first of a string of cardinals from the ruling family of Mantua. Of the ten articles here reprinted, numbers II through VI discuss respectively suitable housing for the fledgling cardinal; his patronage of the church of Sant'Andrea in Mantua; the cardinal's defense of non-residence; the martial activities of the young Francesco for the projected crusade of Pius II and in later legations; and a brief visit to the Medici court in Florence in 1471. Article VII traces the brief and unedifying life of the cardinal's illegitimate son; Article VIII discusses Giovanni Pietro Arrivabene, Francesco's secretary; and IX discusses Bartolomeo Marasca, Francesco's master of household. The only other cardinal who receives more than the most superficial mention (article X) is Ferdinando Gonzaga (1587-1626), cardinal for the five years from 1607 to 1612 and then Duke of Mantua to his death, hardly a typical curial career.

The only essays, then, which deal with "cardinals" are number I and the Postscript. The first, "The Economic Predicament of Renaissance Cardinals," was an intriguing and provocative piece when it first appeared in 1966. Its argument remains useful-that the demands of the cardinalate required conspicuous consumption and magnificence that left the members of the Sacred College in perpetual and inevitable financial embarrassment. However, a great deal has been discovered about the fiscal arrangements of the cardinals during the past thirty years, and Professor Chambers"' "Additions and Corrections" fail to incorporate much in the way of new evidence or analyses. Chambers also fails to correct a curious error in the original essay (I, p. …

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