By Paul Tutwiler

Santa Cruz, California



A preliminary version of this essay, organized as a data file and entitled ROME – HISTORY – INTELLECTUAL – SECULAR, was placed on my website in 2005.  It is no longer there, and it is totally superseded by the present text




            AUTHOR’S PREFACE


1.         13-14TH CENTURIES

                        Beginnings of the University of Rome

                        The Good Estate of Cola di Rienzo

                        Cola di Rienzo’s legal status and his laws

                        Interjection: Predecessors of Cola di Rienzo:

                                    Alberic; Arnold of Brescia; Brancaleone d’Andalo’


2          15TH CENTURY

                        The University of Rome


                        Other Institutions: Libraries; Publishing

                        Fields: History; Literature; Theater; Classics


3.         16TH CENTURY

                        The University of Rome


                        Other Institutions: Salons; Libraries; Talking Statues

                        Fields: Classics; History; Humanism in General; Politics; Religion


4.         17TH CENTURY

                        The University of Rome


                        Fields: Religion; Asian Studies


5.         18TH CENTURY

                        The University of Rome


                        Other Institutions: Conversazioni; Theater

                        Field: Art and Architecture


6.         19TH CENTURY UNTIL 1870

                        The University of Rome



7.         19TH CENTURY FROM 1870

                        The University of Rome


                        Accademie  and Learned Societies

                        Salons Circles, and Cafes

                        Publishing and Journalism

                        Artistic and Literary Life

                        Fields: History and Archeology; Politics and Political Philosophy




* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 




            The Rome of antiquity, the Rome of the Church, and the Rome of contemporary Italy have had their respective forms of intellectual life, and information about these is readily found.  The intellectual life of another Rome, however, the secular Rome which existed alongside that of the Church from the late middle ages up to Rome’s new position as the capital of the Italian State, is not so well known.

            Question: If you went to Rome, not as a pilgrim and not as a scholar of Church matters, what could you find out there about art, about the languages and literature of Europe, India, and China, about science and world history?

            Answer: In a word, at all times, in all centuries, even to the present, you would normally have found less about these fields of knowledge in Rome than you would have found in most of the centers of learning in Europe, including prominent Italian cities such as Bologna, Florence, Turin, and Naples.


            If this answer seems contentious, then consider the facts.  It cannot be denied that inquiry into fields of study in which the Roman Church has taken an official position have been, and still are, restricted for people who are committed to maintain the Church’s position. The restrictions, censorship, of course apply to overtly religious and doctrinal matters, but they also extend to issues, such as questions of science, which the Church considers preempted by its understanding of what Christians should find when they look carefully at the world.  One would not go to a religious school if one were looking for unbiased information on what other people outside the sponsoring institution were teaching.  Rome, however, was a theocracy until 1870, and the Vatican City remains such until this day, a theocracy in which all teaching must conform to the official teaching.  Since 1870 the Italian State has strengthened university studies in Rome and has encouraged learned academies, congresses, and the like.  Great progress has been made, but even after 139 years it is doubtful that Rome has grown as much in  intellectual capital as it has in its role as a political capitol.  Be that as it may, the present essay is not concerned with intellectual life in Rome after the year 1900.

            The inverse of the above environment of Rome is that scholars and others who have engaged in a primarily secular intellectual life have not gone there for it.  The intellectual climate of Rome, in addition to being centered on Catholic Church comcerns, is a vacuum in regard to other matters: they simply are not dealt with.  It is this latter characteristic, a negative one, if you wish, that perennially suffuses the air of Rome rather than the former one, which can be ignored or joked about or taken for granted and not thought about.

            In the time span 1200 to 1900 there were, nevertheless, a number of significant secular Roman intellectual institutions such as the University of Rome, various learned academies, and some less structured intellectual enterprises.  There is, however more, because the secular character of some of the intellectual output is masked by the fact that many of the patrons of non-ecclesiastical intellectual endeavors have been Church personages, from Popes on down, who were acting outside their official roles.  In some cases, too, Church-sanctioned and Church-guided studies produced secular knowledge which was freely available to all who were interested in it.

            The present study is a sketch, a compilation of facts from sources in Italian and English.  The initial research for it took place in Rome in 1999.  Libraries there, especially the Biblioteca Casanatense, held key sources, such as Renazzi’s history, and bookstores furnished others, including Gregorovius’s monumental study.  On subsequent visits to Rome I added sources, and, back home in California, I found a number of pertinent references in Italian and English in University of California libraries, and by 2009 the Internet was also a great aid.  It has not, however, been physically possible for me to immerse myself in these materials sufficiently to produce a professional level book on the topic.  Thus I offer this study for the use of any teacher or writer who would like to use it as a base for further elaboration of the subject. 

            The essay is, I believe, unbiased: I neither praise the Church nor complain about it; I simply call to the attention of the information seeker a feature of the history of Rome that is not easy to research as a whole, especially in the English language and in the United States.

            My interest in this topic grew out of my own experience, starting fifty years ago, when I was a young American Catholic priest sent by my religious order to obtain a doctorate in philosophy in Rome so that I could teach philosophy in the order’s American seminary.  This small order had been founded in Rome, was headquartered there, and had an international  college there for students from its provinces in many countries.  By being in Rome, and physically in the heart of the old city, the order’s college provided access to the studies and degrees of the Church’s several universities in Rome.  It also enabled the student to be permeated by the ecclesiastical environment of Catholic world headquarters, by the Catholic atmosphere of Italy in its most concentrated form, and by the spirit of the order itself.  Like my peers, I was in Rome to study, to study seriously, but the least of the objectives of my being there was the advancement of scholarly knowledge.

            The institution I attended, the Pontifical Gregorian University, is venerable and distinguished, one of the state chartered universities of the Vatican City.  The coursework for the bachelor’s and licentiate degrees was strictly in the Scholastic Philosophy sanctioned by the Catholic Church.  At the time I had no sense of this being a narrow and inhibiting treatment of philosophy, and it was many years before my philosophical horizons spread out beyond the philosophy of the Church and beyond European philosophy to include the philosophy of India and China and the worldviews of many other peoples.  Even now I do not feel that I was badly treated by this narrowness of instruction because all study of philosophy has to start somewhere, has to originate in some basic observations and assumptions, and so all philosophers, to be taken seriously, have to transcend their original restrictions.

            The doctoral curriculum was different from that of the lower levels.  In two years of coursework one covered a wide range of topics in various philosophies, in the history of philosophy, and in scientific issues.  Taking a course in introduction to nuclear physics taught in Latin was an experience in itself.  The greatest problem for me was the choice of a dissertation topic.  My order was eminently practical: all its thoughts and energies were directed toward the care of the sick, and my dissertation was not be be an exception.  Points of convergence, however, between philosophy and health care are not immediately evident, and so we had to find one.  Fortunately I had done a research seminar on philosophical aspects of psychology with one of the faculty, and he helped me develop a topic in what was called Philosophical Anthropology at the time, but which was under the umbrella of contemporary Phenomenology and was rooted in the Scholastic Philosophy of the Church: the emotions involved in physical pain according to the analysis of the emotions as taught by Thomas Aquinas.  This involved a huge amount of search for and analysis of case studies, and was in an area of popular interest.  Something might have come of it, but I never had great enthusiasm for the topic, and my order had no idea of how to capitalize on it, and so, rebuffed in the one effort that was made to have the dissertation published, we dropped it and went on to other things.  Such was the fate of a Roman endeavor which arose from an ecclesiastical environment, but which was secular in nature.  I know therefore from experience that intellectual freedom was present but circumscribed in a peculiar way in the Rome of my day, and the present essay simply extends the horizons of my experience.


            The Order to which I belonged was the Order of St Camillus, properly the “Order of Servants of the Sick,” which had been founded in Rome in the sixteenth century.  I was ordained a Catholic priest in Rome in 1955 and obtained the Ph.D. cum laude from the Pontifical Gregorian University in 1960 upon the publication of a 48 page excerpt entitled The Influence of Pain on the Passions of the Soul: A Psycho-anthropological Study.  My gentlemanly and scholarly major professor was Father Vittorio Marcozzi, S. J.  My name in university records is Bernardus Paulus Tutwiler.  In 1970 I left the order, and a while after that I also left the Catholic Church.





Beginnings of the University of Rome


                        By way of general intellectual background for the University of Rome Ferdinand Gregorovius relates that there were many learned men in Rome in the 1200s (including over half the Popes and many of the Cardinals), but that they were educated mainly in Paris.  Gregorovius also says that the climate in Rome was not favorable to university type studies because large numbers of young students would be seen as a threat to the ecclesiastical way of doing things.  Rome, he points out, was so involved in administration that the two systems of law were of interest there, not philosophy or other liberal arts.  It was at this time that the adminstration of church law by the Rota was established and church law was codified, and this involved significant intellectual effort, but of a narrow type.  Although some learned Romans taught in universities in other places, none were brought to Rome to teach.  There were, nevertheless, some men learned in philosophy, astronomy, mathematics, and medicine, who were brought to the papal court in Rome.  Gregorovius does not say how much influence they exercised. He contrasts the Roman situation with that of many other places, particularly Paris and various Italian cities, which were bursting with intellectual energy at the time.  He observes that we have no information about libraries at Rome in the first half of the 13th century.  He adds that there were no Roman poets of note in the 13th century and that the Roman dialect was looked down upon for literary forms, and it was not even used for official civil acts, which were still in Latin. (1)

            It is clear that at least one school of higher level study school with several departments was established in thirteenth century Rome.  Some historians point to the Palatine School which originated in the Papal palace and was also called the “Universita’ della Curia,” that is, “Official University.”{2}  It followed the Papal Curia around and was a Church school of higher studies. (3)  The name palatina is from palatio, the papal residence and thus was an apt term for the school when the Pope was moving about. (4)  Thomas Aquinas was brought to Rome to teach in it from 1261 to 1269, and Innocent IV (1243-54) added a school of law to it, but it was not a Studium Generale (university) and did not become one. (5)  Others are of the opinion that the Universita’ della Curia was the same as the Studium Romanae Curiae which was chartered by Pope Innocent IV in 1244 or 1245 and truly was a studium generale or university.  This charter would have given legal standing to a certain amount of instruction in civil law, canon law, and theology that was taking place in Rome at the time. (6)  There is also a 1265 document of  Charles of Anjou establishing a Studium Generale in Rome, but apparently nothing came of it. (7)  Whatever substance there may have been to a Palatine School was abolished by Pope Leo X (1513-1521) and incorporated into the University of Rome. (8)

            The date of the Papal Bull which clearly founded the University of Rome, the Studium Urbis, is April 20, 1303. (9)  [It] “was not permitted to grant degrees until 1318, when Pope John XXII, in a provision which refers to the teaching of canon and civil law, permitted this: ....” (10)  It was governed by both ecclesiastical and lay authoritative bodies in the 14th century, “and the secular authority seems to be predominant in university affairs in the revised statutes of the city in 1363.” (11)

            In spite of adverse circumstances in the 14th century the University existed in some form or another almost until the end of it (“in qualche guisa quasi sempre nel Secolo XIV”) (12)  “After 1370” it seemed to disappear altogether, and its house in Piazza S. Eustachio was sold, but the Magistrate and people of Rome established a continuation of the university with various faculties in the Trastevere area of the city. (13)  By 1380 this facility had made a name for itself, (14) but before the end of the century it too had disappeared completely. (15)


References for 13th-14th centuries, beginnings of the University of Rome

1.         Gregorovius, Storia della Citta’ di Roma nel Medioevo, book X, chapt. VII, num. 1

2.         Renazzi, Storia dell’Universita’ di Roma, vol. 1, p. 7

3.         Gregorovius, loc. cit.

4.         Renazzi, op. cit., p. 31

5.         Gregorovius, loc. cit.

6.         Grendler, The Universities of the Italian Renaissance, p. 56.  Grendler does not use the term “charter.”

7.         Gregorovius, loc. cit.

8.         Renazzi, op. cit., p. 55

9.         Pericoli, Guide Rionali di Roma. Rione VIII S. Eustachio. Parte Seconda, p. 44

10.       Chambers, “Studium Urbis and gabella studii,” p. 69

11.       Chambers, loc. cit.

12.       Renazzi, op. cit., p. 91

13.       Renazzi, op. cit., p. 103

14.       Renazzi, op. cit., p. 106

15.       Renazzi, op. cit., p. 108.  Grendler (Storia dell’Universita’ di Roma, p. 57) is not convinced on the basis of the evidence that it did disappear completely at that time.


