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Making Bishops in the Malta of the Knights, 1530-1798

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 April 2015

FABRIZIO D'AVENIA*
Affiliation:
G. Galilei n. 38, 90145 Palermo, Italy; e-mail: fabrizio.davenia@unipa.it

Abstract

During the early modern age the appointment of Maltese bishops involved conflicts in the management of ecclesiastical patronage, jurisdictional issues and international diplomacy. The procedure for appointment, established by Charles v in 1530 when he granted Malta to the Order of St John, was the result of a compromise: safeguarding rights of royal patronage without undermining the independence of an international military order. It is important, however, to underline the reforming activity conducted by bishops appointed in such political ways, especially through the application of some institutions provided by the Council of Trent, such as diocesan synods.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2015 

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References

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11 ‘Praeterea quod jus patronatus episcopatus melivetani remaneat prout est dispositioni et presentationi nostrae, ac successorum nostrorum Regni predicti Siciliae: ita tamen quod … in quemcumque casum vacationis deinceps secuturum dictus Magnus Magister et Conventus [Council] dicti Ordinis S. Joannis habeant nominare viceregi Regni praefati Siciliae tres personas eiudem Ordinis: quarum una saltem sit et esse debeat ex subditis nostris, nostrorum ac in dicto Regno successorum, idoneas et sufficientes ad ipsam pastoralem dignitatem exercendam ex quibus tribus sic nominandis Nos nostrique successores in Regno praedicto presentemus ac presentare debeamus et debeant ad dictum espiscopatum eum quem idoneorem judicaverimus aut judicaverint’: Emperor Charles v's diploma, Castelfranco Bolognese, 23 Mar. 1530, NLM, AOM, arch. 70. See also arch. 62, which contains the papal bull of confirmation and the exequatur by the Kingdom of Sicily.

12 On the procedure of bishops' appointments in the Spanish Monarchy see Ortiz, Antonio Domínguez, La sociedad española en el siglo XVII, II: El estamento eclesiástico, Granada 1992, 18–20Google Scholar; Gozalo, Maximiliano Barrio, ‘La jerarquía eclesiástica en la España moderna: sociología de una élite de poder (1556–1834)’, Cuadernos de Historia Moderna xxv (2000), 1759Google Scholar at pp. 23–9; and Rawlings, ‘Secularisation’, 55–8.

13 ‘Cui quidem presentato sic ad dictum episcopatum promoto, teneatur Magnus Magister praedictus dicti Ordinis cum prioribus et baiulivis admittere, et eidem concedere magnam crucem ad Concilium una cum aliis prioribus et baiulivis convocare’: NLM, AOM, arch. 70; Micallef, Antonio, Lezioni su gli statuti del Sagr'Ordine Gerosolimitano nell'Università degli studi di Malta per l'anno 1792, Malta 1792, 24Google Scholar.

14 Micallef, Lezioni, 92.

15 Bosio, Giacomo, Dell'historia della sacra religione et illustrissima militia di San Giovanni gierosolimitano, Rome 1594–1602Google Scholar, iii. 101.

16 See Ciappara, Frans, ‘The financial condition of parish priests in late eighteenth-century Malta’, this Journal liii (2002), 93107Google Scholar at p. 105. For the distorted perception of a much higher number of Maltese clerics, reported by all eighteenth-century observers, see Blondy, L'Ordre de Malte, 82–3. For instance, in the opinion of the French chargé d'affaires, in 1775 there were ‘1200 prêtres, auxquels il ajoutait 100 diacres et sous-diacres, 5000 clercs célibataires ou mariés, 6 à 700 alarii (ou gens d'armes de l’évêque), sacristains, fermiers, patentats …, tous exempts de la justice civile, ainsi que leur famille, leurs domestiques et leurs esclaves, et ne relevant que de l’éveque seul. Il estimait qu'ainsi un quart à un tiers des Maltais échappait à la domination de Grand Maître’: ibid. 82. On the attempts of grand masters Pinto and de Rohan to reduce this presumed excessive number of clerics see Ciappara, Frans, ‘The Maltese Catholic Enlightenment’, in Lehner, Ulrich L. and Printy, Michael (eds), A companion to the Catholic Enlightenment in Europe, Leiden 2010, 251–94Google Scholar at p. 268.

17 The diocese of Malta was suffragan to Palermo from 1156 until 1831: Raffaele Manduca, ‘Agrigento’, in Zito, Storia delle Chiese di Sicilia, 279–317 at p. 285; Buhagiar, Mario, ‘The re-Christianisation of Malta: Siculo-Greek monasticism, their toponyms and rock-cut Churches’, MH xiii/3 (2002), 253–83Google Scholar at p. 253; Bonnici, Arturo, ‘The dismemberment of the Maltese see by the metropolitan see of Palermo’, MH ii/3 (1958), 179–81Google Scholar.

