Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Schoolmaster and the Bishop-Elect: Nicolo Cologno, Cosimo Gheri, and Catholic Reform in Northeastern Italy, 1530-39

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Schoolmaster and the Bishop-Elect: Nicolo Cologno, Cosimo Gheri, and Catholic Reform in Northeastern Italy, 1530-39

Article excerpt

This essay examines the efforts of schoolmaster Nicolo Cologno (c. 1511-1602) of Bergamo and Bishop-Elect Cosimo Gheri of Fano (1513-37) to provide education and pastoral care to those under their supervision, particularly in 1536-37 when they worked together. Both men received an excellent classical education and were fervent in their desire to promote Catholic reform, albeit in different ways. The content of the education of the bishop-elect's three younger siblings, together with that of several other boys from the aristocracy, can be gleaned from correspondence to and from Cologno and Gheri during this period.

Keywords: Beccadelli, Lodovico, Archbishop; Cologno, Nicolo; Gheri, Cosimo, Bishop-Elect; Della Casa, Giovanni, Archbishop; Catholic Reform

In spring 1536, a young schoolmaster arrived in the Paduan house of a similarly young bishop-elect to take up a position as a tutor to the bishop-elect's three younger brothers. Both the bishop-elect, Cosimo Gheri (1513-37), and the schoolmaster, Nicolo Cologno (c. 1511-1602), had received an extensive classical education in their respective hometowns of Pistoia and Bergamo. Both men were ardent in their Catholic faith, and both served the Catholic Church through different ecclesiastical offices. For a period of eighteen months, they worked together to train the bishopelect's younger siblings and other elite boys in a curriculum that combined Greco-Roman history and literature with the precepts of Catholic religion. Their efforts to blend humanism and Catholicism in the classroom were hardly new, such efforts had been flourishing for more than a century in Italy and would soon provide the foundation for schooling offered by the Jesuits and other religious orders. Yet the partnership of Cologno and Gheri merits closer study for several reasons.

First, humanist and Catholic educational programs in Italy had been vying for supremacy dining the previous 100 years; humanism's success in the fifteenth century at reshaping the Latinate curriculum and at explicating classical texts in new ways was matched in the early to mid-sixteenth century by the dynamic response of Catholic religious orders, Schools of Christian Doctrine, and other initiatives. Cologno and Gheri embody this tension; more important, they demonstrate a successful effort to blend secular texts and sacred ends. Second, the efforts of the bishop-elect and the schoolmaster illuminate clearly the texts and methodology preferred by Italian elites for the instruction of their children, as well as the critical importance of identifying a proper tutor. Third, their joint efforts took place during a decisive moment in European religious and intellectual history, when many believed that Protestants and Catholics might still be reunited. Although Cologno and Gheri did not participate directly in the major debates or councils of the time (e.g., Regensburg in 1541 or Trent in 1545), they were clearly preoccupied with the religious issues of the day. Schoolmasters and prelates across Europe were stmggling to find religious compromise; the efforts of Italian reformers, to whom Cologno and Gheri were close, seemed to be a promising avenue for religious concord. Finally, the two men present a stark contrast in their geographical and socioeconomic origins: Cologno was a largely unknown figure from the outskirts of the Venetian Empire who grew up in poverty, whereas Gheri was the scion of a noble Tuscan family and the center of a prominent circle of churchmen and reformers. Despite such different backgrounds, Cologno and Gheri found common ground in their pedagogical and pastoral achievements. The actions of Cologno and Gheri thus represent not just an idyllic moment in the early history of the Catholic Reformation but also a lens through which we can see some broader educational, religious, and intellectual themes at the end of the Italian Renaissance.

This essay focuses principally upon the period between March 1536 and September 1537 when Cologno and Gheri worked together at Padua and Fano. …

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