The Good Estate of Cola di Rienzo


            In May of 1347 the scholar Cola di Rienzo appropriated to himself the leadership of Rome in the name of the people and called himself the Tribune.  Cola’s brief interlude of power presents two aspects of interest to the history of intellectual life in Rome.

            The first is that he was an early humanist.  Born of humble parentage in Rome in 1313, “From his youth,” reports his anonymous chronicler, “he was nourished on the milk of eloquence: a good grammarian, an excellent speaker, and a good scholar.”  The biographer goes on to say, “Lord, what a fast reader he was!  He was well acquainted with Livy, Seneca, Cicero, and Valerius Maximus; he loved to describe the great deeds of Julius Caesar.  Every day he would gaze at the marble engravings which lie about in Rome.  He alone knew how to read the ancient inscriptions.  He translated all the ancient writings; he interpreted those marble shapes perfectly.” (1)

            Additional information about Cola’s status as a scholar comes from his friendship with his elder contemporary Francesco Petrarch.  The two men of letters were together for several years at the pope’s court in Avignon, and Petrarch’s correspondence after that shows great respect for Cola, even after the latter’s downfall.  Cola’s letter of July 28, 1347 to Petrarch reads:

            Nicholas the severe and clement, by the grace of our most merciful Lord Jesus Christ tribune of liberty, of peace, and of justice, and illustrious deliverer of the Holy Roman Republic, sends greetings and wishes for abundant joys and honors to Messer Francesco Petrarch of illustrious fame, poet laureate most worthy, and his well-beloved fellow citizen.

            Your numerous and most charming letters, so eloquently written and so thickly crowded with truthful and inspiring arguments, have filled the eyes of the reader and the ears of the hearer with pleasure.  When their contents had been more deeply and maturely considered, the intellect feasted on them with greater pleasure.  In your very gratifying letter of exhortation, you summoned the praiseworthy examples of the heros of old to spur us on to emulate their virtuous deeds, whereby our spirits are and have been thoroughy revived.

            We clearly discern from your letters the fullness of your love for the city and your anxiety for its welfare.  The most positive proofs, indeed, of the sincerity and the depth of the affection that you cherish for us and for the city are your human kindness and sagacity, with which I became personally acquainted.  We and all the Romans feel warmly attached to you, and the more sincerely do we pledge ourselves to serve your glory and avantage.  If only you were present in Rome in person!  For, just as a most precious stone adorns a golden ring, so your illustrious presence would adorn and embellish the nourishing city.

            Liberty is now the very life and breath of the Romans.  Its sweetness is tasted anew after the lapse of ages.  After suffering the error of servitude for so long, every Roman would now sooner permit life itself to be torn from his heart than to be reduced once again to most bitter slavery.  For all things easily revert to their natural state, and the city stands out once again as the very head and fountain of liberty, the city that - to our mortification - has experienced the irreverent lot of a handmaid for so long.  Therefore the Romans, pulled from the noose that was about to strangle them, make a joyful song to the Lord and shun no death, no dangers in defense of their reestablished liberty.  We ourselves, moreover, are most eager to do everything that pertains to your advantage and to your glory.

            Given on the Campidoglio, where we live a righteous life under the reign of justice, on the twenty-eighth day of the month of July, in the fifteenth indiction, and in the first year of the city's freedom. {2}

            As can be seen from the letter, Cola’s zeal for the glorious history of Rome turned into action.  Sent back by the pope from Avignon to Rome in 1344 in a rather minor capacity, Cola made a name for himself and gathered supporters.  (It should be noted that although the popes and the nobles were the principal powers in Rome at that time, still, by the 14th century the merchants, artisans, and minor aristocracy of Rome had been joined by an intellectual class of lawyers, judges, notaries, scribes, and others. (3)  In 1344 there was a further power vacuum in that Robert of Anjou, the King of Naples, who had exercised a certain amount of authority in Rome, had died the previous year.

            In May, 1347 Cola seized the opportunity, when the strongest nobles were not in the city, to stage a coup and, against apparently insurmountable odds, he succeeded in restoring a republican form of government with the appellation of the Buono Stato, “Good Estate,” with himself at its head as Tribune.  He ruled the nobles with a heavy hand and kept them surprisingly well in check.   During the summer of 1347 he earned the condemnation of the pope by usurping the authority of the latter’s legate to Rome. In December, haunted by fear that he could not sustain his position, he dropped his pretensions to power and fled the city. Seven years later he had regained the good graces of the pope, and he returned to Rome, had himself reinstated, and waged bitter war against the nobles. In less than two months after his return, however, some of the people themselves turned against him and put him to death, leaving Rome to revert to its usual (for this century) state of domination by the nobles and, from Avignon, the popes.

            Whatever success Cola might have had in effecting permanent change in Rome was severely compromised by the fact that he was not a military man, and he was no match for the nobles when they pulled together to fight against him.  Another factor in bringing about his downfall was his vanity, which led him to become as time went on more and more disgustingly ostentatious.


Cola di Rienzo’s legal status and his laws


            In gathering supporters and asserting a preliminary claim to legitimacy opposed to the nobles, Cola had appealed to the little known Lex de Imperio, a metal tablet dating to the emperor Vespasian (a.d. 69-79) in which it was stated that the emperor was empowered to do certain things with the authority of the Roman people, notably enter into local property agreements.  Cola alone claimed to be able to read the inscription, and he interpreted it to the people as showing that they were the source of the power to make treaties and agreements, to depose hostile princes, to build or destroy cities, and to levy taxes throughout Italy. (4)

            When he came to power he made it clear that he was instituting a rule of law, which was in part preserved by his anonymous biographer as follows:

            First, that every person who kills should himself be killed, without exception.

            Second, that lawsuits should not be prolonged, but should be settled within fifteen days.

            Third, that houses in Rome should not be torn down for any reason, but should become the property of the Commune.

            Fourth, that in each region of Rome there should be kept one hundred infantrymen and twenty-five cavalrymen at the expense of the Commune, and that they each should be provided with a shield worth five silver carlins and an appropriate stipend.

            Fifth, that orphans and widows should have assistance from the Chamber of the Commune of Rome.

            Sixth, that in the Roman swamps and ponds and on the Roman seashores a boat should be continually maintained for the protection of merchants.

            Seventh, that the money from the hearth tax, salt tax, gates, tolls, and fines should be spent, if necessary, for the Good Estate.

            Eighth, that the castles, bridges, ports, gates, and fortresses of Rome should not be guarded by any baron, but only by the leader of the people.

            Ninth, that no noble might have a fortress.

            Tenth, that the barons should keep the roads secure, and not harbor robbers and criminals, and that they should provide provisions for Rome under penalty of one thousand silver marks.

            Eleventh, that assistance should be given to the monasteries from the treasury of the Commune.

            Twelfth, that in each region of Rome there should be a granary, and that grain should be procured when required.

            Thirteenth, that any Roman killed in battle while serving the Commune should have, if an infantryman, an indemnity of one hundred pounds, and if a cavalryman one hundred florins.

            Fourteenth, that the cities and towns within the district of the city of Rome should be ruled by the people of Rome.

            Fifteenth, that anyone who makes an accusation and does not prove it should sustain the penalty which the accused would have suffered, whether in his person or in money. (5)

            One might suppose that the laws promulgated by Cola di Rienzo the Humanist derived directly or indirectly from Roman antiquity.  Eugenio DuprŹ Theseider’s commentary on them tells us, however, that they were the ideas of Cola himself.  The law about not tearing down houses was, for instance, based on practical experience.  Dupre’ Theseider nevertheless points to Brancaleone d’Andalo’ as Cola’a inspiration. (6) (For more on Brancaleone d’Andalo’ see below.)

Cola also legislated morality - such as the requirement that everyone receive communion once a year - but we have only fragments of this; no bodies of text survive. (7)

            After he had promulgated his laws Cola organized a sinodo, or meeting of legal experts (giurisperiti) from many Italian cities for counsel.  Those convened for this novel gathering concluded that Cola was correct in his interpretation of the powers of the Roman people, that the people had the right to revoke the concessions they had made over the years to the tyrants who governed them (8)

             In reality Cola’s laws bear a resemblance to laws which had gone into effect in the northern cities of Italy in the preceding century, when the power of the people asserted itself against a background of lessened domination by the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.  Thus, “In numerous cities the full, equal, and uncorrupt administration of justice was the first and most enduring concern of the whole popular movement and the legal revolution of the commune originated in popular demands and discontents.  Punctually with the popolo, especially after 1250, the evidence grows or first emerges of all the characteristic reforms in judicial practice and principle: the attack on legal privileges, on vendetta and private war, and on arms-bearing and private fortification, the widening scope and severity of criminal law, and the overall expansion in state initiative, resources, and jurisdiction: in police forces, lawcourts, professional judiciary, and most notably the procedure of inquisition.  Of comparable importance with law enforcement and in various places the principal focus of popular action - Milan for example and Genoa, Piacenza, Siena, Perugia - was the enforcement, equitable distribution, and proper management of taxes and other state burdens.  Financial administration, fiscal incompetence and irregularity, tax evasion, arrears, and abusive exemptions, formed also one of the first and most persistent subjects of popular grievance and policy,....” (9)

            This resemblance points to the other intellectual aspect of Cola di Rienzo’s actions: important as it was to him to restore the glory of Rome in Rome itself, his movement was one of many by which the Italian cities to the north of Rome were becoming city states with an eye to the past and the Roman model as well as with an eye to the present and the new conditions of industry and commerce, which was making them the busiest and most populous cluster of cities in Europe.  On the periphery of this movement, Rome nevertheless was touched by it from time to time.  What we have, then, is a history of occasional popular rule in Rome, when the lower nobles, the merchants, the scribes and other elements of the “people,” the “popolo minuto,” were in control.  In Rome, however, the element of the imitation of ancient Rome, with some foreshadowing of  humanism, was stronger than it was elsewhere.  The following is a sketch of the three periods of Roman republicanism which prepared the way for Cola di Rienzo and of the terminology which was so closely connected with their spirit.


