Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Storia Di Clelia Farnese: Amori, Potere, Violenza Nella Roma Della Controriforma

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Storia Di Clelia Farnese: Amori, Potere, Violenza Nella Roma Della Controriforma

Article excerpt

Storia di Clelia Farnese: Amori, potere, violenza nella Roma della Controriforma. By Gigliola Fragnito. (Bologna: Società éditrice il Mulino. 2013. Pp. 329. euro25,00. ISBN 978-88-15-24661-5.)

Gigliola Fragnito has produced a work sure to receive vociferous praise from her peers. Benedetta Craveri in the October 21, 2013, La Repubblica and Paolo Mieli in the September 3, 2013, Corriere della Sera raved about Fragnito's work taking massive archival information and finding the narrative rhythm necessary to delight readers enamored of history. Her sixteen brief chapters constituted, for them, an extraordinary book about a woman caught in power plays at the pinnacle of a still-corrupted Roman noble and ecclesiastical world, years after the conclusion of the Council of Trent.

The story, as told by Fragnito, would make a great motion picture. With political machinations, discomfiting violence, intricate diplomacy, and sexual subplots-not to mention a female protagonist of extraordinary beauty-the tale, which is ultimately a genuine tragedy, has everything necessary to bring people to the theaters. Clelia Farnese (1557-1613) was the daughter of a famous art-patron cardinal and aspiring pope: il gran cardinal Alessandro Farnese (1520-89). The grandson of Pope Paul III (r. 1534-49), he hoped to be the second Farnese to hold the throne in the sixteenth century and repeatedly tried to use his daughter to help him attain the goal. He placed her into a first, disastrous marriage (February 1571) with Giovan Giorgio Cesarini, from a family that had three members in the College of Cardinals at the time. Giovan Giorgio turned out to be an adventurer on many levels: as a soldier, as a gambler, and as an adulterer. Clelia apparently arranged for the killing of one of his paramours inside the Cesarini household. This notoriety threatened the reputation of both noble families. Roman fascination with Clelia's beauty reached a crescendo as Giovan Giorgio's health was declining. …

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