Skip to main contentAccessibility feedback

Roman Academies

Major learning centers beginning with the Italian Renaissance

Click to enlarge

Academies, ROMAN.—The Italian Renaissance at its apogee [from the close of the Western Schism (1418) to the middle of the sixteenth century] found two intellectual centers, Florence and Rome. Scientific, literary, and artistic culture attained in them a development as intense as it was multiform, and the earlier Roman and Florentine academies were typical examples of this variety. We shall restrict our attention to the Roman academies, beginning with a general survey of them, and adding historical and bibliographical notes concerning the more important of these associations of learned men, for the Italian “Academies” were that and not institutes for instruction. The Middle Ages did not bequeath to Rome any institutions that could be called scientific or literary academies. As a rule, there was slight inclination for such institutions. The Academy of Charlemagne and the Floral Academy at Toulouse were princely courts at which literary meetings were held. A special reason why literature did not get a stronger footing at Rome is to be found in the constant politico-religious disturbances of the Middle Ages. Owing to the oppression of the papacy under the Hohenstaufen emperors, to the struggles for ecclesiastical liberty begun by Gregory VII, to the epic conflict between Guelph and Ghibelline, to the intrusion of a French domination which gave birth to papal Avignon and the Western Schism, medieval Rome was certainly no place for learned academies. But when papal unity was restored, and the popes returned to Rome, the Renaissance was at its height, and the city welcomed and encouraged every kind of intellectual culture. At this favorable moment begins the history of the Roman academies. At Rome, as at Florence, the academies reproduced to a considerable extent the traditions of the Academy of Plato; i.e. they were centers for the cultivation of philosophy in that larger sense dear to Greek and Roman antiquity, according to which it meant the broadest kind of culture. From the earliest days of the Renaissance the Church was the highest type of such an academy and the most prolific source of culture. The neo-Platonic movement was an extremely powerful factor in the Renaissance, implying as it did, a return to classical thought and a reaction against the decadent (Aristotelean) Scholasticism of that age. At the head of this movement in the above named “capitals of thought” were two Greeks, Gemistus Plethon at Florence, and Cardinal Bessarion (d. 1472) at Rome. About 1450 the house of the latter was the center of a flourishing Academy of Platonic philosophy and of a varied intellectual culture. His valuable library (which he bequeathed to the city of Venice) was at the disposal of the academicians, among whom were the most intellectual Italians and foreigners resident in Rome. This Platonic propaganda (directed vigorously against the “peripatetic” restoration and the anti-Platonic attacks of the neo-Aristotelean school) had an echo in a small Latin folio of Bessarion, “Against the Calumniators of Plato” (Rome, 1469). Bessarion, in the latter years of his life, retired from Rome to Ravenna, but he left behind him ardent adherents of the classic philosophy. Unfortunately, in Rome the Renaissance took on more and more of a pagan character, and fell into the hands of humanists without faith and without morals. This imparted to the academic movement a tendency to pagan humanism, one evidence of which is found in the celebrated Roman Academy of Pomponio Leto.