Predecessors of Cola di Rienzo



            "The Carolingian renaissance of learning had come late to Rome and was in the mid-ninth century confined to a small group of clerics who were closely identified with the nobility and their politics; their ideas found expression in an awareness of the historical and geographical extent of the old Empire and an archaic attempt to revive its ancient powers and forms.  The use of old terms, the senate and consulship, and a consciousness of the Latin myths of Rome's origins, became increasingly apparent; …” (10)  In lieu of more informative citations about the use of the term senator, we see that Alberic, a Roman patrician, came to call himself “senator omnium romanorum,” [“Senator of All the Romans”] (11) as his father, Theophylact, had called himself simply “senator romanorum.” [Senator of the Romans”] (12)

            "Through the ninth century the Romans had fought for their independence of a local power and for their special status within the Empire; in the absence of an Empire the Roman past was preserved there alone.  When the Saxon dynasty revived the Empire in the mid-tenth century, they received from Rome a more vigorous consciousness of its ancient antecedents, a consciousness that Charlemagne's Empire, built up away from Rome, had never possessed." (13)

            "The revolution of 932 completed the independence of Rome as a city-state.  For twenty years, as the monk Benedict noted, no king, of Italy or from beyond the Alps, visited Rome to infringe its liberties.  The twenty years of Alberic's rule were appreciated by the Romans and their near neighbours; his reputation was high, and his popularity, despite his sternness, great: 'fair of face, like his father ... but to be feared, and his hold was heavy on the Romans.'" (14)  Unfortunately, as Gregorovius observed, Alberic left no institutions of non-autocratic, non-oligarchic rule which might have outlasted his personal benign autocracy. (15)


Arnold of Brescia

            In 1143 the populace of Rome, opposed both to the pope and the emperor, rebelled against papal rule and proclaimed a republic.  A Senate was set up where none had existed since the seventh century; the titles of senator or senatrix which had been used after that had been honorific marks of nobility.  The fifty-six members of the new Senate were chosen from among the citizens, liberally sprinkled with lawyers and lesser nobility.  A patricius was appointed as top exective officer - Jordanus Pierleone, a brother of Antipope Anaclete II and a maverick in his family, which had switched to supporting the successors of Pope Innocent II. (16)  From then until 1188 there was a three cornered war between Rome, the pope, and the emperor, and this ended with the treaty mentioned below. (17)  From 1145 to 1155 the spirits of the Roman people seeking freedom from the territorial dominion of the popes were fed by the presence in Rome of the revolutionary intellectual Arnold of Brescia.  Gregorovius describes Arnold’s influence in Rome: he did not start the revolt, but he strengthened it by injecting his notion that the Church should not possess property, and that, therefore, it should not rule the city of Rome. (18)

            “The treaty of 1188 between Clement III (a Roman, Paolino Scolari of the rione [ward or quarter of the city] Pigna) and the city of Rome established a lasting, but not clearly detailed, pattern for the relationship between the pope and the city.  The pope recognized the senate’s existence as an approved institution; the senate recognized the fealty it owed to the pope; the pope promised, besides one hundred lire a year for the city’s walls and one-third of the city’s ‘money,’ to give to the senators and the other municipal officials their accustomed emoluments…  The senate of Innocent’s immediate predecessor Celestine III (1191-1198) seems, like his own, to have suffered grave fluctuations in size.  It varied between fifty-six ‘elected’ members and the one active ruling senator, Benedetto Carushomo, the bridge restorer.” Later it was normal to have only one or two senators. (19)


Brancaleone d’Andalo’

            Around this time the movement of popular liberty in the Italian North began its ascendancy.  “Steadily from the end of the twelfth century popolani increased their strength in the communal militia, enlarged the size and popular membership of communal councils and juntas and their influence on legislation” in the forming new-style cities of the Italian north. (20)

            Popular revolution was no instant event: where achieved it took and filled by stages the best part of the thirteenth century - a century, viewed in these terms, of the Popolo.  From the earliest years certainly, c. 1200, popular movements and alliances of some sort arose and multiplied rapidly in all parts of communal Italy and all types of commune, without particular precedence of region (Lombardy has been singled out), situation, or ranking: in the generation between the 1190s and 1220s full-fledged societates or comunantie populi appeared in places as scattered or divergent as Pavia (1197), Milan and Fabriano (1198), Tortona and Montepulciano (1203), Siena (1212-13), Perugia (1214), Vicenza (1215), Modena (1218), Piacenza (1220), Alba (1222), Pisa (1223-4), Gambassi (1224), Bergamo (1126), Verona (1227), and possibly Padua. (21)

            The triumph, when and where it came, of popular revolution began in fact at just this mid-thirteenth-century date [i.e., c1250], with the further and final collapse of Hohenstaufen imperium.  Freed altogether from imperial and unchecked by papal-Angevin pretensions, popular movements rapidly advanced and multiplied, to emerge - or briefly mushroom - in places and areas previously untouched.  Precisely in the few critical years c.1250 popular systems or institutions were constituted, revived, or reinvigorated in a whole mass of towns and boroughs from Piedmont to Lazio, including temporarliy Rome: Como, Modena, and Reggio (1240-50), Florence and Orvieto (1250), Volterra, Prato, and Siena (1252-3), Pisa, Perugia, and Foligno, Rimini and Viterbo (1254), Bologna, Imola, Todi (1255), and others besides. (22)

            In 1252 Brancaleone d”Andalo’ attempted to establish a serious communal, “democratic”  state of Rome. (23) Thus,

            Brancaleone was a Bolognese knight  who had fought for Frederick II, a man of good family and already of considerable experience when he was summoned by “the Romans.”  To them he brought the governmental idiom of northern Italy.  Whatever the real source of Brancaleone’s initial power in Rome, whatever the group who summoned him, it cannot have been the pope or, in the usual sense, the Roman nobles, because Brancaleone was so extremely independent of them both when in fact he was not hostile to them.  He clearly tried to build up a Roman state independent of the controlling papacy (at times even condescending to and protective of, the pope). This is shown both in Brancaleone’s coins and in his attitude toward surrounding towns.  Tivoli, for example, which he took for the city against the pope’s will.  Brancaleone’s title, captain of the people, is also thought to have been significant, a proclamation of the basis of his power, a statement of those in whose interest he ruled.  His supervision of the reorganization and ordering of the gilds [sic] was probably in good part an effort to build a workable non-noble basis for Roman government.   His reputation and his acts alike argue his enmity to the Roman nobiity.  He is most famous as a destroyer of towers; according to Matthew Paris he had about 140 of them torn down. (24)


References for 13th–14th centuries, Cola di Rienzo and his predecessors

1.         Wright, Cola di Rienzo, p. 31.

2          Cosenza, Petrarch, pp. 50-51.

3.         Sanfilippo, Roma, p. 174.

4.         Wright, op. cit., p. 36.

5.         Wright, op. cit., pp.42-43.

6.         Dupre’ Theseider, Roma, pp. 555-557.

7.         Dupre’ Theseider, op. cit., pp. 557-558.

8          Dupre. Theseider, op. cit., pp. 575-578.

9.         Jones, The Italian City-State,  pp. 512-13.

10.       Llewellyn,  Rome in the Dark Ages, pp. 267-68.

11.       Krautheimer, Profile of a City, p. 143.

12.       Krautheimer, op. cit., p. 144.

13.       Llewellyn, op. cit., p. 298.

14.       Llewellyn, op. cit., p. 305 (no footnote in Llewellyn for the quote)..

15        Gregorovius, Storia della Citta’ di Roma nel Medioevo, book 6, chapt. III.

16.       Krautheimer, op. cit., p. 152.

17.       Krautheimer, op. cit., pp. 152-53.

18        Gregorovius, Storia, book 8, chapt. IV, nums. 3 and 4.

19        Brentano, Rome Before Avignon, p. 96.

20        Jones, The Italian City-State, p. 499.

21        Jones, op. cit., p. 501.

22        Jones, op. cit., p. 505.

23        Brentano, op. cit., p. 52.

24        Brentano, op. cit., pp. 108-09. See Gregorovius, book 9, chapt. VII for more about






The University of Rome


            Pope Innocent VII (1404-1406) was not liked by the Romans, so, in 1406 to improve relations he issued a bull reestablishing the University with numerous faculties and sending out a call for good professors., but he died shortly thereafter and nothing came of it. (1)

            Pope Eugene IV’s bull of 1431 resuscitated the university.  The text of the bull asserts that it establishes, not reestablishes the Studium Generale.  It mentions the wine tax (the gabella) for funding, names a handful of professors, exempts faculty from civil actions, and says charges of homicide are to be dealt with by civil or ecclesiastical tribunal according to the status of the accused faculty member.  Nowhere in the bull does Eugene hint that anyone but he has and exercises the authority to perform this action, although his “Brothers,” with whom he consulted about it included some lay people. (2)  In a bull of 1432 Pope Eugene established the board of “Reformatori,” 12 citizens chosen each year by the Roman Senate (and presented to the Pope’s Camerlengo, i. e.,  Chamberlain).  The board dealt with salaries and oversight. (3)

            In 1433, by order of the Camerlengo, houses were bought for the University near S. Eustachio.  Official gatherings were then held in the church or sacristy of S. Eustachio. (4)  Then the houses were joined into one building and enlarged by Pope Eugene.  Only later, in 1497, did  Pope Alexander VI decided to restore and enlarge the domus studii, i. e., locale.  Pope Leo X (1513-21) added a chapel. (5)

            In 1433 Pope Eugene raided the Gabella fund for the first time, taking from it 4,443 florins to pay in extortion to his own condottiere, Niccolo’ Fortebraccio Perugino.  When Eugene’s nephew the Camerlengo told the farmers whose lands Niccolo’ had laid waste that the people of Venice got along fine without cattle the people rose up and a frightened Eugene fled the city, although relations were restored and he returned quickly. (6)

            As the Roman presence of the Popes became stronger in the 15th century, ecclesiastical management came to dominate lay management of the Studium Urbis. (7)  Little is known about its faculty in the years shortly after its reestablishment by Pope Eugene.  One illustrious professor, however, was George Trebizond (who is mentioned below under academies). (8)  Another was Lorenzo Valla, an outstanding early philologist, Latinist, and critic of the Church (especially with his refutation of the authenticity of the Donation of Constantine).  After many skirmishes with the Church Valla became professor of eloquence at the University and was active until his death in 1457. (9)  At any rate, little theology was taught. (10)

            For a later period, 1473-74, we have counts of faculty:  23 in civil law, 18 in canon law, 22 in grammar (in the rioni, that is, scattered about the city), 9 in rhetoric, 2 in Latin and/or Greek, 10 in theoretical medicine, 8 in practical medicine, 4 in surgery, 2 in theology, 2 in metaphysics, 2 in philosophy or moral philosophy, 1 in natural philosophy, 2 in logic, and 2 in unidentified subjects; total 107. (11)  “It was a typical faculty complement, except that the humanists were more numerous and the philosophers fewer.” (12)  Furthermore, “There are no records of matriculation, and little survives about the granting of degrees” (13)  Extant correspondence mentions large crowds - of about 100 in one case - which attended at least some lectures of at least some renowned professors. (14)

            Francesco Filelfo, a notable and querulous humanist, was a professor at the university, lecturing in Cicero from 1474 to 77, near the end of his life. (15)  The most important chair in the university was in Latin eloquence, and a number of classical scholars were on the faculty.  Pico della Mirandola visited there and “invited there the cultured world to discuss his learned theses.” (16)

            At the time of Cardinal Bessarion and Theodore Gaza (see below, under Academies, for these people) there was a great debate about which philosophy to teach – Aristotle’s or Plato’s.  Plato’s lost and was not taught in the university until the 17th century. (17)

            Some generalities about the attitude of Popes toward the university during this period from Renazzi, Storia dell’Universita’ di Roma :  Callistus III (1455-58) did nothing for it, but its quality was maintained;  Paul II (1464-71) renewed its statutes;  Sixtus IV (1471-84) was not favorable to it and took funds from it;  Innocent VIII (1484-92), Alexander VI (1492-1503), and Julius II (1503-1513) favored it. (18)

            The conclusion seems clear that in spite of some particular encouragment from Eugenius IV, with the introduction of the gabella studii and the donation of a house, and from Alexander VI, with the eventual building of new premises, and in spite of the considerable number of teachers and the high attendance at some of the lectures given by celebrities, the Studium Urbis of the fifteenth century fell short of Boniface VIII’s original hopes.  It was more Roman (which, paradoxically, meant more provincial) than a studium generale should have been; it suffered from the papacy’s financial appropriations of the gabella, from uncompetitive and often suspended salaries, poor accomodation, and administrative interference which curtailed the civic prestige enjoyed by other Italian universities.  Perhaps it also suffered from the workings of what may be called Rashdall’s law, according to which Italian universities flourished most in the fifteenth century not in the largest and wealthiest cities, where the cost of living and the distractions were too great, but in smaller cities nearby, as Milan, Venice and Florence respectively were served by Pavia, Padua, and to some extent Pisa.

