Papal Justice: Subjects and Courts in the Papal State, 1500-1750

By Di Sivo, Michele | The Catholic Historical Review, April 2012 | Go to article overview

Papal Justice: Subjects and Courts in the Papal State, 1500-1750


Di Sivo, Michele, The Catholic Historical Review


Early Modern European Papal Justice: Subjects and Courts in the Papal State, 1500-1750. By Irene Fosi. Translated by Thomas V. Cohen. (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press. 2011. Pp. xiv, 272. $29.95 paperback. ISBN 978-0-813-21858-8.)

In these last thirty years studies on the Papal State during the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries have brought to light results with an intensity never experienced before. The institutions and social life that characterized the multiform realities of the Papal State have been the object of much research, especially after the publication of Paolo Prodi's The Papal Prince: One Body and Two Souls (Bologna, 1982; trans. New York, 1987), which opened the way to this fertile historiographical period.

The existence of Italian regional states in a European context characterized by absolute and centralized monarchies has been strictly connected with the role of the papacy in maintaining balance among the Italian states. The main area of interests for scholars in these last three decades has been the relationships and conflicts among the institutions of the Papal State, an absolute nonhereditary monarchy in which the demands of a state in construction had somehow to go hand in hand with the supra-national nature of religion.

Much attention has been given to the role of the institutions of justice and public order. The works of Irene Fosi on this topic have been substantial and based on an unrivaled range of sources. In La società violenta (Rome, 1985), the author concentrated on the role of the nobility in the origins of banditry, also interpreted as a form of hostile action against the control of the territory by the state. In All'ombra dei Barberini. Fedeltà e servizio nella Roma barocca (1997) she examined the separation of the role of the cardinalnephew- a position intrinsically linked to the personal nature of powerfrom that of secretary of state, a position in the framework of an impersonal administration. Moreover, the author has written various essays and edited collections on the papal judicial system.

With this work, the author presents scholars with a general picture of justice at the time of the papacy, which now can be appreciated by American scholars. She also includes additional material on Niccolò Orsini, third count of Nola and Pitigliano (pp. 92-99); conclusions; and an extensive bibliography.

The book presents for the first time an overview of the papal justice system in which the many conflicts are examined vis-à-vis their effects on the organization as well as on the control of the territory and personal conscience. …

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