Giulio, the natural son of a nobleman of the Sanseverino family, born in Calabria in 1425, and known by his academic name of “Pomponius Laetus“, came to Rome, where he devoted his energies to the enthusiastic study of classical antiquity, and attracted a great number of disciples and admirers. He was a worshipper not merely of the literary and artistic form, but also of the ideas and spirit of classic paganism, and therefore a contemner of Christianity and an enemy of the Church. The initial step of his program was the foundation of the Roman Academy in which every member assumed a classical name. Its principal members were humanists, and nearly all of them were known for their irreligious and epicurean lives, e.g. Bartolomeo Platina and Filippo Buonaccorsi. Moreover, in their audacity, these neo-Pagans compromised themselves politically, at a time when Rome was full of conspiracies fomented by the Roman barons and the neighboring princes. Paul II (1464-71) caused Pomponio and the leaders of the Academy to be arrested on charges of irreligion, immorality, and conspiracy against the Pope. The prisoners begged so earnestly for mercy, and with such protestations of repentance, that they were pardoned. The Academy, however, collapsed (Pastor, History of the Popes, II, ii, 2). The sixteenth century saw at Rome a great increase of literary and aesthetic academies, more or less inspired by the Renaissance, all of which assumed, as was the fashion, odd and fantastic names. We learn from various sources the names of many such institutes; as a rule, they soon perished and left no trace. At the beginning of the sixteenth century came the “Accademia degl’ Intronati”, for the encouragement of theatrical representations. There were also the Academy of the “Vignaiuoli”, or “Vinegrowers” (1530), and the Academy “della Virtu” (1538), founded by Claudio Tolomei under the patronage of Cardinal Ippolito de’ Medici. These were followed by a new Academy in the “Orti” or Farnese gardens. There were also the Academies of the “Intrepidi” (1560), the “Animosi” (1576), and the “Illuminati” (1598); this last, founded by the Marchesa Isabella Aldobrandini Pallavicino. Towards the middle of the sixteenth century there were also the Academy of the “Notti Vaticane”, or “Vatican Nights”, founded by St. Charles Borromeo; an “Accademia di Diritto civile e canonico”, and another of the university scholars and students of philosophy (Accademia Eustachiana). In the seventeenth century we meet with similar academies; the “Umoristi” (1611), the “Fantastici” (1625), and the “Ordinati”, founded by Cardinal Dati and Giulio Strozzi. About 1700 were founded the academies of the “Infecondi”, the “Occulti”, the “Deboli”, the “Aborigini”, the “Immobili”, the “Accademia Esquilina”, and others. As a rule these academies, all very much alike, were merely circles of friends or clients gathered around a learned man or wealthy patron, and were dedicated to literary pastimes rather than methodical study. They fitted in, nevertheless, with the general situation and were in their own way one element of the historical development. Despite their empirical and fugitive character, they helped to keep up the general esteem for literary and other studies. Cardinals, prelates, and the clergy in general were most favorable to this movement, and assisted it by patronage and collaboration.

With the seventeenth century, and while the Roman Academy, in its older form, still survived, there began a new epoch. The Academy was constituted as a public body, i.e. it was no longer confined to a small circle of friends. It set itself a fixed and permanent scope in the field of science, letters, and arts, often of a polemic or apologetic character. Naturally this higher definitive form of the new or remodeled Roman academies was closely allied with the general academic movement of Italy and of foreign countries, whose typical instance was the French Academy founded by Richelieu. It was then that academies became practical and efficacious instruments of culture, with a direct influence on public opinion; in this way, too, they claimed the special attention of the heads of the State. This was especially the case at Rome, where the papacy kept up its traditional patronage of the most varied ecclesiastical and general scholarship. In this period the first Roman academies that call for mention are the “Accademia dei Lincei” (Lynxes), founded in 1603, and the “Arcadia”, founded in 1656. Ecclesiastical academies, whose scope was fixed by the counter-Reformation, were the “Accademia Liturgica”, founded by Benedict XIV, and the “Accademia Theologica”, founded in 1695. All of these are still extant; we shall treat of them in detail farther on. After the French Revolution and the restoration to Rome of the papal government, the new conditions suggested the adoption of the “Academy” as a link between the old and the new, and as a means of invigorating ecclesiastical culture and of promoting the defense of the Church. In this way there sprang up new academies, while old ones were revived. Under Pius VII (1800-23) were founded the “Accademia di Religione Cattolica”, and the “Accademia Tiberina”; in 1835 that of the “Immacolata Concezione”. The “Accademia Liturgica” was reestablished in 1840, and in 1847 the “Accademia dei (Nuovi) Lincei”. Apart from this group we have to chronicle the appearance in 1821 of the “Accademia Filarmonica”. After the Italian occupation of Rome (1870), new Catholic academies were founded to encourage learning and apologetics; such were the “Accademia di Conferenze Storico-Giuridiche” and the “Accademia di San Tommaso”, founded by Leo XIII, to which might be added, though not called an Academy, the “Societi di Conferenze di Archeologia Sacra”, founded in 1875. In 1870 the Italian government resuscitated, or better, founded anew, the “Accademia dei Lincei”, and in 1875 the “Accademia Medica”. We shall now deal in closer detail with these various academies.