            It may seem surprising that in a period when Popes and cardinals were apparently so much in favour of learning they took, on the whole, such limited or spasmodic interest in supporting the University of Rome.  The fear of subversion, both intellectual and political, on their own doorstep may provide one explanation.  Moreover in addition to the amorphous Studium of the Curia there were other universities to which they had responsibilities or personal attachments ....[etc, etc on why they put their money elsewhere]. (19)

            The teachers in the communal schools, which were more numerous in Rome than in Florence or Venice, “the maestri di rioni,” were appointed and paid through the university, although this is not documented until 1458. (20)


References for 15th century, the University of Rome

1          Renazzi, Storia dell’Universita’ di Roma, v.1 pp. 109-113

2.         Renazzi, op. cit., v. 1 Appendix II, pp. 274-276

3.         Renazzi, op. cit., v. 1, pp. 123-125

4.         Renazzi, op. cit., v. 1, p. 126

5.         Pericoli, Guide Rionali di Roma. Rione VIII S. Eustachio. Parte Seconda, p. 46

6.         Renazzi, op. cit., v. 1, pp. 127-128

7.         Chambers, “Studium Urbis and gabella studii,” pp. 69-70

8.         Renazzi, op. cit., v. 1, pp. 128-132

9.         Gregorovius, Storia della Citta’ di Roma nel Medioevo book 13, chapt. VI, nums. 2 and 4

10.       Renazzi, op. cit., v. 1, pp. 166-167

11.       Chambers, op. cit., p. 75

12.       Grendler, The Universities of the Italian Renaissance, p. 58

13.       Chambers, op. cit., p. 84

14.       Chambers, op. cit., pp. 84-85

15.       Gregorovius, op. cit., book 13, chapt. VI, num. 2

16.       Gregorovius, op. cit., book 13, chapt. VI, num. 1

17.       Renazzi, op. cit., v. 1, pp.. 163-164

18.       Renazzi, op. cit., v. 1, pp. 192-201

19.       Chambers, op. cit., pp. 86-87

20.       Grendler, Schooling in Renaissance Italy, p. 78




Every fact stated in this section is from Gregorovius, Storia della Citta’ di Roma nel Medioevo book 13, chapt. VI unless otherwise noted.


            Cardinal Bessarion (1400 – 1472) gathered both Greek texts and Greek scholars in Rome and held in his home symposia of platonic philosophy and other learned topics.  This group was characterized as an academy.  “The Cardinal’s house in Rome was a centre of literary activity, where Greeks and Italians mixed freely; of the former the two most famous were Theodore Gaza and George Trebizond, who translated various works into Latin, while among the Italians were Poggio and Valla.... His library was exceptionally large; the Greek books alone amounted to some five hundred volumes towards the end of his life and included many important copies of classical texts, for his tastes were not confined to theology and philosophy.” .. .  Note that in 1468 Bessarion donated his Greek books “to the city of Venice to form the basis of a public library, for it was in Venice that a high proportion of Greek refugees tended to congregate.” (1)

            In 1463 Pomponio Leto (an assumed name) arrived in Rome, where he quickly acquired a reputation for Latin classical scholarship, and around the time he was named professor at the University of Rome (1465) he founded the Accademia Romana, a group of classical scholars who met in his house.  These scholars, like Leto, took classical names, dated their writings counting from the founding of Rome, and celebrated annually the date of its founding.  This began to look revolutionary, subversive, and so in 1467 Leto fled Rome for Venice in anticipation of trouble, which did come in 1468.  After accusations of paganism, heresy, sedition, and sodomy and his admission of guilt in the smallest of these, Leto (who was extradited to Rome) and his companions were let go by 1469.  His post at the university was restored to him (it seems) in the same year. (2)

            Additional items about Leto: his original name was Giulio Sanseverini.  He was not on good terms with any prelates of Rome except Cardinal Carvajal and Pope Sixtus IV. Members of the academy read their own works, held debates and banquets and presented Latin comedies.  In 1468 Leto, Platina, and others were put into Castel Sant’Angelo and physically tortured.  Leto died in 1498.  It is said that his house on the  Quirinale hill was truly a museum of objects and inscriptions from antiquity.

            Platina, Bartolomeo Sacchi, although an historian of note, especially for his History of the Popes, can be placed here because of his eminent position in the Accademia Romana.

            Pope Sixtus IV permitted the revival of the Accademia Romana as a religious sodalitas in 1478, (3) but the Sack of Rome in 1527 put an end to the academy.


Other Institutions



            Pope Nicholas V (1447-55) had copies of the classics brought to Rome and translated.  He made a collection of them in the Vatican, but in 1475 Pope Sixtus IV officially founded the Vatican Library by a papal bull. (4)



            In 1464 or 1465 three German printers came to Rome to start a printing industry there.  Not finding a patron in Rome, they went to the abbey of Subiaco (where there were German monks) and started publishing in 1465.  By 1467 one or more of the printers was established in Rome and print shops began to appear there in the houses of lay or clerical patrons.  In 1469 printing was introduced to Milan and Venice, where it flourished, and by 1479 it had nearly disappeared in Rome, although it began coming back early in the next century.





            Stefano Infessura, a Roman by birth, wrote Diario della Citta’ di Roma, covering the period from 1295 to his own time, about 1500.  This is so good that it has been used by many historians.  Although he is trustworthy about what he writes (except that he does not acknowledge any good accomplished by Sixtus IV), he was “a Roman patriot, republican by character and on principle, enemy of papal authority…”



            Roman poets of the 15th century, writing in imitative Latin, were undistinguished as a group.  One of the best  poets in the Italian Language, Giusto dei Conti di Valmontone, was born in Rome but left there to exercise his art in Rimini.



            The greatest dramatical presentations in Italy in this time were in Rome.  Some were in Italian, but most were in Latin; some took place in Church locales, and some, for limited audiences, in the residences of the rich. There were no theaters in the modern sense; gentry and students of the arts, rather than professional actors, played the roles.



            In his book Roma Triumphans of 1459 the humanist Flavio Biondo suggested that, in view of the fact that the Rome of the Popes and the Papal States was the restoration of Roman emperors and their empire, it was fitting that pageantry - triumphal processions in particular - should be restored, although with new and appropriate symbols - especially Saints Peter and Paul, Michael and George.  This idea was carried out and was only one manifestation of the concept of restored imperial Rome championed by religious humanists. (5)  One of the aspects of theater noted above was the staging of ancient Roman plays. (6)

            Flavio Biondo (born in Forli’ in 1388) was, according to Gregorovius, “the reknowned founder of the science of archeology.”  His histories of ancient Rome and of Italy embodied the best classical literary and archeological knowledge of his time.  Like many of the Roman humanists, he was able to devote himself to humanism because he was funded by ecclesiastical patrons.

            The general Roman direction, rather than Greek direction of the renaissance in the Church’s Rome is stated in these thoughts borrowed from Charles Stinger:

            Aside from the preservation of precious Greek manuscripts in the Vatican Library, Renaissance Rome contributed less to classical Greek scholarship than other Italian centers.  Roman humanism, except for Valla, lacked the penetrating historico-philological inquiry bought to bear on the classics in the Venetian tradition of Ermolao Barbaro and Aldus Manutius, a critical textual approach represented also in the achievements of the Florentine Politian.

            In the end it was the revival of Latin, not Greek, that mattered more to Renaissance Rome.  Indeed, to the extent that classicism represented a cultural program to the Roman humanists, its chief concern was with recovering the rhetorical resources of ancient Latin eloquence and restoring the purity of Ciceronian diction - the “Ciceronianism” Erasmus found so objectionable.  Humanism in Rome was in large part a courtier culture, finding its expression in oratory, in poetry, and in elegant and witty conversation within the setting of the orti letterari [garden salon?].  This placed a premium on refinement of style.

            Latin classicism in Renaissance Rome, then, meant more than a merely literary revival.  As the idiom of cultural transmission, classical Latin affected all aspects of Rome’s cultural and intellectual life, including theology and religion.  Indeed, John O”Malley has shown how the rediscovery of classical epideictic rhetoric as an appropriate form for the sacred oratory of the papal liturgies led also to the development of certain religious themes, such as the affirmation of human powers and the emphasis on establishing a community of peace and concord.  Yet the essential aim of this theologia rhetorica was not the creation of new ideas nor the advancement of knowledge as such; rather it was to convey long-established truths in more persuasive ways.  Thus its fundamental intent was conservative. (7)

Also from Stinger:

            The idea of the Church as an imperium and of the pope as princeps did not have its origin in the works of the Roman humanists. Pope Gregory VII’s Dictatus Papae (1075) had asserted imperial claims for the papacy, and imperial notions had underpinned the legal theories of the medieval canonists in elaborating papal monarchism.  But the Roman humanists, possessed of superior knowledge of ancient Roman history and determined to revive the splendor of ancient Rome, made more literal the assimilation of the republica Christiana to the Roman Empire. For them, the Roman Church, headed by the Roman pontiffs, and with its capital in Rome, both continued the Roman Empire and, quanto magis, surpassed it in universality and dominion. (8)


References for 15th century, academies, other institutions, and fields

1.         Reynolds, Scribes & Scholars. A Guide to the Transmission of Greek and Latin Literature, pp. 134-135

2.         Sanfilippo, Roma Medievale e moderna, pp. 182-184

3.         Stinger, The Renaissance in Rome, p. 8

4.         Stinger, op. cit., p. 286

5.         Stinger, op. cit., p. 241

6.         Stinger, op. cit., p. 288

7.         Stinger, op. cit., pp. 287-289  (Reference to John W. O’Malley, Praise and Blame in Renaissance Rome: Rhetoric, Doctrine, and Reform in the Sacred Orators of the Papal Court, c. 1450-1521.  Durham NC: Duke Univ. Press, 1979.)

8.         Stinger, op. cit., p. 242.





Every sixteenth century fact stated in this  section is from Gregorovius,  Storia della Citta’ di Roma nel Medioevo, book 14, chapt. IV unless otherwise noted.


The University of Rome


            Pope Leo X reformed and renewed the university in 1513.  Well known classicists taught rhetoric and two of the most renowned theologians of the day were on the faculty, but in a 1514 list of the 80 faculty, among the 11 in canon law, 20 in jurisprudence, 15 in medicine, and 5 in philosophy there was no outstanding (“di primo piano”) faculty member.

            Severely damaged, like all of Rome, by the brutal military Sack of Rome of 1527, the university was closed for eight years.  After that, however, it attained a fairly stable number of faculty, 37 on average, and students, 500 to 750.  Unusual for its day, the university had one or two professors of Greek and one of Hebrew; one even taught Arabic for a short while.  There were more theologians on the faculty than there were in comparable universities; there were more students of civil law than of church law; and the generality of students, who came from nearby areas of Italy, were preparing for secular professional careers.  The premier university of the Papal States was that of Bologna, not that of Rome. (1)

            On the local scene, in the first half of the sixteenth century the Roman commune began to bring communal and independent schools under its supervision.  “The commune began to examine and certify teachers for competence, the first such exercise in Italy.  The rector of the University of  Rome and later the senior rione master (called the deacon) [i.e., the head teacher of the communal schools, who had this seemingly ecclesiastical title] began in 1614, or slightly earlier, to examine teachers.” (2)

            Plans for the construction of a new and splendid building for the university were begun in 1561 and part of the construction was completed between 1566 and 1572. (3)




            Early in the century, especially under Pope Leo X, the Accademia Romana was flourishing and the best humanists, poets, historians, and archeologists, were attracted to it.  It met in the homes of ecclesiastics as well as in those of lay patrons.  Quite a few German humanists belonged to the Accademia, and many of these were granted honorary Roman citizenship.  Their patron was the German, resident of Rome, Goritz.  After the Sack of Rome the humanists Angelo Colucci and Blosio Palladio tried to reinstitute the Accademia, although the main topic which united the group they put together was the misfortune of Rome.  The Accademia continued on weakly as far as the reign of Pope Paul III, 1534-49.


