Showing posts with label Borromeo. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Borromeo. Show all posts

15 January 2018

Paolo Sarpi – writer and statesman

Patriotic Venetian who the Pope wanted dead

Paolo Sarpi was an outspoken critic of the Catholic Church
Paolo Sarpi was an outspoken critic of
the Catholic Church
Historian, scientist, writer and statesman Paolo Sarpi died on this day in 1623 in Venice.

He had survived an assassination attack 16 years before and was living in seclusion, still preparing state papers on behalf of Venice, writing, and carrying out scientific studies.

The day before his death he had dictated three replies to questions about state affairs of the Venetian Republic.

He had been born Pietro Sarpi in 1552 in Venice. His father died while he was still a child and he was educated by his uncle, who was a school teacher, and then by a monk in the Augustinian Servite order.

He entered the Servite order himself at the age of 13, assuming the name of Fra Paolo. After going into a monastery in Mantua, he was invited to be court theologian to Duke Guglielmo Gonzaga.

He then went to Milan, where he was an adviser to Charles Borromeo, the archbishop of Milan, before being transferred back to Venice to be professor of philosophy at the Servite convent.

At the age of 27, Sarpi was sent to Rome, where he interacted with three successive popes. He then returned to Venice, where he spent 17 years studying. His writings were highly critical of the Catholic Church.

Pope Paul V, who plotted to have Sarpi killed
Pope Paul V, who plotted to have
Sarpi killed
Sarpi was a defender of the liberties of Republican Venice and a proponent of the separation of the church and state.

After Paul V was made pope, Venice adopted measures to restrict papal prerogative, but Paul V excommunicated the Venetians. Sarpi entered the argument and set out principles, which struck radically at papal intervention in secular matters. A compromise was finally arranged between the Pope and Venice through Henry IV of France

Afterwards, however, Sarpi became the target of an assassination attempt instigated by the Pope. In 1607, an unfrocked friar assisted by two other people agreed to kill Sarpi for the sum of 8,000 crowns, but the plot was discovered and they were arrested and imprisoned after crossing into Venetian territory.

The following month Sarpi was attacked and left for dead with 15 stiletto thrusts. His attackers were welcomed back into papal territory but the pope’s enthusiasm for them cooled after he discovered Sarpi had survived his injuries.

His would-be assassins settled in Rome and were granted a pension by the viceroy of Naples.

Plots continued to be formed against Sarpi and he occasionally occasionally spoke of taking refuge in England.

But he stayed in Venice and served the state until the end. His last words are said to have been: ‘Esto perpetua,’ or ‘May she endure forever.’

These words were later adopted as the state motto of American state of Idaho and appear on the back of the 2007 Idaho quarter.

The statue of Parlo Sarpi in Campo Santa Fosca in Cannaregio in Venice
The statue of Parlo Sarpi in Campo
Santa Fosca in Cannaregio in Venice
Travel tip:

A bronze statue of Paolo Sarpi stands on a monument to him in Campo Santa Fosca in the Cannaregio district of Venice near Strada Nova. It is close to the place where he was stabbed by the Pope’s would-be assassins.

Travel tip:

Liceo Classico Paolo Sarpi, established in 1803, is a public high school in Bergamo’s Città Alta, which is ranked highly nationally because of the teaching methods and the subjects studied. Students shared their experience in a 2012 television documentary film, Gli anni e I giorni.

2 October 2016

Saint Charles Borromeo

Great reformer earned appreciation after his death

This painting of Charles Borromeo is in the St. Hermes Church in Ronse, Belgium
This painting of Charles Borromeo is in the St.
Hermes Church in Ronse, Belgium
Charles (Carlo) Borromeo, a leading Catholic figure who led the movement to combat the spread of Protestantism, was born on this day in Milan in 1538. 

Part of the noble Borromeo family, he became a Cardinal and brought in many reforms to benefit the Church, which made him unpopular at the time.

But he was held in high regard after his death and was quickly made a saint by Pope Paul V.

Borromeo was born at the Castle of Arona on Lake Maggiore, near Milan. His father was Count of Arona and his mother was part of the Medici family.

He was educated in civil and canon law at the University of Pavia.

When his uncle, Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Medici became Pope Pius IV in 1559, Borromeo was brought to Rome and given a post in the Vatican.

The following year the Pope made him a Cardinal and asked him to supervise the Franciscans, Carmelites and Knights of Malta and organise the last session of the Council of Trent, which was being held in Trento to reform the Church and counter the spread of Protestantism.  The Council issued a long list of decrees covering disputed aspects of the Catholic religion as well as denouncing what it considered to be heresies committed in the name of Protestantism.

When Borromeo’s older brother died, the family wanted him to leave the Church and marry and have children to continue the family name, but he would not give up his calling.

However, the death of his brother and also his contact with the Jesuits encouraged him to lead a stricter, more Christian life.

Borromeo was made a bishop in the Sistine Chapel in 1563 and became Archbishop of Milan in 1565.

The colossal statue of Charles Borromeo in his home town of Arona on Lake Maggiore
The colossal statue of Charles Borromeo
in his home town of Arona on Lake Maggiore
Before he left Rome, where he had personally overseen church reforms, a nobleman remarked that the city was ‘no longer a place to enjoy oneself or make a fortune’.

Borromeo also reformed Milan after he arrived, simplifying church interiors, clearing away ornaments and banners and separating the sexes during worship.

He believed that many abuses in the church were caused by the ignorance of the clergymen and he established seminaries for the education of candidates for holy orders.

His reforms met with some opposition and a shot was once fired at him when he was in his own chapel. His survival was later considered to be miraculous.

When famine and plague struck Milan, Borromeo used all his own money and then got himself into debt in order to feed the hungry.

He faced increasing opposition while trying to implement the reforms to the Church dictated by the Council of Trent, but in 1584 he became ill with fever and died soon afterwards at the age of just 46.

Even a biographer who admired him described him as an ‘austere, humourless and uncompromising personality.’

But after Borromeo’s death his popularity increased and he was canonised in 1610 and eventually became venerated as a Saint of Learning and the Arts all over the world.

His nephew, Federico Borromeo, furthered his uncle’s support for learning by founding the Ambrosian Library in Milan.

Many churches, colleges, seminaries and even cities throughout the world have been named after Charles Borromeo.  The city of Saint Charles in Louisiana, for example, is named after him, as is the Brazilian city of São Carlos.

Travel tip:

Arona, where Charles Borromeo was born, is a town on Lake Maggiore in the province of Novara. One of its main sights is the Sancarlone, a giant statue of Saint Charles Borromeo made from bronze. It is second in size only to the Statue of Liberty and is believed to have been looked at by the architects of the Statue of Liberty when they were producing their own design.

The Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan
The Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan
Travel tip:

The Pinacoteca Ambrosiana in Piazza Pio XI in Milan was established in 1618 to house paintings, drawing and statues donated to the Biblioteca Ambrosiana, a library founded in the same building by Cardinal Federico Borromeo a few years before. In addition to works of art, the museum keeps curiosities such as the gloves Napoleon wore at Waterloo and a lock of Lucrezia Borgia’s hair, in front of which famous poets such as Lord Byron and Gabriele D’Annunzio spent a lot of time drawing inspiration. Visit for more information.