In a full synergy with the other research units of the project, the research group aims to contribute from a historical perspective to the study of the circulation and reception of the ‘Veneto model’ at the European level during the Renaissance. Starting from a research group that since many years has worked together (Ambrosini, Caracausi, Gullino) and has participated in national research projects (PRIN 2007 and 2009) on these themes, the goal of the Unit is now to consolidate the previous experience, developing new synergies and networks of collaboration with scholars from other national and international universities.
These objectives will be achieved through a variety of research and seminars that will be focused on the spread of religious ideas and political models (in particular from an heterodox point of view) in the relationship between the Veneto and Europe, including also the area of the Central Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean, at the crossroad between the Christian and Muslim civilization.
The project is divided into two research lines: the first will focus on the dissemination of the “myth” of Venice in Europe, whilst the second will investigate the “export of heterodoxy.”
With regard to the first line of research (The Venetian constitution in sixteenth-century Europe) the main goal is to study how the spread of the Venetian political model in the sixteenth-century Europe, through the study of its main vectors of transmission, as ambassadors, consuls and merchants. The Venetian constitution was a synthesis of democracy, aristocracy and monarchy; it ensured the survival of Venice throughout the course of the early modern era, allowing within the state system the coexistence of ethnic groups which were different by language, religion, economy, and mentality. This coexistence was possible without trauma, excessive tearing, or riots. There were not many European Republics in the early modern period, and the group was destined to diminish further during the sixteenth century, when the restoration of the Empire by Charles V triumphed. Here the ideal monarchy was linked to the theory of tacitismo and “reason of state” (Botero). However, within the narrow confines of the Republican States, Venice was further distinguished by a characteristic that makes it somehow a political exceptional: the existence of Venice does not depend by the Empire or the Papacy. There were nor a founder or an eponymous hero: as the myth itself and a large public and private historiography stressed, the Republic derived from an anonymous and indistinct group and was born of the water like Venus, virgin like the Virgin par excellence, the Mary, the mother of Jesus. The Venetian government and its within (rectors) and outside (ambassadors) representatives popularized this vision of the State. It was source of pride and self-identification. Even after the defeat of Agnadello the faith in the validity of their institutions (the sante leze) was not minor (I. Cervelli, Machiavelli e la crisi dello stato veneziano). Hence the constitutional debate developed in terms of comparison, mainly in Florence (as in F. Gilbert, Machiavelli e Guicciardini. Pensiero politico e storiografia a Firenze nel Cinquecento; G. Silvano, La ‘Repubblica de’ Viniziani…) but also elsewhere, such as in the Netherlands in the nascent democratic groups or in the peasant struggles of the twenties and thirties of the sixteenth century (see the studies of Giorgio Politi and Aldo Stella). This republican tradition continued to spread more or less in the Europe of monarchies (W.J. Bouwsma, Venezia e la difesa della libertà repubblicana) up to the Enlightenment, which will give new strength and broader horizons from Pasquale Paoli to Rousseau and Jefferson, by the Encyclopedists to the fathers of the American Constitution.
With reference to this research the main objective is to investigate the times and ways in which the ‘Venetian model’ spread across Europe, through the study of figures such as ambassadors, but also consuls, merchants and priests, which represents vectors of cultural transmission in the European Renaissance. If the importance of the Venetian ambassadors is well known, thanks to a long tradition of studies, the innovative approach behind this line of research is to study the phenomenon in the complexity and interactions between the various social and institutional actors. The interest toward the consuls and merchants, for example, is justified by the fact that, during the Renaissance, the Republic of Venice was – as other Italian centres – one leader in terms of technological and cultural artefacts (glass, silk, printing, and paintings). The study of the institutional figures related to their diffusion (consuls, merchants, and inventors) will provide a comprehensive point of view to understand the reception of ideas and political models. Whereas consuls as mediators are more evident, it is necessary to explore the role played by nobles and merchants who went as official “ambassadors” in countries where there were not established political figures of the Venetian entourage (such Sweden, Russia and the Balkans). Moreover it will be decisive to understand the link between ambassadors, consuls and merchants in the main market places, which were also the place of residence of the major European courts.
Using this perspective, we will investigate the figures of cardinals. The Republic in fact reserved special attention in the allocation of the office of bishops, but also and perhaps more tenaciously they committed on occasions of creation of new cardinals. Those who received such benefits by the Pope needed to enjoy the trust of the State of San Marco and to promote the interest of the Republic and its citizens not only as an appreciation for their choice, but also a sense of love for the country. However, once they were drafted, they became subjects of the Pope and had to actually deal with the promotion of the interests of the Papal State. It was difficult to cope with two different patrons; someone chose to focus exclusively on behalf of the Pope, causing the distrust of citizens, indignation, and contempt. The conduct must be corrected in order to avoid inconvenient for the Venetian politics; if someone did not seem to repent, they could be judged for treason against the motherland. This danger was well known by Venetian “dissidents” prelates who were trying to defend themselves obtaining the protection of a more powerful lord among the European states. This element made them an important point of connection between the Veneto and Europe; observing their behaviour we can understand more closely the relationship between the European Renaissance and Veneto.