ACCADEMIA DEI LINCEI AND DEI NUOVI LINCEI (1603).—The Roman prince, Federigo Cesi (15851630), a distinguished scholar and patron of letters, assembled in his palace (in which he had a magnificent library, a botanical garden, and a museum of antiquities) a number of scholarly persons, and with them founded (August 17, 1603) the “Accademia dei Lincei”, so called because they took for their emblem the lynx, as denoting the keenness of their study of nature. According to the usage of the time, the Academy, though dedicated to physical, mathematical, and philosophical studies, made way also for literary pursuits. This intellectual circle was worthy of high praise, for it promoted the physico-mathematical studies, then little cultivated, and offset the prevalent tendency to purely literary studies. In the end it devoted itself particularly to the study of the exact sciences, of which it became the chief academic center in Italy. It was not until 1657 that its Tuscan rival arose in the ducal “Accademia del Cimento”. The Cesi library, to which was added that of Virginio Cesarini, became a powerful aid to scientific labors. Several of the academicians, during the lifetime and under the patronage of Cesi, prepared for publication the great unedited work of Francesco Hernandez on the natural history of Mexico (Rome, 1651). An abridgment of it in ten books by Nardo Antonio Recchi was never published. They contributed also to the issue of the posthumous botanical work of the prince “Tavole Filosofiche”. Other colleagues of Cesi, in the foundation of the Academy, were Fabio Colonna, the author of “Fitobasano” (a history of rare plants), and of other scientific works, and Francesco Stelluti, procurator-general of the Academy in 1612, author of the treatise on “Legno Fossile Minerale” (Rome, 1635) and also of some literary works. The Academy gained great renown through its famous Italian members, such as Galileo Galilei, and through such foreign members as Johann Faber of Bamberg, Marcus Velser of Augsburg, and many others. After the death of Prince Cesi, the Academy met in the house of its new and distinguished president, Cassiano dal Pozzo. But notwithstanding all his efforts the association began to decline, insomuch that after the abovementioned publication of the works of Hernandez in 1651, the “Accademia dei Lincei” fell into oblivion. Its fame, however, had not perished, and when at the beginning of his pontificate Pius IX sought to provide an academic center for physico-mathematical studies, he resuscitated Cesi’s society, and on July 3, 1847, founded the “Pontificia Accademia dei Nuovi Lincei”, inaugurating it personally in the following November, and endowing it with an annual income from the pontifical treasury. Its members were divided into four classes honorary, ordinary, corresponding, and associate; ‘the last were young men who, on the completion of their studies, showed special aptitude for physico-mathematical sciences. The Academy was directed by a president, a secretary, an assistant secretary, a librarian-archivist, and an astronomer. Its headquarters were in the Campidoglio. Its “Proceedings” from 1847 to 1870 fill twenty-three volumes. In 1870 some of the members withdrew from the Academy, which insisted on retaining its papal character. Desirous at the same time of a traditional connection with the past, they reassumed the original name, and thus arose the “Regia Accademia dei Lincei”. It was approved and subsidized by the Italian government in 1875, and began its career with an enlarged program of studies, divided into two classes, the first of which includes physical, mathematical, and natural sciences, and the second, those of a moral, historical, and philological character. It publishes annually its “Proceedings”, and is located in the Corsini Palace, whose library, at the disposal of the Academy, is very rich in manuscripts, printed works, and periodicals. It numbers today about one hundred members, besides correspondents and many foreigners. Its members have published, important works on the exact sciences, also in the province of philology. Among the latter are the Oriental texts and dissertations of Professor Ignazio Guidi, many of which are of great value for the ecclesiastical sciences. Since 1870 the “Pontificia Accademia dei Nuovi Lincei” has continued its labors and the publication of its annual “Proceedings” bearing upon the physico-mathematical sciences. It has quarters in the palace of the Cancelleria Apostolica, and has a cardinal-patron. On the original “Accademia dei Lincei” see the work of its historian, Giano Planco (Giovanni Bianchi di Rimini), published in the second edition of the above-described work of Fabio Colonna (11 Fitobasano, Florence, 1744). The “Statuto” or constitution of the “Lincei” was published in Latin at Rome in 1624. For other information on the two academies, pontifical and royal, see their “Proceedings”.