18 Sire, H. J. A., The knights of Malta, New Haven–London 1996, 281–3Google Scholar. The four missing years are those of the only Italian grand master in the period, Pietro del Monte (1568–72). The total number of knights, according to the census of 1631, was 1,755, of whom 776 were French and 349 Spanish (and Portuguese). A proportional ‘political’ weight did not correspond to the high number of 584 Italian knights (33.2%), because of the division of the peninsula into several independent states (ibid. 77).

19 Labatut, Jean–Pierre, Le nobiltà europee dal XV al XVIII secolo, Bologna 2002, 174Google Scholar.

20 Pilo, Raffaella, ‘Le relazioni diplomatiche tra il Regno di Sicilia e i Cavalieri di San Giovanni nella prima metà del xvii secolo: le ragioni e il fine di un atteggiamento neutrale’, in Rodríguez, Manuel Rivero (coord.), Nobleza hispana, nobleza cristiana: la Orden de San Juan, Madrid 2009, ii. 14931527Google Scholar at p. 1505.

21 Petiet, Claude, Le Roi et le grand maître: l'Ordre de Malte et la France au XVIIe siècle, Paris 2002, 86–9Google Scholar.

22 Original magisterial bulls, 22 Nov. 1566 and 31 Jan. 1578, AHN, Estado, leg. 2162, provisión del obispado de Malta (1566–1712), unnumbered. All the following references to appointments from 1566 to 1713 are taken from this source.

23 ‘Podría ser que con favor de la Reyna nuestra señora procurassen que vuestra magestad eligiese al frances … lo qual seria en muy gran prejuicio del servicio de vuestra magestad, por ser esta dignidad la mayor que entra en aquel consejo despues del Maestre’: ibid.

24 Philip ii to the Spanish ambassador in Rome and to the pope, 17 Feb. 1567, ibid.

25 Rocco Pirri, Sicilia sacra, Palermo 1733, 916–17.

26 Ibid. 917; Hirschauer, Charles, ‘Recherches sur la déposition et la mort de Jean Levesque de La Cassière, grand maître de l'Ordre de Malte’, Mélanges d'archéologie et d'histoire xxxi (1911), 75141Google Scholar.

27 Cassar, Carmel, ‘1564–1696: the inquisition index of Knights Hospitallers of the Order of St John’, MH xi/2 (1993), 157–96Google Scholar at pp. 159–60.

28 Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, fondo Barberini Latino, ms 5333, fos 107r–110v. This is quoted in Bonnici, Alessandro, ‘Due secoli di storia politico-religiosa di Malta nel fondo Barberini latino della Biblioteca Vaticana’, MH iv/4 (1967), 229–56Google Scholar at p. 235.

29 Pirri, Sicilia sacra, 917–18. In 1604 Gargal quarrelled with the archbishop of Palermo, refusing to recognise the archbishop's preeminence as metropolitan. The latter then seized the revenues enjoyed by the Maltese bishopric in Sicily (three fiefs in the territory of Lentini), returned only when Gargal recognised the ‘suffraganeam subiectionem’: ibid. See also Giovanni Francesco Abela, Della descritione di Malta isola del mare siciliano con le sue antichità, ed altre notizie: libri quattro: del commendatore fra Giovanni Francesco Abela vicecancelliere della Sacra ed Eminentissima Religione Gierosolimitana, Malta 1647, 326.

30 Cf. NLM, AOM, arch. 105, fo. 61. This is quoted in Gabarretta, Antonio Zammit, The presentation examination and nomination of the bishops of Malta in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Malta 1961, 75.Google Scholar

31 Cf. Fatto delle liti mossi contro il vescovo di Malta, AHN, Estado, leg. 2162.

32 ‘Para la quietud de aquella islas y de la religion conviene mucho que el obispo sea español por estar mas sugeto a la ordenes de su Magestad mediante las quales se consigue mayor paz y la jurisdizion de su Magestad y que el gran Maestre y la Religion tienen en su nombre se conserva mas facilmente, escusando los encuentros que ay sobre ello con los ministros de su Santitad’: Roman ambassador Sotomayor to Philip iv, undated, but before 27 Oct. 1632; ‘juntamente con honrar a la naçion española es muy de servicio de Vuestra Magestad que el obispo de la dichas islas lo sea por ser el primer voto del consejo de la Religion y tener esta naçion menos grandes cruzes que los franceses, por lo que en muchas ocassiones les llevan la mejor parte en sus intereses': memorial of the Langue of Castile, undated but before Oct. 1632, ibid.