The second research line aims to reconstruct the process of elaboration of the ideas of the Reformation conceived beyond the Alps in the clandestine gatherings and, more generally, in the Venetian area interested in the new religion, focusing on the particular interpretation of the “myth of Venice” in heterodox circles and the spread of this version of the “myth” in Europe in the course of the sixteenth century. Attention will be focused on some groups in Venice and Padua, whose social composition was really heterogeneous, on which heterodox from other areas of the peninsula exerted their influence. Among them, the Piedmont Giacomo Broccardo, who spent a long time in Venice between the forties and the sixties of the sixteenth century, having close relations with nobles, intellectuals and religious dissidents, travelling them in many Protestant countries, publishing his works where he recognizes Venice as the only place for a religious peace in Europe.
Since the second half of the nineteenth century, the circulation in the Veneto region of religious doctrines of the Reformation beyond the Alps, in its various factions and denominations, has been the subject of attention of many Italian and foreign historiography. The reason was both on the acclaim that such doctrines met in Veneto and in Friuli as well as availability of rich archival material, first and foremost the funds Inquisition kept at the State Archives of Venice and Rovigo and the Archives of the Archbishop of Udine. Research has revealed that in the Veneto a dense network of heterodox gatherings were built in 16th century, from the point of view of theory inspired mostly the Swiss Reformation or by the Anabaptism. The contacts were not only with other similar groups throughout the Peninsula, but also with other cities and individual members of the Reformation. These links were facilitated by the fact that within the Venetian groups, many leading figures came from other Italian places behind and had an experience of traveling in foreign lands, especially in France, Switzerland and German area.
If the Venetians which were interested in new religious had a lot to get on doctrinal matters, they had to turn a significant cultural contribution to offer to the Reformation, at least to the most intellectual of this religious movement: the political and cultural “myth” of Venice. Between the fifteenth and sixteenth century this myth had found its most mature and detailed definition thanks to the work of political thinkers, persons of letters and artists. Two main aspects of the complex ideological construct that goes by the name “Venetian myth” gave great interest and supported the men of the Reformation. The first is the idea of Venice as “free” cities par excellence: Venice has never been subject to any foreign domination; he is freedom as promoter and guardian of freedom for all his subjects and for all those in her and its territories are looking for refuge. The second is that which depicts Venice as a “Christian” city par excellence, as the most faithful and integrates interpreter of the Gospel, equal and sometimes more of Rome itself. Hence the hopes, inevitably destined to be false, fed against the Venetian Republic by many supporters of the Reformation (the Italians as Bernardino Ochino and Pier Paolo Vergerio), who believed in the city-state to recognize not only the lagoon a safe place of welcome for all those religious persecutes, but also something more: the “door” through which the Reformation could have one day enter triumphantly in Italy.
The research proposed here intends to develop this theme that the investigation focused on a singular figure of sixteenth-century mystic and visionary,
Giacomo Broccardo from Piedmont (ca. 1518-after 1594). About him we have very fragmentary data that are obtained for the most part by the acts of the process he suffered by the Venetian Inquisition in 1568 and the autobiographical passages contained in the works of the same Broccardo. When he was young, he moved to Venice, he was employed here as a teacher when he knew the Florentine heterodox Pietro Carnesecchi. Between 1548 and 1549 he was in France and in 1549 he published in Paris his first known work: the Aristotelis de arte rethorica paraphrasis, which dedicated to the bishop of Treviso Giorgio Corner, at whose family he had worked as a teacher. In May 1568, the Broccardo was arrested, on behalf of the Venetian Inquisition, in the house of the nobles from Friuli Marco and Isabella della Frattina, from which he was hired in 1565 as tutor of their children. The trial was interrupted on October 30, 1568, when, with the help of Marco della Frattina, Broccardo escaped from the Venetian tribunal. Since then, the Broccardo travelled across the Protestant Europe: its presence is documented in the same 1568 in Basel, in 1573 in Heidelberg, in 1578 in England and then in the Netherlands (where in 1580, in Leiden, he began to publish his works); in 1585 in Bremen, in 1591 in Nuremberg. Because of the Orthodox Reformation, however, his religious views were covered by a vein of prophetic visionary which was not compatible with the Reformation. The most widely discussed of his works, the Mystica … interpretatio, was condemned by the French Calvinists synods. In this book we find the more complete expression of the Broccardo’s thought; the themes that recur more or less in all his other writings. Broccardo divided the history of the humanity in three ages, the last one (starting with the birth of Luther) was marked by two general councils to be held in Venice and linked to the abolition of the papacy and empire, the unification of Christianity and the conversion of the Jews and all infidels, including the indigenous peoples of the New World. As well as theology, Broccardo became interested in Greek and Hebrew philology, philosophy, natural science and alchemy. At the beginning of the seventeenth century, the Mystica … interpretatio influenced the genesis of the Rosicrucian movement. Giacomo Broccardo has attracted the attention of various scholars of the history of the Reformation, but there are few, partial studies of Delio Cantimori, Visioni e speranze di un ugonotto italiano, “Rivista storica italiana” LXII (1950), pp. 199-217 (main based on the edited book) and of Antonio Rotondò (Dizionario biografico degli italiani, 14, Roma 1972, pp. 385-389) and Lucio Biasiori (Dizionario storico dell’Inquisizione directed by Adriano Prosperi (I, Pisa, Edizioni della Normale, 2010, pp. 226-227). Several points of his life and thought needed to be explored. These studies and research will also involve researchers from other universities and will facilitate, through the activation of specific research grants, the recruitment of young researchers in order to support the creation of a stable research center of studies around the ‘History of Renaissance’.