Other Institutions



            The courtesans of Rome at this time are mainly a concern for social history, but at least one of them, Tullia of Aragon (1508-1556), conducted a salon in her home for artists and poets who were of fame at the time.  Tullia herself composed poetry and was held in high repute until it was made public to whom she sold herself and for how much. (4)



            Libraries flourished early in the 16 century, especially, but not only, the Vatican Library under Pope Leo X.


Talking Statues.

            In 1501 in the course of improving the street in front of the palazzo he had bought from the Orsini, Cardinal Oliviero Carafa excavated a mostly buried piece of ancient statuary which consisted of most of one male body and the torso of another.  It was not known at that time and it is not known now what the group represents, although educated guesses have included a gladiator, Hercules, and, especially, Menelaus holding his friend Patroclus.  Whatever it was the cardinal had it mounted on the corner of his palazzo that faced the Piazza Parione, which became known as the Piazza Pasquino.  There are stories purporting to explain why the principal statue of the group was named Pasquino, but they lack historical evidence.  It would be most fitting to the historical context if it were named in order to poke fun at a teacher or scholar who lived on the piazza because a close affinity quickly grew between the statue and the students of the nearby Sapienza.

            Two kinds of activity became associated with the statue.  The one was the writing of anonymous verses satirizing the Pope or other high ranking church persons.  Various media had already been used to bring such verses to the attention of the public, but the very year the statue was uncovered an unknown churchman wrote verses highly critical of the Pope and affixed them to it, and this quickly became the customary place for such verses.  Soon, too, another type of satiric sport became associated with it.  The clergy of the nearby church of San Lorenzo in Damaso had the custom of decking out a stone bench near the piazza on April 25, the feast of St. Mark.  Once in place the statue was brought into this scene by being dressed in clothing representing ancient personages: Harpocrates, the God of Silence in 1508 and Janus, the two-faced God in 1509, for instance.  Students from the university attached verses composed for the occasion: about 3,000 of them for Janus!  The verses of some years were collected and published for their cleverness and mild bite, but when Adrian VI came along as Pope in 1522 he called a halt to the festivities.  Reinstituted by a new Pope in 1526, and suspended by the Sack of Rome the following year, the student celebration of Pasquino resumed and continued until 1539, when it was held for the last time.  In the meanwhile the verses were becoming bitterer, and after 1539 they were generally highly critical and often vulgar, although at least one outstanding humanist, Pietro Aretino, wrote many of them.  The earliest verses were composed in Latin, but as the years went by Italian became the normal language, and more and more the Roman dialect was used.

            After the role of Pasquino had been delineated several other statues in Rome found themselves the bearer of pasquinades. Marforio, a statue at that time in the Piazza del Campidoglio and now in the Capitoline Museum, was the principal one, and dialogs between the two statues were composed.  A statue in Florence and two in Venice also became “talking.”

            The fun came to an end in 1570, when verses in the style of Pasquino were posted in the new Vatican toilet.  The Pope was not amused and the author was hanged.  Since then the verses on Pasquino do not have the bite that the earlier ones did, but the custom of composing and displaying them continues to our day.  Although the pasquinades always took it for granted that the Roman Church as such was the true and holy Church of Jesus Christ the writers of them up to 1570 poured criticism on the Pope and high churchmen to an extent that was otherwise totally unthinkable and got away with it. (5)

            Note that the public posting of satiric rime was common in Italian cities at least as far back as the 14th century.   Lauro Martines gives instances of it between 1355 and 1527 in Florence, Venice, and Rome (Pasquino). (6)  “If put into the public arena, a political statement in verse was no mere utterance without consequences....  In our neglect of poetry, we forget that before it became a modern exercise in the esoteric probing of private experience, poetry was a public mode, frequently sung or recited to a group and nearly always, at any rate, expressed in language that was immediately comprehensible.” (7)





            On Pietro Bembo, an outstanding Latinist of this period: “In the Prose, [Prose della volgar lingua, published in 1525 while Bembo was in Venice, after and before his long residences in Rome.] Bembo codified Italian orthography and grammar, essential for the establishment of a standard language, and recommended 14th-century Tuscan as the model for Italian literary language.  His view, opposed by those who wanted Latin and by others who wanted a more modern Italian as the model, had triumphed by the end of the 16th century.” (8)  Bembo was made a cardinal.  Jacopo Sadoleto, another outstanding Latinist of this period, also was made a cardinal.

            Antiquarian sciences, archeology and epigraphy, flourished at Rome in this period.  There was some interest in Greek studies at this time, and Pope Leo X founded a school of Greek literature, “il ginnasio Caballini Montis nel palazzo del cardinale di Sion.”  There were legions of poets in Rome, and they spent much time at the Vatican, where they were welcome.  They wrote mainly in Latin, and the generality of them were of inferior talent.  The greatest Italian poets, even those who wrote in Latin, were outside Rome and had little contact with it.  Drama, in Latin on classical models, licentious and satirical, but not social or religious, flourished in Rome at this time and the forms of drama which were worked out there influenced later Italian drama.



            In this period, after the death of Infessura, there are no civil historians of Rome.  The history that was being recorded was ecclesiastical.  Paolo Giovio, who was made a bishop, spent many years at Rome and wrote on the history of Italy, but in Latin, while northern Italians were writing on the same topic, but in Italian.


Humanism in General

            Gregorovius asserts that in the early 16th century so much knowledge had been attracted to Rome that it was the center of the sciences, certainly of Italy, and, as some said, of all Europe.  In the context he is referring to humanistic sciences like archeology and philology, and he is characterising the attitude of the intellectual community as corrupt and paganizing, but also, by context, Christian.  He also makes the point that Latin was the universal language of scholarship and culture at this time and that since the language was centered in Rome, Rome itself had a privileged position in respect to the whole of Europe.



            Charles Stinger’s comparison between the political philosophy of Rome and that of Florence is too well stated not to be quoted here:

            Florentine civic humanism found inspiration in the recovered ideals of the Roman Republic, and of the Athenian polis.  From this ancient republican thought-world, Leonardo Bruni and his Florentine contemporaries acquired the intellectual resources by which to assess in more pragmatic, realistic terms the political and historical forces shaping the secular existences of autonomous city-state polities.  They also affirmed anew the Periclean ideal of the individual as citizen, morally and intellectually committed to the civic life of the polis.

            The humanists of the papal court, instead, looked to the civilizing achievements of capitals and empires -- to the vast Hellenistic world created in the wake of Alexander the Great’s conquests, to the Roman Mediterranean oikoumene established by the Caesars, and especially to the imperium of the Roman Church, headed by the popes, which they were convinced was destined to endure for all time in the Eternal City, and which would eventually incorporate the whole globe.  Within this court-dominated Roman culture, the intellectual’s task was correspondingly altered: not the shrewd and level-headed analysis of the politico-historical realities essential to the responsible citizen’s deliberations, but rather the acclaiming of Rome’s mythic past and its providential mission, which transcended the dimensions of mere human history and of polis-defined civic space. (9)



            Regarding this field, too, Stinger makes a profound general comment:

            If recognition of the Renaissance in Rome enlarges our awareness of the Italian Renaissance in general, it helps to explain, too, why Luther’s criticisms in the early years of the Reformation fell upon such deaf ears in the city of the popes.  Inspired by visions of the dawning Golden Age and convinced the Vatican was the fulcrum of the universe, intellectuals at the papal court believed they resided at the center of civilization.  What significance could fulminations have, no matter how vehement, when they emanated from Wittenberg, that small Saxon town contemporaries described as situated “in termino civilitatis” (at the edge of civilization).

            Then, too, Luther and his opponents in Rome perceived Christianity in strikingly different terms.  Roman humanists gave serious attention to religious matters, but they saw no sharp disjunction between the truths revealed in Christ and the wisdom of human civilization.  For them Christianity had Hellenistic -- and even Etruscan and Egyptian -- roots, and emphasis on the Incarnation and the Ascension affirmed the possibilities for human activity and creativity.  Human nature, or at least human culture as informed by classical antiquity, somehow related to divine grace, so that Christianity represented the culmination rather than the antithesis of Greco-Roman experience. (10)


References for the 16th century

1.         Grendler, The Universities of the Italian Renaissance, pp. 61-64

2.         Grendler, Schooling in Renaissance Italy, p. 83

3.         Pericoli, Guide Rionali di Roma. Rione VIII S. Eustachio. Parte Seconda p. 46

4.         Rendina, Pasquino statua parlante, pp. 146-150

5.         Rendina, op. cit., pp. 15-89 (first five chapters)

6.         Martines, “Poetry as Politics and Memory in Renaissance Florence and Italy,” pp. 48-49

7.         Martines, op. cit., p. 49

9.         Britannica CD 99 Standard Edition, article “Bembo, Pietro”

9.         Stinger, The Renaissance in Rome,p. 335

10.       Stinger, op. cit., p. 336





The University of Rome


            The construction of the university’s new building, the Palazzo della Sapienza, had already been completed before 1632, when the renowned Borromini was appointed its architect. (1)  Then, in 1642 Borromini began the construction of the church of S. Ivo, contiguous with the Sapienza, and the decoration of the church’s interior was completed toward 1662. (2)

            In 1646 the rector of the university ordered the deacon of the maestri dei rioni [as above, the teachers in the communal schools] to inspect “all the schools of Rome” except religious order schools and household tutors. After the inspection the rector promulgated comprehensive regulations regarding teachers in the Roman schools. (3)

            Pope Alexander VII founded the Biblioteca Alessandrina shortly before he died in 1667 in the left side of the building (curiously, it is not said explicitly that the building is that of the University, and the context relates to the church of S. Ivo).  The library, which was from the beginning a consolidation of several libraries, was inaugurated in 1670. (4)

            The university had five faculties at this time: medicine (including chemistry and botany), philosophy (including ethics, logic, metaphysics, arithmetic, geometry, algebra, and physics), sacred sciences, languages (Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Syriac-Chaldean, and Arabic), and law (civil, criminal, ecclesiastical).  There were very few students of the sacred sciences; only Vito Giordani of the chair of mathematics was distinguished among the faculty of philosophy; before 1748 only Vincenzo Gravina of the law faculty was known;  the faculty of medicine was better: Giovanni Lancisi, Georgio Baglivi, and Alessandro Pascoli were of high repute. (5)

            In 1660 a botanical garden was instituted on the Gianicolo.  It came to be highly regarded, but went into a decline after 1708. (6)




            The Accademia dei Lincei was founded in Rome in 1603 for mathematics, natural history, and belles lettres.  Galileo joined it in 1616.  The Accademia died with its “moving spirit,” Federico Cesi, in 1630.  [But see its revival in the 18th century.] (7)

            In 1677 Msgr. Giovanni Giustino Ciampini founded the Accademia Fisico-matematica. (8)  Meeting in his house, it became “the best informed center of scientific inquiry in Italy,” (9) although it died with Ciampini in 1698.  Associated with it was the Giornale dei Letterati, which lasted from 1668 to 1683. (10)  The Giornale dei Letterati was revived and was published again from 1742  to 1754.  The best known of its writers was Ruggero Boscovich, a Jesuit scientist from the Collegio Romano. (11)

            The Accademia de’ Concilj, founded in 1671, was totally church-related, but its members were dedicated to the study of church history and of the scriptures according to the most scholarly historical and philological methods of the time.  It lasted into the early years of the next century.  A key figure in it was Giovanni Ciampini. (12)

            From 1681 to 1689 there was an active Congresso Medico Romano, which involved, among others, professors and students from the Sapienza and had ties outside Rome.  It included Giovanni Lancisi. (13)

            Organized in  1690, the Accademia degli Arcadi (the Arcadia) was backed by popes, included esteemed poets and scholars, and had a female presence.  This phase of its activity lasted at least until 1725. (14)

            Christina of Sweden, died 1689, had a "royal accademia" in her palazzo along the Tiber, but its interventions were more rhetoric than scholarly, and they mainly served as introduction to the music. (15)




Asian studies

            Although the Renaissance in Europe was limited to Greek and Roman antiquities, the study of them was at least an opening out from eurocentrism. There was also, these people knew, a world out beyond theirs, even beyond the world of the Bible: the vast expanses of Asia, of Africa and newly of America.  As long as far off  lands were practically impossible to reach they scarcely entered the consciousness of Europeans, even learned, even entrepreneurial, Europeans.  By the sixteenth century, however, the distance was shrinking, especially with improved worldwide navigation.  Rome, neither a great center of learning nor of commerce, would have had little concern for the distant corners of the earth except for one critical fact: there were pagans out there, people who should hear the words of Christianity.  This essay is not interested in these religious endeavors, but it is interested in the knowledge which Europeans gained through missionary work of the parts of the world which, as the Europeans were to discover, had long histories, complex societies, and sophisticated philosophies, especially India and China.