33 Relación de todo lo que passa çerca del Obispado de Malta desde antes que muriesse Don Balthasar Callares Obispo de dicha Isla y despues de su muerte, undated ibid.

34 Bonnici, Alessandro, ‘I vescovi di Malta Baldassarre Cagliares (1615–1633) e Michele Balaguer (1635–1663): edizione critica del Monoscritto 6687 del Fondo Barberini Latino della Biblioteca Vaticana’, MH v/2 (1969), 123–54Google Scholar.

35 Greco, La Chiesa in Italia, 75. In Sicily there were 303 in 1737, concentrated in particular in the diocese of Syracuse, and represented 1.3% of all clerics (22,586), while in Malta there were 87 in 1782, 0.6% of the total clergy (1,361): Manduca, Raffaele, Le chiese lo spazio gli uomini: istituzioni ecclesiastiche e clero nella Sicilia moderna, Caltanissetta–Rome 2009, 70, 78–79Google Scholar; Ciappara, ‘Financial condition’, 105.

36 For interesting data about the number of ‘chierici selvaggi’ and ‘chierici coniugati’ in the first half of seventeenth century within the Kingdom of Naples (with the exception of the capital and its neighbourhood) see Rosa, Mario, ‘La Chiesa meridionale nell'età della Controriforma’, in Chittolini, Giorgio and Miccoli, Giovanni (eds), La Chiesa e il potere politico dal medioevo all'età contemporanea (Storia d'Italia: Annali ix), Turin 1986, 293345Google Scholar at pp. 317–21, and Greco, Gaetano, ‘Fra disciplina e sacerdozio: il clero secolare nella società italiana’, in Rosa, Mario (ed.), Clero e società nell'Italia moderna, Rome–Bari 1992, 45113Google Scholar at pp. 82–6. There were about 5,000, almost 9% of the total clergy.

37 Bartolomeo Dal Pozzo, Historia della sacra religione militare di S. Giovanni Gerosolimitano detta di Malta, Venice 1715, ii. 486–7; consulta of the Council of Italy, 21 Feb. 1682, AGS, SP, libro 784, fos 408v–410v. This was the only case of a vacancy due to the transfer of a bishop, contrary to the common practice within the Roman Church in which the bishops' transfers (because of promotion, health, interpersonal conflicts or political expediency) were very frequent. This peculiarity can be explained by the nature of the bishopric of Malta, assigned only to priests of the order, which placed them outside the regular channels of ecclesiastical careers. On the use (and abuse) of transfer from one diocese to another, the so-called ‘carousel of bishops’, see Barrio Gozalo, ‘La jerarquía eclesiástica’, 53–7.

38 ‘Aunque aqui no se tiene mas formal conozimiento de los sujetos que comprehende que el de los titulos con que vienen condecorados, concurre en todo el Consejo [de Italia] con la nomina referida y representacion del Gran Maestre’: consulta of the Council of Italy, 21 Feb. 1682, AGS, SP, libro 784, fos 408v–410v.

39 ‘Porque de otra suerte suelen despues los prelados repugnarlas y se da ocasion a pleitos’: consulta of the Council of Italy, 17 Apr. 1682, ibid. fos 410v–412r. A memorial written a few years earlier by one of the closest collaborators of the future Innocent xi (1676–89), denounced the abuse of the ‘weighty and insufferable pensions that are imposed on the bishoprics’ so that ‘the most deserving ecclesiatics refuse bishoprics unwisely burdened’: memorial of Mariano Sozzini. This is quoted in Claudio Donati, ‘La Chiesa di Roma tra antico regime e riforme settecentesche (1675–1760)’, in Chittolini and Miccoli, La Chiesa e il potere politico, 721–66 at pp. 722–3. For Spain several examples of this kind are presented by Domínguez Ortiz, La sociedad española, ii. 160–4.

40 Del Pozzo, Historia della sacra religione militare di S. Giovanni, ii. 487; consulta of the Council of Italy, 13 Oct. 1683, AGS, SP, libro 784, fos 480v–482v. According to data from a report of 1681, the ten Sicilian bishoprics, including Malta, paid annual pensions for nearly 18,000 onze, distributed among seventy-eight subjects, which amounted to 28% of total revenue, about 64,000 onze: Relación de provisiones ecclesiasticas del Real Patronato en el Reyno de Sicilia, 18 Jan. 1681, prepared by Carlo Maldonado, ‘razionale del Conservatore del Real Patrimonio, AHN, Estado, libro 521–d. In the same period in the bishoprics of the Kingdom of Naples pensions accounted for 26.3% of revenues: Rosa, Mario, ‘Curia romana e pensioni ecclesiastiche: fiscalità pontificia nel mezzogiorno (secoli xvixviii)’, Quaderni storici xlii (1979), 1015–55Google Scholar at pp. 1039, 1043–5.

