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Luigi Tosti

Benedictine historian, b. at Naples, Feb. 13, 1811; d. at Monte Cassino, Sept. 24, 1897

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Tosti, LUIGI, Benedictine historian, b. at Naples, February 13, 1811; d. at Monte Cassino, September 24, 1897. His father, Count Giovanni Tosti, descended from an ancient Calabrian family, having died young, his mother, Vittoria Corigliano, entrusted the child to its uncle, a monk at Monte Cassino. In 1819 Tosti became a pupil at the celebrated abbey, and was drawn early towards the monastic life. He was sent to Rome to complete his studies, was ordained priest in 1833, and soon returned to Monte Cassino, where for twenty years he taught the doctrines of St. Thomas. About 1829 he had begun a deep study of history, and in 1842 he published his “Storia della badia di Monte Cassino”, soon followed by the “Storia di Bonifazio VIII”. His “Storia della Legs. Lombarda”, dedicated to Pius IX, appeared in 1848 and was a trumpet-call to the Neo-Guelph party. He labored so assiduously that in 1851 he published the “Storia di Abelardo e dei suoi tempi”, the “Storia del Concilio di Costanza” in 1853, the “Storia dell’ origine dello scisma greco” in 1856, “La Contessa Matilde e i Romani pontefici” in 1859, and in 1861 the “Prolegomeni alla storia universale della Chilsa”.

Tosti took an energetic and enthusiastic part in the national movement blessed by Pius IX. In 1844 he had planned a review, “L’Ateneo italiano”, for the purpose of putting the papacy at the head of the Risorgimento. The Neapolitan police authorities opposed it, and forbade Tosti to take part in the projected mediation (between the pope and the triumvirs of the ephemeral Roman Republic), which was advocated by the French envoy, Comte d’Harcourt. Pius IX had to intervene personally to secure the liberation of the learned monk, who had been accused, as Cardinal Capecelatro relates, of belonging to a band of murderous conspirators, and put in prison. Temple, the English ambassador at Naples, also courageously opposed this defenseless persecution. Tosti sought consolation in the study of the Holy Scriptures and his beautiful book, “Ricordi biblici”, was the fruit of this mishap. He had the sorrow of seeing his beloved convents threatened by a law of spoliation passed by the Parliament of the new Italian Kingdom, and appealed to distinguished friends, such as W. E. Gladstone, to obtain some exemption for Monte Cassino, which he likewise procured later for the Abbey of Grottaferrata, the Sacro Speco of Subiaco, etc. Pained by these persecutions Tosti refused a chair in the University of Pisa, but became later assistant archivist of the Vatican, under Leo XIII. This great pope’s allocution in May, 1887, inviting the Italian Government to make peace, presided over by the former revolutionary, Crispi, rekindled Tosti’s patriotism. Deputed by the pope to negotiate the restoration of St. Paul’s to the Benedictines, Tosti hoped to effect an official reconciliation of the Vatican and the Quirinal. Crispi’s impatience, mutual opposition, the distrusts of French diplomatists, thwarted his noble efforts, and the too hopeful religious had to retract publicly his brochure, “La conciliazione”. He withdrew to Monte Cassino and undertook his “Della vita di S. Benedetto”. Moved by the pope’s generous appeal to the English in 1896, he renewed his efforts with Gladstone, in favor of a reunion of the Churches.


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