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Paolo Sarpi

Servite and anti-papal historian and statesman, b. at Venice, August 14, 1552; d. there 14 or January 15, 1623

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Sarpi, PAOLO, a Servite and anti-papal historian and statesman, b. at Venice, August 14, 1552; d. there 14 or January 15, 1623. At the age of 13 he joined the Servite Order, exchanging his baptismal name of Pietro for that of Paolo. He was appointed professor of theology and canon law when he was only twenty. After four years he spent a short time at Milan and then taught philosophy in his monastery at Venice. Having been ordained in 1574, he was elected provincial of his order for the Venetian Republic in 1579, and held the office of procurator general, with residence in Rome, from 1585 to 1588. Returning to Venice he devoted himself chiefly to literary pursuits, and about this time his anti-ecclesiastical tendencies became manifest. His intimacy with Protestants and statesmen hostile to the Church caused on various occasions complaints to be lodged against him before the Venetian inquisitor. His hatred of Rome was further increased when on three different occasions the Roman Curia rejected his nomination for an episcopal see by the Republic of Venice. The three sees to which Venice had nominated him were Milopotamo in 1593, Caorle in 1600, and Nona in Dalmatia in 1601. The more he hated Rome, the more acceptable he was to Doge Leonardo Donato and the Venetian senate, which by a special decree guaranteed him protection against Rome and appointed him theological consultor of the state with an annual salary of two hundred ducats. In this capacity he effected the enactment of various anti-ecclesiastical laws, and it was chiefly due to the influence of “the terrible friar” that the interdict which Paul V placed upon Venice (1606) remained without effect and was revoked (April 21, 1607). A murderous assault made upon him on October 5, 1607, is often ascribed to his ecclesiastical enemies, but there is not sufficient testimony for their complicity (see the authentic testimony of the witnesses, edited by Bazzoni in “Archivio Storico Italiano”, third series, XII, I, Florence, 1870, 8 sq.). When peace had been restored between Venice and the pope, Sarpi’s political influence grew less, and during the remainder of his life he gave vent to his hatred of Rome by publishing bitter invectives against the pope and the Catholic Church. Despite his desire to subvert the Catholic religion and make Venice a Protestant republic, he hypocritically performed the ordinary offices of a Catholic priest until his death. His best known work is a history of the Council of Trent, “Istoria del Concilio Tridentino” (London, 1619) published under the pseudonym of Pietro Soave Polano by the apostate Marcantonio de Dominis, with additions by the latter. Without these additions it was published at Geneva, 1629, and was translated into Latin and some modern languages. It is a bitter invective against the popes, and even Protestants, like Ranke, consider it devoid of all authority. For the refutation of this work by Pallavicino see Pallavicino, Pietro Sforza. His works were published in six volumes (Helmstadt, 1761-5) and two supplementary volumes (Verona, 1768). His letters are: “Lettere Italiane di Fra Sarpi” (Geneva, 1673); “Scelte lettere inedite de P. Sarpi”, edited by Bianchi-Giovini (Capolago, 1833); “Lettere raccolte di Sarpi”, edited by Polidori (Florence, 1863); “Lettere inedite di Sarpi a S. Contarini”, edited by Castellani (Venice, 1892); important new letters (1608-16) edited by Benrath (Leipzig, 1909).


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