PONTIFICIA ACCADEMIA DEGLI ARCADI (1690).The origins of this famous literary academy were not different from those of similar societies of the same period. A number of literary dilettanti, accustomed to those occasional meetings in villas and gardens that were so pronounced a feature of social life during the eighteenth century, conceived the idea of a better organization of their literary entertainments. In this manner arose the academy to which, in accordance with contemporary taste, they gave the poetical name of “Arcadia”. The members called themselves “shepherds”, and assumed classical names. All this has been narrated more or less sarcastically by various critics and encyclopaedias, with undisguised contempt for such “pastoral follies”. In their easy contempt, however, they fail to explain how such trivial beginnings and puerile aims succeeded in giving to the “Arcadia” its great vigour and repute, even though merely relative. The true reason of its fame lies in the fact that in addition to the usual “pastoral” literature, then and thereafter the peculiar occupation of so many academies, the “Arcadia” carried out an artistic and literary program of its own, that was then, speaking generally, both opportune and important. It was the era of triumph of that bombastic, meaningless, and paradoxical style known as the “seicentismo” from the century (1600-1700) in which it flourished, and that bore in England the name of “euphuism”. In Italy, this “seicentesco” style had ruined literature and art. It was the time when Achillini wrote a sonnet to say that the cannon of Charles V used the world for a ball, and begged fire to sweat in order properly to fuse the various metals needed for the artillery of Caesar. This detestable taste, which tended to lower not only letters and arts, but also the dignity and gravity of society, found in the “Arcadia” an organized opposition. There is no doubt that in general the “Arcadia” and “Arcadianism” often fell into the contrary extreme and, in opposition to an artificial literature, conceited and bombastic, produced another literature whose simplicity was equally artificial, and for the labored conceits of sonnets a bomba, such as the aforementioned one of Achillini, substituted only too many in which swains and sheep bleated in unison their farfetched idylls. In spite of these extremes the attitude of the “Arcadia” was beneficial. It called for a return to the simplicity of nature. So imperative was this recall to nature that in various ways it made itself heard elsewhere in Europe. It is well known that precisely at this time in France, the art of Greuze and of Watteau, and the “pastoral” literature, heralded at once and stimulated that cult of simplicity and nature (in itself an art product) which sprang up in letters and art, and even in the court, at the time of Rousseau and Marie Antoinette. This is why the “Arcadia” endured and acquired such high repute that it counted among its members the principal literary men of the time, e.g. Menzini, Sergardi, Redi, Metastasio, Rolli, Filicaia, Guidi, Maggi, and others, some of whose names are still honored in the history of Italian literature.