            First for Rome came China.  Among the missionaries authorized to evangelize China was the brilliant Jesuit priest Matteo Ricci, who reached China in 1582.  Father Ricci spent years learning the language and the customs of the Chinese people and eventually became a respected scholar in Beijing, where he died in 1610.  He supported, and during his life sucessfully defended, the thesis that Chinese ceremonies honoring the ancestors and in honor of Confucius were not pagan religious rites inherently opposed to Catholic beliefs and rituals.  In 1635, however, a vigorous challenge to his appraisal of these matters reached the Pope.  A long theological battle ensued, to be settled only in 1742 by a papal decision that Father Ricci’s ideas were wrong.  In the meanwhile, huge amounts of information about China, its history and beliefs, were sent back from the missions: enough to furnish a university with ample material for scholarly study.  In the seventeenth century, however, neither the University of Rome nor any of the humanist or scientific academies capitalized on this treasure. (16)  As a matter of fact, very little attention will be paid in Rome to Far Eastern philosophy and religion until 1870.



            In addition to Rome’s lack of interest in far off religions, it had an exalted evaluation of its own.  Stinger expresses the spirit which characterised Rome so well:

            By 1600 Rome had again become a center of the arts.  The pomp of papal liturgies, the splendor of Roman spectacles, the magnificence of the city’s new vistas, and the sumptuousness of its new churches and palaces again set standards for taste and style.  But Baroque Rome was a capital more narrowly religious and propagandistic than its Renaissance predecessor.  Through the sheer grandeur of outward forms, orthodox religion manifested its power, and it relied more on the emotionally volatile joining of sensuality to mysticism.  The inhuman violence of torture and martyrdom alternated with ineffable visionary transports.  Exuberant theatricality and a taste for the marvellous replaced the Renaissance emphasis on Apollonian virtues.

            The monolithic orthodoxy of Tridentine faith also intruded into the former humanistic fields of antiquarian studies, history, and oratory.  Rome’s antiquarians continued to collect artifacts and amass epigraphic evidence, but the Christian, not the classical, city tended to become uppermost in their thoughts. (17)


 References for the 17th century

1.         Pericoli, Guide Rionali di Roma. Rione VIII S. Eustachio. Parte Seconda, p. 50.

2.         Pericoli, op. cit., p. 54.

3.         Grendler, Schooling in Renaissance Italy, p. 84.

4.         Pericoli, op. cit., pp. 56-60.

5.         Gross, Rome in the Age of the Enlightenment, pp. 236-237.

6.         Gross, op. cit., p. 242.

7.         Gross, op. cit., p. 248.

8.         Donato, Accademie Romani. Una storia sociale (1671-1824), pp. 27-28.

9.         Gross, op. cit., p. 257.

10.       Gross, op. cit., pp. 248-249.

11.       Gross, op. cit., pp. 256-257.

12.       Gross, op. cit., pp. 265-266.

13.       Donato, op. cit., pp. 34-40.

14.       Donato, op. cit., pp. 67-76.

15.       Donato, op. cit., pp. 64-65.

16.       Ample material is available on the controversy regarding the divine names and the Chinese rites.  Two websites, 2009 and 2009, contain sufficient basic information.  I base the statement that the reports were not utilized, at least for scholarly purposes, on Giuseppe Tucci, Italia e oriente, pp. 131-148.

17.       Stinger, The Renaissance in Rome, p. 331.





            A general observation concerning the early 18th century:  the 1720s and 30s were a period of decline in the post tridentine reaction, but this did not free any notable energy for intellectual pursuits.  Energy of the Church was, however, expended against Masonry, which it condemned in 1734 and 1738. (1)


The University of Rome


            In spite of the generally deteriorated condition of the university in the period 1691-1748 there were many illustrious faculty members.  Most notable were Vincenzo Gravina and Georgio Baglivi.  Almost all the faculty of philosophy and mathematics were members of religious orders, and Renazzi speculates that this is perhaps because the pay was too low…  There were no famous members of the faculty of letters and languages. (2)

            In 1714 the professors went to Pope Clement XI to ask for the abolition of a 3% tax on their salaries which had been exacted since the 16th century, probably first levied by Pope Sixtus IV.  The Pope’s decision was to set aside the money to pay for setting up statues he donated to the people of Rome for the buildings of the Campidoglio. (3)

            More than one 18th century Pope made improvements at the Sapienza before Benedict XIV, but he, in the period 1744-48, instituted a general reform of it.  He founded a chair for higher mathematics (which had not actually been taught there until that time) and appointed a reputable professor to it; he appointed a professor of chemistry (which also had not been taught); he appointed a respected professor for the chair of physics; he appointed a new director, who restored the reputation of the botanical garden.  He also raised the professors’ salaries (but the author does not say how the additional money was raised).  He cut back the instruction in law, and although there were some good professors in it [especially, later in the century, Filippo Renazzi], the faculty in general and the instruction were not of high quality. (4)

            In 1753-54 the Sapienza had 140 students, 101 in law, 21 in medicine, and the rest in all the other fields. In 1773-74 the respective counts were 180, 125, 19.  With the suppression of the Jesuits (1772) the number of students of philosophy went from 10 to 39 and those of medicine, from 24 to 73. (5)




            The prime function of the accademie in this period was for the Church to put on a show of looking up to date in the intellectual world of Europe.{6}  As the century wore on Rome paled more and more in contrast to the vibrant learned and scientific societies of the rest of Europe. (7)

            In 1714 Cardinal Filippo Antonio Gualtieri founded a scientific accademia in his house, and scientists, especially Francesco Bianchini and Celestino Galiani, frequented it.  It died about the same time as Gualtieri (1728). (8)

            An unnamed accademia was founded in this century in the Minim religious house on the Pincio, with the efforts of the two highly regarded Minims, Francois Jacquier and Thomas Lesueur, who were professors at the Sapienza. (9)

            The Accademia dei Lincei was revived in 1745 in Rimini and brought back to Rome in 1795, “under the patronage of Francesco Caetani, duke of Sermoneta, who welcomed it to his palace in the Via delle Botteghe Oscure and provided it with room for its physical laboratory.” (10)

            In the 1740s Pope Benedict XIV established four accademie, three for “sacred learning” and one for ancient history and profane antiquity. (11)  The last of these four, the Accademia di storia romana, could have focused on non-ecclesiastical phenomena but did not do so. (12)  The institutional strength of Benedict XIV’s academies waned rather soon  (13) and effectively died with him in 1758. (14)

            The Accademia degli Arcadi was founded in Rome in 1690 and, with ups and downs, lasted through the 18th century.  The idea was to write in the bucolic tradition of Virgil and Jacopo Sannazaro.  In 1726 King John V of Portugal gave the accademia money to establish a theater and archive on the Gianicolo. Giammaria Crescimbeni, a Canon of S. Maria in Cosmedin, became the first custodian general and remained in this office until 1728.  Under his leadership the emphasis was on unpretentious and lyric poetry, which lent itself also to opera.  Giambattista Felice Zappi and his wife, Faustina Maratta, were perhaps the most renowned poets of the group, and they are not considered first rate.  Other well known members were Vincenzo Gravina (besides teaching law at the Sapienza, he wrote plays) and Ludovico Antonio Muratori.  The members tended to be pious.  The Roman center had “colonies” throughout Italy: 56 of them in 1761, including one outside Italy, in Portugal.  In the late 18 century interest in the Arcadian sort of thing waned as interest in tragedy, with or without music, grew.  Although Vittorio Alfieri belonged to the accademia, his type of drama was death to it. (15)

            In 1776 there was a schism in the Accademia degli Arcadi.  Maria Maddalena Morelli of Pistoia, who was widely known for her ability to sing and to compose poetry extemporaneously, entered the Accademia, taking the name of Corilla Olimpica.  It was her great ambition to be crowned as a poet laureate, and she had many influential supporters, but not all were so impressed by her talents and the Accademia split into two factions, one of which continued to press her candidacy for the laurel.  She passed  a rigorous examination of her ability to compose poetry extemporaneously, although her poetry is described as banal, and was crowned by a delegate of the Pope at midnight of August 31, 1776 in Piazza del Campidoglio.  Although the ceremony was conducted as planned, there was a counter demonstration planned by the opponents of the Accademia, who had crowds of people jeer and whistle at the poetess and who staged a parody in which a prostitute was crowned with fig leaves.  The sentiment adverse to Olimpica was so open and intense that she left Rome on September 5 and did not return for ten years. (16)

            Around the time of the Corilla Olimpica fiasco Nivildo Amarinzio attempted unsuccessfully to turn the Arcadia more toward science. (17)  Actually, toward the end of the century there were in addition to the Arcadia six literary accademie in Rome (Occulti, Quirini, Infecondi, Aborigeni, Forti,and Esquilini). (18)  Career advancement for lay people, in this city of churchmen, was enhanced by membership in at least one literary accademia. (19)

            Giovanni Maria Lancisi in 1715 inaugurated a medical academy in the library he had founded the previous year in Santo Spirito hospital.    He had held informal sessions of the Congresso medico Romano in the same place.  Lancisi died in 1720 and - it appears - that the academy took his name then.  In 1725 it was renamed Accademia medica; then the name was changed to Accademia giacintina, and in 1848 to Circolo medico di Roma, and in 1854 to Adunanza delle scienze medico-chirurgiche.  Both its name and its seat underwent further changes, but it has been going under the name Accademia Lancisiana since 1926 and has been in Santo Spirito since 1941. (20)

            In 1787 a Congresso accademico di Agricoltura, Manufatture e Commercio was founded for practical reasons which ensured that it be an important scientific society in its way. (21)  Also later in the century there were several lesser scientific accademie consisting mainly of university professors. (22)

            Much of the tone of artistic life in Rome during this period [18th century] was set by the Accademia di San Luca.  Founded in 1577 with a papal charter, and a cardinal as its protector, the academy marked the appearance among artists of a consciousness of their enhanced position in the new order of society.  With it we have in the papal capital the first school of painting in modern times to be governed by “academic” standards.  Hence, an artist’s success depended to a large extent upon ‘official’ recognition.

