Monday, February 12, 2018

It's no wonder that Italian politics is the way it is.

Nosing about today into the local history of Umbria in the Spoleto-Perugia area, the big horseshoe valley of the Tiber.

My local village church, San Martino, was rebuilt in 1815, as were most of the parish churches of this area. It's a really lovely building, and of course was built in the same spot as the older church from the 13th century. But I wondered why that particular date and why all the rebuilding around here, since all the churches up and down the country road here were all about the same date and by the same architect.

As it turns out, there's a very sound historical reason. Of course, I live in what was once the Papal States. And that's kind of where the problem begins.

The history of the Church in Italy is not a happy one, and of course has a lot to do with the 1000 year conflict between the Pope and the Emperor, that spilled over into various iterations through the ages, culminating in the catastrophe of the secularist/freemasonic revolt of 1870 and the disastrous farce of unification, an artificial construct that has little actual social reality.

But as Rome and the Papal States flipped back and forth between rule by France, rule by Naples/Sicily, rule by the pope, like an oscillating sprinkler, there were brief moments of peace. One of these was at the end of French rule in this area, the département Trasimène (prefecture of Spoleto) ended in 1814. I expect after Napoleon had finished imposing his weird ideas of religion and the relations between Church and State, there wasn't much in the way of Catholic life left around here, so rebuilding was a way of reviving Catholic culture. Look particularly at the dates 1815: Rome changed hands three times in a single year. Hardly surprising that steps were taken in the provinces to try to establish some kind of ecclesial order.

Later in the 19th century the secularist Italian rulers had another go at the Church, in much the same way and for much the same reason as the English Dissolution: a kind of national possession of odium fidei...

Here is a little blurb about the decree of the governor Gioacchino Pepoli of 1860 in which all the convents and monasteries in this area were stripped of their possessions.

The Italian Suppression in 1866

With regard to the religious suppression decreed by the Italian Government in 1866, there is no specific mention in the Records of the Convent.

It is known from other sources, though, that the first decree of expulsion was issued by the High Commissioner of the Government, Gioacchino Pepoli on November 1th, 1860, after the occupation of the regions of Marche and Umbria. Such decree contained a clause which stated that all mendicant friars could remain in their cloisters of residence, provided that they expressed their intention to do so. They then provided to do such request. The definitive decree arrived nonetheless on July 7th, 1866.

Leafing through the Provincial Records in S. Maria degli Angeli, we have found a historic document sent to the General Ministry by the Provincial B. Stefano from Castelplanio, in 1882: “S. Antonio of Paccian Vecchio”, diocese of Città della Pieve – The Friars were expelled from this Convent as well, on March 24th, 1864”. The Church remained closed, and the building as well as its surroundings were rented to third parties.

Who was this Pepoli guy, and how could he have had the power to just wipe out Catholic religious life with the stroke of a pen?

This was the period of the beginning of the great disaster that Italy is still suffering from today. This comes from the 1935 (Mussolini-period) Italian Encyclopaedia...

Note the little ting of approval...

"Well accepted to Napoleon III, he was among the most valid cooperators with him to make him benevolent to Italian politics, especially to the Piedmontese one. Liberate the Romagne (1859) and appointed governor of them L. Cipriani, the P. assumed the posts of Minister of Foreign Affairs and Finance, of which he was an expert connoisseur. Member of the Romagne assembly, governor of Umbria, when he was occupied (September 1860) by the Italian government, he administered the region with wisdom..."

The blurb comes from the historical notes of a former Franciscan convent that is now a swank agritourismo near Trasimeno (a common fate of many, many monasteries and convents in Italy, and increasingly so...)
The Convent of Sant’Antonio of Padua Pacciano Vecchio, situated in the diocese of Città della Pieve, dates back to 1496. Its construction was authorised on July 16 that year by Pope Alexander VI, addressing the inhabitants of Pacciano Vecchio and Panicale. He affirmed the importance of this authorization based on the need of the presence of priests who would spread God’s Word and celebrate the Holy Misteries. He therefore gave his permission to build the Convent (“which would have the indulgencies and privileges of all other churches”) with a Church -consecrated to Saint Antonio of Padua- a bell tower, the cemetery, a dormitory, a refectory, a cloister, vegetable gardens and the smithery.

There is a Memorial, found in the Parish Archives of Panicale which says: “The Convent of the Fathers of Sant’Antonio of Paccian Vecchio was founded at the expenses of people from Panicale and Pacciano in 1496, in the site of the prisons of the County of Pacciano Vecchio, granted by the Counts Baglioni”.

It's no wonder that Italian politics is the way it is. They've had hundreds of years of this or that foreign or domestic ideological power declaring itself to be the rulers of this country. It's not surprising that the ordinary people have developed their unique Italian form of mental stoicism, a kind of aggressive indifference to politics at the national and international level, and the instinct to simply ignore the larger issues and preserve the family and one's private holdings, to be concerned exclusively with the local area, to protect the local interests.

It is also enlightening to see where the current suppression of the Catholic Faith within the Church's own institutions came from. It was, of course, in part the work of Modernist and Neo-Modernist theologians mainly from northern Europe. But a study could be usefully made of how the anti-clerical and secularist suppressions of the 19th century affected the situation in Italy, France and Germany to generate a kind of episcopal hopelessness, a sort of culture of ecclesiastical despair in response to the apparently unending stream of catastrophes of the modern period in Europe.



Lynne said...

"a swank agritourismo near Trasimeno"

God's justice to those who allowed this.

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

Well, if nothing else, they did a brilliant job of restoring it. There are literally hundreds of abandoned Catholic buildings in Umbria, all over the mountains. Many of them in ruins. At least this one has been preserved, and the restoration has been careful.

M. Prodigal said...

And what the state did not do, the modernist Church is doing now.

Fran said...

This is an excellent article and much appreciated! Love history, architecture Abd forward to Medieval gardening.

Anonymous said...

Catholics tend towards an other-worldly utopianism - a position I frankly share. But the facts seem to point to the unceasing hostility of this fallen world to the Church. The enmity never has stopped, and the golden age we imagine existed was never very golden.