41 Vidal, Josep Juan, ‘La pérdida de Menorca como consecuencia de la Guerra de Sucesión a la Corona de España’, in Álvarez-Ossorio, Antonio, José, BernardoGarcía, García and Sanz, Virginia León (eds), La pérdida de Europa: la Guerra de Sucesión por la Monarquía de España, Madrid 2007, 717–56Google Scholar at p. 724.

42 Zammit Gabarretta, Presentation, 68–9.

43 Blondy, L'Ordre de Malte, 145.

44 Grand Master Pinto to ambassadors de Breteüil and Pignatelli, 5, 16 July 1768, NLM, AOM, arch. 1524, fos 104v, 135r. This is quoted in Ciappara, Frans, ‘Malta, Napoli e la Santa Sede nella seconda metà del ‘700’, MRS xii (2008), 173–88Google Scholar at p. 179.

45 Between August 1774 and May 1775 he had a major disagreement with the Aragonese Grand Master Ximenes de Texada (1773–5) again because of jurisdictional precedence: Blondy, L'Ordre de Malte, 202–4.

46 Zammit Gabarretta, Presentation, 75–9, Blondy, L'Ordre de Malte, 274.

47 Po-chia Hsia, World of Catholic renewal, 117.

48 For Spain see Domínguez Ortiz, La sociedad española, ii. 38–9, where he points out that ‘because of the care put in their choice and which was under surveillance, the Spanish bishop with the inevitable exceptions, was a faithful adherent of his pastoral duties’. Similarly Helen Rawlings underlines that ‘Trent was not ignored in Spain, as has sometimes been asserted, but came increasingly to be subordinated to the interests of the Crown, as well as to those of the ecclesiastical hierarchy’: ‘Secularisation’, 65–7. For France, where the appointment of bishops was subject to closer crown control after the Concordat of Bologna of 1516, see Bergin, Joseph, The making of the French episcopate, New Haven–London 1996, 4489Google Scholar, and Hayden, J. M. and Greenshields, M. R., 600 Years of reform: bishops and the French Church, 1190–1789, Montreal/Kingston–London–Ithaca 2005, 99100Google Scholar. The latter emphasise, for example, that a significant percentage of bishops engaged in ‘serious reform activities' between the 1480s and 1580s, ‘were members of or closely allied to the royal bureaucracy and had received their positions through royal intervention, both before and after the Concordat of Bologna’.

49 I do not account for provincial councils, which Malta did not hold because of its status as a suffragan diocese.

50 Ciappara, Frans, ‘Parish priest and community in 18th century Malta: patterns of conflict’, Journal of Early Modern History ix (2005), 329–47Google Scholar at p. 331. On the financial sources for the upkeep of the seminary, among which was a tax of 3% on some parochial prebends, see Borg, Vincent, The seminary of Malta and the ecclesiastical benefices of the Maltese islands, Malta 1965, 28–9Google Scholar, and Borg, Anthony Joseph, The reform of the Council of Trent in Malta and Gozo, Malta 1975, 21–8Google Scholar.

51 Borromeo, Agostino, ‘I vescovi italiani e l'applicazione del Concilio di Trento’, in Mozzarelli, Cesare and Zardin, Danilo (eds), I tempi del Concilio: religione, cultura e società nell'Europa tridentina, Rome 1997, 27105Google Scholar at pp. 69–71. However many seminaries were opened in the decades following the closure of the Council: thus 125 between 1563 and 1594, including Milan (1564), Rome (1565), Turin and Bologna (1567), Naples (1568) and Venice (1579). At the beginning of the seventeenth century the nine Sicilian dioceses had their seminaries. It is important to remember, however, ‘that much of the clergy continued not to be trained in these institutions’: Claudio Donati, ‘Vescovi e diocesi d'Italia dall'età post-tridentina alla caduta dell’antico regime’, in Rosa, Clero e società nell'Italia moderna, 321–89 at p. 349.

52 Between 1564 and 1610 twenty-three seminaries were opened in Spain and ‘in the following years growth was very slow; in France the situation was no better’: Maurilio Guasco, ‘La formazione del clero: i seminari’, in Chittolini and Miccoli, La Chiesa e il potere politico, 631–715 at pp. 648–9.