            With the passing of time the position of the Accademia di San Luca was further enhanced.  By the statutes which Clement XI confirmed in 1715, membership of the academy was simply no longer regarded as an abstract recognition.  It was in the spirit of the ancien regime a privilege, which exempted the holder from all burdens and taxes to which non-academicians were subject and which gave them the right to teach the young, to hold public schools, to use nude models.  They alone were allowed to carry out public commissions.  In return each academician was obligated to uphold the prestige of his privilege by not working in retail stores selling works of art and by not finishing works of art started by non-academicians.  To fall foul of the academy could spell one’s ruin. (23)


Other Institutions



            Most of Rome’s social life, above the popular level, was played out in gatherings known as conversazioni.  These were usually assemblies for the exchange of light gossip and frivolous amusements.  Parallel to these, but very different in nature, were the learned conversazioni.  Their heyday was at the end of the seventeenth and beginning of the eighteenth century.  They were almost the only social relaxation for the more serious-minded scholars, after having worked with their heads and eyes all day, but they also served as the media for learned exchanges in the absence of other public forms of communication.  The older scholars obtained much of their information there; the younger strove to gain entry into the circle of savants.  One example of these were the late seventeenth-century medical conversazioni at the house of the learned physician Girolamo Brasavoli, where some of his medical confreres and other scholars used to gather an hour after Ave Maria to discuss the healing art. (24)

            In the 18th century there were several significant literary conversazioni in which poets, in particular, could present their works.  Among them, those of Card. Benedetto Pamphilj in Via del Corso, of Card. Pietro Ottoboni in the Cancelleria, of Msgr. Marcello Severoli, and of lawyer Felice Zappi and Canon Giuseppe Paolucci. (25)  By the middle of  the century conversazioni headed by women became common. (26)  Topics of the conversazioni included music, theater, art, science, and philosophy. (27)



            At the beginning of the century theater remained popular in Rome, but the most widely spread form of it was with puppets.  Commedia dell’arte and more serious theater was mainly restricted to private performances in the households of rich patrons (above all, Queen Christina of Sweden). Only one free-standing theater (Tordinona) was built before 1700, and it was twice ordered to be torn down by the Pope for the sake of morals.  The Teatro Capranica, Teatro delle Dame and Teatro Argentina were then built in the 18th century and more serious productions were performed in them.  The outstanding playwright of the century was Pietro Metastasio, although Vittorio Alfieri and Vincenzo Monti also rank high in what can be considered a golden period. (28)


Field: Art and Architecture


            Eighteenth-century Rome was the birthplace of neoclassicism in its esthetic and academic form.  However, to assume a causal relationship between the city’s antiquarian interests and activities and neoclassicism would be too simplistic.  The Roman cult of antiquity must be regarded as a catalyst rather than the driving force behind this new style.  For neoclassicism really rests on roots that are non-Roman and alien to its recent cultural development.  Paradoxically, therefore, neoclassicism, instead of enhancing Rome’s cultural and artistic life over the long haul, would eventually extinguish the feeble traces of whatever original genius and ethos still remained and destroy its importance as a magnet for artists. (29)

            As a matter of fact, the specific impulse to neoclassicism came from the discovery of and appreciation of extensive Greek archeological findings, and this, of course, did not take place in Rome and it was not taken into Rome as a center. (30)  Nevertheless, “Rome was still important.  It was a sort of museum, in which the relics of classical antiquity, whether of Hellenistc or genuine Roman origin, and the monuments of the High Renaissance, were preserved.  It was a center in which artists met, as neighbors, as collaborators, in the making of works of art, as fellow members of confraternities and academies.” (31)


References for the 18th century

1.         Donato, Accademie Romani. Una storia sociale (1671-1824), p. 84.

2.         Renazzi, Storia dell’Universitą di Roma, vol. IV, chapt. IV, pp. 72-108.

3.         Renazzi, op. cit., vol. IV, chapt. I, pp. 28-30.

4.         Gross, Rome in the Age of the Enlightenment pp. 242-243    .

5.         Gross, op. cit., p. 243.

6.         Donato, Accademie Romani. Una storia sociale (1671-1824)) p. 58.

7.         Donato, op. cit., pp. 117-120.

8.         Gross, op. cit., pp. 254-255.

9.         Gross, op. cit., p. 256.

10.       Gross, op. cit., p. 248.

11        Gross, op. cit., pp. 267-268.

12.       Donato, op. cit., pp. 100-107.

13.       Donato, op. cit., pp. 110-115.

14.       Donato, op. cit., p. 117.

15.       Gross, op. cit., pp. 286-297.

16.       Rendina, Pasquino statua parlante, pp. 243-256.

17.       Donato, op. cit., pp. 155-157.

18.       Donato, op. cit., p. 155.

19.       Donato, op. cit., pp. 157-164.

20.       Palma, L’Ospedale di Santo Spirito in Saxia, pp. 53-58.

21.       Donato, op. cit., pp. 149-152.

22.       Donato, op. cit., pp. 152-155.

23.       Gross, op. cit., p. 333.

24.       Gross, op. cit., p. 247.

25.       Gross, op. cit., p. 286.

26.       Donato, op. cit., pp. 120-124.

27.       Donato, op. cit., pp. 126-132.

28.       Gross, op. cit., pp. 298-309.

29.       Gross, op. cit., p. 325.

30.       Gross, op. cit., p. 326.

31.       Gross, op. cit, p. 331.





The University of Rome


            In the seventy years of the nineteenth century preceding the inclusion of Rome in the unified Italy, the university existed on momentum from the past.  In early1870 its faculty of 74 professors, some of whom were distinguished, taught traditional subjects and some recently added fields, including veterinary science, political economy, commercial law, and “oriental languages.” (1)  Oriental languages in this case meant the languages of the Near East; as far as languages of the Far East are concerned, Rome had very little interest, although in fairness to Rome it must be noted that the whole of Italy contributed little to the advancement of Western knowledge of the Far East at this time. (2)  The nearest university level studies in Chinese were in Naples. (3)  In Rome any scholarly interest in the Far East was found, as the website of the Sapienza itself states, in ecclesiastical institutions concerned with missionary work. (4)  This was in an era, it is important to note, when universities in Germany, France and England, and even the United States, were instituting studies in Sanskrit and Chinese languages and the history of China and India.  The fact is, that the University of Rome had fallen far behind comparable institutions, as can be understood through the fact that the first professor of Sanskrit at the Sapienza, Angelo De Gubernatis, was appointed no earlier than 1891, although there had been professors of Sanskrit at the universities of Naples, Turin, and Florence many years before that. (5)  The intellectual climate of  Rome at that time did not favor positive, mind-broadening studies.  It was conservative, even negative, suspicious of  anarchism, communism, and “Modernism.”  In this theocratic bureaucracy there was tight control over people and assemblies, and there was hardly a reason for broad thinking scholars to come to a place where they would be limited to narrow fields of approved doctrine.

            Concerning the university, worse still, if it is true, is the journalist Ugo Pesci’s judgment that “the government had chased out the best instructors suspect of liberalism, and until September 20, 1870 a monsignor with the authority of Cardinal Altieri had ruled there sullenly and rigidly with the rule that simple and often lying appearences of external religious pratices took the place of knowledge and study.” (6)




            The French Occupation of Rome in 1798-9, brief as it was, signalled the end of an era in Rome and was the beginning of the tumultuous events of the nineteenth century there.  An immediate effect of the imposition of external power was that the existing accademie were viewed by Church authority as threats to the good order of Rome, and they lost their esteem and patronage and, accordingly, their leverage.  New, safe, ones were established.

            The Roman Republic set up by the French in 1798 quickly organized the Istituto Nazionale delle Scienze e delle Arti, which was divided into two main sectors, that of mathematics and physical sciences, and that of philosophy, literature and fine arts.  Each was subdivided into several fields.  The Republic also established the Societa’ d’Agricoltura, Commercio e Arti.  It allowed the existing Arcadi, Esquilina, and Umbro-Fuccioli academies to continue functioning.

            With the collapse of the Roman Republic in 1799 the academies founded by it also collapsed.  The Arcadi continued in existence, and 1801 the scientific Accademia dei Lincei was reestablished by papal authorization.  This latter academy survived the new French state of 1809, furnishing scientists and engineers to Rome as well as physicians.  Many professors of the Sapienza were in it, and it furnished many to the Sapienza. In 1813 it became a public institution.

            In 1809 the French were back, now with a monarchical structure imposed by Napoleon.  At this time a French evaluation of the three remaining academies in Rome, Arcadia, Lincei, San Luca, was that they had been founded for good purposes but were greatly degenerated and in need of reform.  This time, rather than wipe out the old groups and start afresh, the French reformed the three, particularly the San Luca, which the sculptor Antonio Canova was called to head, and they established two more, the Accademia Archeologica and the Societa’ di Agricoltura.

            With the fall of Napoleon’s empire in 1814 the more scientific of the academies which had functioned under it, the Lincei, Archeologia, and Agricoltura, vanished, although the first two of these were back in action by 1816.  The academies continued to be a part of Roman society in the period after the restoration, and although it is true that the more ecclesiastical of them were favored, the movement toward more European style, lay membership academies was underway. (7)

            Around 1830 the Roman sinologist Onorato Martucci had a “collection” or “museum” of objects which had been brought from China.  Wishing to keep these in Rome, he applied to the Pope for financial support, but receiving none, he sold the objects to the King of Bavaria for the library there, which is now called the Bayerische Staatsbibliotek. (8)


References for 19th century until 1870

1. 2009

2.         Tucci Italia e oriente, pp. 171-172

3.         See the website of the Universita’ degli Studi di Napoli – L’Orientale, Dipartimento di Studi Asiatici: Presentazione

4. 2009

5.         Tucci, Italia e oriente, pp. 187-196

6.         Pesci, Come Siamo Entrati in Roma, p. 249.

7.         Donato, Accademie Romani. Una storia sociale (1671-1824)) pp. 164-227.

8.         The Bavarian Library, in its present website, 2009, calls it a collection; Tucci, op. cit., pp. 174-175, calls it a museum.  More precisely, the 2,700 volumes which Martucci had in Canton went to the Bavarian Library in 1842, as related in Margaret Burton, Famous Libraries of the World, p. 176.





The University of Rome


            Ugo Pesci, a  journalist present in Rome in September, 1870, when it was joined to the new Italian state, was also a witness to subsequent events, including those at the Sapienza. which reopened on November 21, 1870.  Many of the former professors, he wrote, did not return, but creditable new ones came from other Italian universities.  Many students came from other parts of Italy because this was the university of the soon-to-be capital.  Some of these went on to become deputies, but some introduced “la smania per la politica” [ and with it disorder among the student body. (1)   The full story of why professors left the Sapienza derives from the fact that only weeks previously a number of them had taken sides with the German Theologian Johann Doellinger against the infallibility of the Pope, which had been declared in July.  Already divided on this issue, now the faculty was asked to take an oath of loyalty to Italy in order to teach in the newly become Italian university.  Professors of theology who did not follow Doellinger left the Sapienza and formed a (short lived) Pontifical Academy.  Other professors who did not find it in their conscience to swear the oath also left, with the result that of the 1869 faculty of 52, only 14 remained . New professors were quickly added, and soon there were 85 faculty members.  Corresponding to the growth in faculty, immediately after 1870 the Italian government increased expenditures at the university from 15,000 lire a year to 200,000 lire.  Student enrollment in 1875 was only half what it had been in 1869, but the largest part of the decrease was due to the suppression of the faculty of theology. (2)

            The question of who should teach theology or religion, remained unsettled theoretically until 1873, when theology was assigned by law to the faculty of “philosophy and letters.”  Baldassare Labanca, the Sapienza’s first instructor of the broadly conceived “history of religions” as distinct from (sectarian) Church History was not appointed until 1886, and did not receive the status of professor until 1893. (3)

            March 18, 1872.  Ferdinand Gregorovius writes in his journal,

            Ignazio Ciampi invited me to his first lecture on Modern History in the Sapienza; I went, and Terenzio Mamiami came to see me in consequence.  Ciampi is an advocate and judge, but, although a highly gifted man, is not versed in historic lore.  Told Mamiami that it was necessary to appoint genuine scholars to the university here, and he replied that it was difficult to find them.  The dearth of "schools" is strongly felt in Italy, and Mamiami explains the fact as due to the inborn individualism of the Italians, who do not submit to scholastic methods, as do the Germans.  And thus it has always been, each man seeks and follows his own way.  I believe that this was not the case with regard to the arts, and consequently the Italians have achieved greater success in art than in science. (4)

            By 1872 and through the rest of the decade the Italian government was budgeting large sums for university expansion in the sciences: chemistry and physics in the convent of S. Lorenzo in Panisperna, anatomy and physiology in the former monastery of Sant’Antonino, and engineering in the former monastery of San Pietro in Vincoli. (5)