53 First Roman Inquisitor in Malta in 1577.

54 Bonnici, ‘I vescovi di Malta’, 117, 124; Pirri, Sicilia sacra, 919–20; Zammit Gabarretta, Presentation, 35, 40, 49, 64; Borg, The seminary of Malta, chs i–ii, and ‘Developments in education outside the Jesuit Collegium Melitense’, MH iv/3 (1974), 215–54.

55 Borromeo, ‘I vescovi italiani’, 72.

56 Poska, Allyson M., Regulating the people: the Catholic Reformation in seventeenth-century Spain, Leiden 1998Google Scholar, 3, 45. For similar cases in southern Italy see Rosa, ‘La chiesa meridionale’, 323–4.

57 Po-chia Hsia, World of Catholic renewal, 33, 121–2.

58 Borg, Reform of the Council of Trent in Malta, 17–18.

59 Hayden and Greenshields, 600 years of reform, 266, 277; Nadro, Silvino Da, Sinodi diocesani italiani: catalogo bibliografico degli atti a stampa (1534–1878), Rome 1960Google Scholar; Savagnone, Francesco Guglielmo, Concili e sinodi di Sicilia: struttura giuridica, storia, Palermo 1910Google Scholar; Vaquero, Quintín Aldea, Tomás Marin Martinez and José Vives Gatell, Diccionario de historia eclesiástica de España, Madrid 1972–5, iv. 2489–94Google Scholar.

60 Ferris, Achille, Descrizione storica delle Chiese di Malta e Gozo, Malta 1866, 42Google Scholar. Bishop Buenos's synod is published in Savagnone, Concili e sinodi, appendix, pp. vii–xxxix.

61 Borromeo, ‘I vescovi italiani’, 53.

62 Ibid. 57.

63 Borg, Reform of the Council of Trent, 16–19; Ferris, Descrizione storica, passim; Hayden and Greenshields, 600 years of reform, 117–18, 155–6, 304–5, 409, 545, 561. The average of French visitations per diocese and per bishop scales down to 28.5 and 3.16, taking into account only the visits carried out in person by the bishop and not his delegates.

64 Francesco Michele Stabile, ‘Palermo’, in Zito, Storia delle Chiese di Sicilia, 579–663 at pp. 628–9. On the archival sources for Italian pastoral visitations see Emanuele Boaga, ‘Le visite pastorali negli archivi ecclesiastici italiani’, and Zito, Gaetano, ‘La visite pastorali in Sicilia: situazione archivistica e computerizzazione dei dati’, in Nubola, Cecilia and Turchini, Angelo (eds), Visite pastorali ed elaborazione dei dati, Bologna 1993, 369–78, 389–405Google Scholar.

65 Borromeo, ‘I vescovi italiani’, 64.

66 Ciappara, Frans, ‘Trent and the clergy in late eighteenth-century Malta’, Church History lxxviii (2009), 125Google Scholar at p. 3.

67 Cf. Greco, La Chiesa in Italia, 83.

68 Borromeo, ‘I vescovi italiani’, 65; Ortiz, Antonio Domínguez, ‘Aspectos sociales de la vida eclesiastica en los siglos xvii y xviii’, in Sanchis, Antonio Mestre (ed.), Historia de la Iglesia en España, IV: La Iglesia en la España de los siglos XVII y XVIII, Madrid 1979, 572Google Scholar at p. 37; Poska, Regulating the people, 50, 159–62.

69 Ciappara, ‘Trent and the clergy’, 25.

70 Idem, Society and the Inquisition in early modern Malta, Malta 2001, 502Google Scholar. For a definition of popular religion, and selected references, see Rosa, Mario, Settecento religioso: politica della Ragione e religione del cuore, Venice 1999, 225–6Google Scholar.

71 Ciappara, ‘Parish priest and community’, 332, and also p. 347. The action of the Inquisition proved to be more effective in cleaning up the clergy and laity and ‘promised to succeed where the parish clergy failed’. At the end of the eighteenth century the Inquisition was still very active, unlike similar Italian and Spanish tribunals of the faith: Ciappara, Society and the Inquisition, 65, 504: for more details see chs i (‘In Trent's footsteps’) and ii (‘A sacramentalizing mentality’).

72 Hayden and Greenshields, 600 years of reform, 176–87, esp. p. 177. For Spain and Italy see respectively Domínguez Ortiz, ‘Aspectos sociales’, 65–72, and Rosa, Settecento religioso, 185–204.

73 Po-chia Hsia, World of Catholic renewal, 231.