            The large libraries which became public by the suppression of monasteries, the Casanatense, the Angelica, the Vallicelliana, as well as the Alessandrina library of the Sapienza, were not strong in modern works.  For this reason the book trade, to be found in piazze here and there (especially Piazza S. Ignazio), was brisk.  The Italian government spent 110,00 lire on the university library in six or seven years and it founded the Biblioteca Nazionale Vittorio Emanuele in 1875, although the latter did not open until 1877. (6)


Accademie and Learned Societies


            One of the first acts of the second King of Italy, Umberto I, in 1878, was to foster the (scientific) Accademia dei Lincei and to establish a royal prize in science to be conferred by it. (7)  The former Accademia was split into two: the Accademia Pontificia and the Accademia Regia. which in 1875 had 39 full and 21 corresponding Italian members and 8 full and 38 corresponding foreign members. (8)

            Founded in 1867 [in Florence?], the Societa’ Geografica Italiana moved to Rome, having its first meeting there in 1873.  It became particularly active in sponsoring expeditions to Africa. (9)  Florence, it should be noted, a city much smaller than Rome, took many initiatives in the short time during the 1860s that it was capitol of the new Italy.  There was no university there at that time, but an Istituto Superiore was founded in 1860 with four programs, that is,  1) science and practice of medicine, 2) physical science, 3) philosophical and philological sciences, and 4) science and practice of law.  It is not clear how students obtained doctorates in these programs.  Established and esteemed instructors were brought in. Intelllectual salons flourished, and the hot topic was vivisection. In 1869, under the presidency of Terenzio Mamiami there was established a society to promote philosophy and philology. An international congress in medicine, was held.  The astronomical observatory was established, apparently in 1869, and there were also other scientific academies. (10)

            The Accademia Medica di Roma took definitive shape in 1875 with 40 full members.  In 1871 an accademia of engineers, architects, and agronomists was founded, and a collegio of engineers and architects began to meet in in 1876.  The Societa’ d’Economia Politica, with its seat in Florence, held some meetings in Rome, and philosophers, quite without an organization, also held there professional meetings from time to time. (11)


Salons, Circles, and Cafes


            From Ferdinand Gregorovius’s journals:

             ( February 10, 1872) Have seen several celebrated Italians at Donna Ersilia’s and Teano’s; for instance, Sella, Minghetti, Bonghi, Guerrieri Gonzaga (translator of Faust), and Terenzio Mamiami.  Bonghi is editor of the Perseveranza, which showed itself so hostile to Germany during the last war.  He is at the same time professor of Ancient History at Milan, a man of great ability in his own pedantic routine. (12)

            (undated) Signora Minghetti holds a most animated salon, but only on Sunday and in the early afternoon.  She belongs to the Neapolitan branch of the house of Acton; was formerly married to Prince Campo Reale, a Sicilian; secondly to Minghetti, who is now Prime Minister.  She was bewitchingly beautiful in her youth, and even now is very fascinating. (13)

            Settled in Rome, Princess Margarita "admitted to her private circle" many intellectual leaders, including Terenzio Mamiani, Marco Minghetti, Ruggero Bonghi, Emilio Broglio, General Menabrea, Giuseppe Massari, Baron Giovanni Barracco, Prof. Pietro Blaserna, Onorato Caetani, Prof. Felice Barnabei.  The author does not state that she held salons with these persons. (14)

            There were, in the 1870s, several circles, groups centered on a common activity; the members met for “conversation and pleasant pastime.”   Although some of these were scarcely intellectual groups, such as the Hunting Circle, the Chess Circle, the National Circle, the Military Circle, and the Bernini Circle (a hangout for young nobles), others were politically theoretical, including the Rattazzi Circle (progressive), the Roman Circle (radical), and, preeminently, the Cavour Circle, which was moderate liberal. (15)  When Ernest Renan made his first visit to Rome after 1870 he was invited and appeared several times at the Cavour Circle. (16)

            There were several cafes, mainly founded after 1870, where learned persons came together for more and less intellectual discussions.  The outstanding cafe in the early 1870s was the Caffe’ del Teatro Valle, which had been under suspicion to the pre-1870 papal government because of its young liberal patrons.  Artists, writers, professors, and politicians gathered there, often waiting  to be joined by their friends at the end of the performance at the Teatro Valle. (17)


Publishing and Journalism


            In spite of its commanding preeminence in the new Italy, Rome did not become a center of publishing in the 1870s. (18)

            Shortly after September 20, 1870, as the journalist Ugo Pesci points out, many short newspapers sprang up in Rome.  Most of these represented points of view that were new for Rome, but there were at least fifteen papers - mostly very short lived - that represented the papal-clerical perspective.  New non-clerical papers which had influence in the 70s were L’Opinione and Il Fanfulla (Pesci’s own paper), both transferred from Florence.  The only Roman paper founded at that time (1879) and still in existence is Il Messaggero di Roma. (19)  Pesci writes here little about the content of the newspapers, but he names many journalists whom he considered to be important.  Elsewhere Pesci records the fact that some journalists became politicians, members of the Parlamento. (20)  Journalists in Italy at that time had great influence, and were, even as they are today, considered to be among the intellectuals.

            The literary revue, Cronaca Bizantina (title taken from a poem by Carducci), was published in Rome by the Milanese Angelo Sommaruga, from 1880 or 1881 to no later than 1884.  Its contributors included Carducci, Pascoli, d'Annunzio, Giovanni Verga, and many other luminaries, and it was highly regarded.  By 1885, however, Sommaruga had dropped it and was publishing Le Forche Caudine, which quickly gained the reputation of being a mere scandal sheet. (21)


Artistic and Literary  Life


            There was no “literary school” in Rome in 1870.  At best some talented writers and poets of the past lived there in obscurity. (24)  Two notable literary figures, Pietro Cossa, writer and drammatist, and Raffaello Giovagnoli, drammatist, lived and were active in Rome in the 1870s and some writers from other places spent time in Rome. (22)

            In his journal for March 30, 1873 Gregorovius enters,

            Have kept aloof from society since the end of January.  There have been, on the whole, but few people of note in Rome; Bayard Taylor, who has translated Faust, and now intends to write a life of Goethe, was here.  Made the acquaintance of several other Americans at Mrs Terry’s; just lately, that of the present American Minister, George Marsh, who appears a quiet man of great culture.

            Mommsen came to Rome and still remains here.  Only met him accidentally at dinner.  Like Richard Wagner, he is evidently a sufferer from megalomania. (23)

            In 1901 there appeared in Rome a volume of verses entitled Orpheus, written by “Giulio Orsini,” who claimed to be a young poet.  His next volume of poetry,  Fra terra ed astri, which was published in 1904, was enthusiastically acclaimed, and included a photograph of the author, a young man of dashing appearance.  The problem was that Orsini never appeared anywhere, and there was abundant speculation as to his identity.  Finally (and against the wishes of the author) it came out: it was Domenico Gnoli, who was born in 1832, was a very well known figure in the teaching of Italian literature, author of many books, and, since 1881,  the Director of the  Biblioteca Nazionale Vittorio Emanuele.  He composed other works of poetry under his own name. (24)




History and Archeology

            Archeology was the only prominent science in Rome as 1870 approached, and for several years after that all the notable archeologists were still under the patronage of the Church, although this situation gradually changed. (25)

            Added to an archeological museum situated there since the 17th century, several museums of Italian and pre-history were opened in the Collegio Romano in the 1870s, and the original museum became public. (26)

            The historian Ferdinand Gregorovius himself was an intellectual figure in Rome, as he tells us in his journal for July 5, 1872:

            In the beginning of June Professor Ignazio Ciampi, in a lecture at the University, took occasion to speak of my History of the City of Rome; expressed the thanks of Rome, and said that now when the Crown Prince and Princess of Italy were in Berlin, it was the duty of Rome to do honour to a German.

            These kind words, in conjunction with the appearance of the Venetian volumes [first volumes of Italian translation], produced a certain effect in Rome, which still endures.  At first it was thought of requesting the Municipality to bestow the rights of citizenship on me.  In recent times these rights have been bestowed on Alessandro Manzoni, Terenzio Mamiani, and Gino Capponi.  To me the Civis Romanus would be the highest possible title of honor.

            On June 23, went to the Capitol to recommend Forcella, collector of the Roman Mediaeval Inscriptions, to the Marchese Vitelleschi for the post of Secretary.  Vitelleschi informed me of the scheme of having my History of the City translated into Italian, published at the cost of the Municipality. (27)

            Gregorovius in 1872 was appointed to a commission for examining literary and scientific institutions for the House of Deputies.  His proposal for the establishment of a special commission for the organization of the Roman archives was accepted.  In 1876 he was officially declared to be a citizen of Rome. (28)


Politics and Political Philosophy

            The mayors of Rome from the first one, in 1871, until 1907 were centrist local nobility, including two Caetani, a Ruspoli. a Doria Pamphilj, and a Torlonia.  English born Ernest Nathan, was the first and only mayor (1907-1914) of the "popular front," which consisted of radicals, republicans, and socialists.  It was during Nathan's regime, under Giovanni Montemartini, that the streetcars and electricity were made municipal.  In 1911 Nathan allowed a great Massonic parade for the 50th anniversary of the unity of Italy with a discourse of his on the backwardness of Rome before 1870.  In 1914 the "blocco popolare" gave way to the former moderate coalition, headed by a Colonna, and this was made possible by the lifting of the non expedit (decree forbidding Catholics to participate in parliamentary elections) in 1913. (29)  In a more general context, there were three new factors in Italian political life in 1913:  limited universal suffrage (males only) was instituted, the non expedit was lifted with the consequence that 230 catholic deputies were elected, and a socialist leader (Leonida Bissolati) achieved legitimacy, entering into the ranks of people whom the king consulted. (30)


References for the 19th century from 1870

1.         Pesci, Come Siamo Entrati in Roma, pp. 251-253

2.         For information on this complex matter, I have followed two contemporary accounts, that of Pesci, Roma Capitale, pp. 219-221 and that of Emma Perodi, Roma Italiana 1870-1895, pp. 93-94 and 111.  I do not know how the number of faculty  at the Sapienza went from 52 in 1869 to 72 in the first half of 1870.  See the first paragraph of the previous part, “19th Century until 1870” for the latter figure.

3.         Jordan, “The Study of the History of Religions in the Italian Universities,” pp. 48-49

4.         Gregorovius, Roman Journals, pp. 424

5.         Pesci, op. cit., pp. 401-402

6.         Pesci, op. cit., pp. 399-400

7.         Pesci, op. cit., p. 635

8.         Pesci, op. cit., pp. 403-404

9.         Pesci, op. cit., pp. 404-408

10.       Pesci, Firenze Capitale, pp. 383-394.

11.       Pesci, Roma Capitale, pp. 408-409

12.       Gregorovius, Roman Journals, p. 418

13.       Gregorovius, Roman Journals, pp. 448-449

14.       Pesci, Roma Capitale, pp. 76-77

15.       Pesci, op. cit, pp. 368-375

16.       Pesci, op. cit., p. 234

17.       Pesci, op. cit.,  pp. 706-715

18        Pesci, op. cit.,  pp. 398-399

19.       Pesci, op. cit.,  pp. 469-495

20.       Pesci, Firenze Capitale, pp. 452-454.

21        Antonioni, Roma tra due secoli., pp. 23-26

22        Pesci, Roma Capitale, pp. 387-398

23.       Gregorovius, Roman Journals, p.439

24.       Antonioni, op. cit., pp. 85-94

25.       Pesci, op. cit.,  pp. 377-386

26.       Pesci. op. cit., p. 410.

27.       Gregorovius, Roman Journals, p. 430

28        Pesci, op. cit., pp. 247-249

29.       Antonioni, Inizio di secolo, pp. 105-114

30.       Antonioni, op. cit., p. 209





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