The beginnings of the “Arcadia” date back to February, 1656, when it arose under the auspices of the celebrated Queen Christina of Sweden, but it did not take on its definite form and official name until after the death of its patroness (1689). The “Arcadia” chose as its emblem the pipe of Pan with its seven unequal reeds. The fourteen founders selected as first “Custode di Arcadia”, or president of the Academy, the somewhat mediocre writer, but enthusiastic votary of letters, Giovanni Mario Crescimbeni (Alfesibeo Cario), b. in Macerata, 1663, d. at Rome, 1728, author of a history of Italian poetry and of various literary works. The first solemn gathering of the “Arcadi” was held on the Gianicolo, in a wood belonging to the Reformed Minorites (Franciscans), October 5, 1690. In 1692, the meetings were transferred to the Esquiline in the gardens of Duke Orsini; in 1696, to the Farnese gardens on the Palatine. Finally, the generosity of John V, King of Portugal, one of its members, under the name of Arete Melleo, enabled the society to secure (1773) on the Gianicolo a site known as the “Bosco Parrasio”. Here they held their meetings on fine summer days, meeting for their winter seances at the “Teatro degli Arcadi”, in the Salviati Palace. While the “Arcadia” was yet on the Palatine, its “Statuto” (constitution) was drawn up. Owing to an exaggerated admiration of antiquity, ever the organic defect of this academy, this constitution (the work of Gravina) was modeled on the ancient Roman laws of the “Twelve Tables”, and was engraved on marble. Unfortunately, differences soon arose between Gravina and the president, Crescimbeni, one of those petty enmities injurious to the society. Nevertheless, “Arcadia” retained its vigour. Soon all the principal cities of Italy had imitated it, and this confirms our previous statement that, apart from its” pastorellerie”, or affected sylvan note, the Arcadian movement marked a positive advance in the reformation of literature. Noblemen, ecclesiastics, and laymen, men famous in every walk of life, held membership in it as an honor; very soon it numbered 1,300. But its very numbers were its undoing. Not a few of them were henceforth mediocre or even dull, and in this way an institution called into being for the improvement of letters became itself a menace thereto. The arrogant rococo style in art and letters had, indeed, merited the attacks made upon it by the “Arcadia”, and for this reason the latter received, directly and indirectly, a large measure of endorsement. But “Arcadianism”, with its own exaggerations and onesidedness, soon developed into a genuine peril for literature and art. It even reflected on the public intelligence, since the mob of “Arcadia”, while pretending to simplicity and naturalness, frequently hid a great poverty of thought beneath a superficial literary air. Its principal members, moreover, often sounded the depths of bad taste. Among these may be specified one Bettinelli, notorious for his disparagement of Dante. The violence of the anti-Arcadian reaction was owing to its chief leaders, Baretti and Parini, and to the fact that, consciously or not, this reaction gave vent to the new spirit now dominant on the eve of the French Revolution. Arcadianism fell, the last and unsuccessful tentative, literary and artistic, of the ancient regime. This explains why, in certain quarters, since the Revolution, the Arcadia, both as an academy and as a symbol, has been the object of much contempt, exaggerated at the best when it is not absolutely unjust. Nevertheless, when the first onslaught of the Revolution had lapsed, “Arcadia” strove to renew itself in accord with the spirit of the times, without sacrificing its traditional system of sylvan associations and pastoral names. The academy no longer represented a literary school, but merely a general tendency towards the classic style. Dante came to be greatly honored by its members, and even to this day its conferences on the great poet are extremely interesting. Furthermore, the academic field was enlarged so as to include all branches of study, in consequence of which history, archaeology, etc. attracted, and continue to attract, assiduous students. The new Arcadian revival was marked by the foundation (1819) of the Giornale Arcadico, through the efforts of the distinguished scholars, Perticari, Biondi, Odescalchi, and Borghesi. Its fifth series closed in 1904. The current (sixth) series began in 1906 as a monthly magazine of science, letters, and arts. On account of its frankly Catholic character the Arcadia has provoked opposition on the part of anti-Catholic critics, who affect to belittle it in the eyes of a thoughtless public, as if even today its “shepherds” did nothing but indite madrigals to Phyllis and Chloe. Nevertheless, its scientific, literary, and artistic conferences, always given by scholars of note, are largely attended. Since 1870 there have been established four sections of philology (Oriental, Greek, Latin, and Italian), one of philosophy, and one of history. The Pope foremost of the members, promotes its scientific and literary development. Its present location is near San Carlo al Corso, 437 Corso Umberto I. Cf. Crescimbeni, “Storia della volgar Poesia” (Rome 1698) Bk. VI, and “La Storia d’Arcadia” (Rome, 1709). For its history in recent times see the files of the Giornale Arcadico.

PONTIFICIA ACCADEMIA THEOLOGICA:—Like its sister societies at Rome, this academy was of private origin. In 1695, a number of friends gathered in the house of the priest, Raffaele Cosma Girolami, for lectures and discussions on theological matters. These meetings soon took on the character of an academy. In 1707 it was united to the Accademia Ecclesiastica. Clement XII gave it formal recognition in 1718 and assigned it a hall in the Sapienza (University of Rome), thereby making it a source of encouragement for young students of theology. The academy disposed of a fund ‘If eighteen thousand scudi ($18,000), the income of which was devoted to prizes for the most proficient students of theology.

Among the patrons were several cardinals, and the professors in the theological faculty in the University acted as censors. The successors of Clement XII continued to encourage the academy. In 1720 Clement XIII ordered that among its members twenty indigent secular priests should receive for six years from the papal treasury an annual allowance of fifty scudi and, other things being equal, should have the preference in competitive examinations. It is on these lines, substantially, that its work is carried on at present. The Academy is located in the Roman Seminary.

PONTIFICIA ACCADEMIA LITURGICA.—This academy was the one result of the notable movement in liturgical studies which owed so much to the great theologian and liturgist, Benedict XIV (1740-58). Disbanded in the time of the Revolution, the Academy was reorganized by the Lazarists, under Gregory XV (1840), and received a cardinal-protector, It continues its work under the direction of the Lazarists, and holds frequent conferences in which liturgical and cognate subjects are treated from the historical and the practical point of view. It is located in the Lazarist house, and its proceedings are, since 1886, published in the Lazarist monthly known as “Ephemerides Liturgicae” (Liturgical Diary).

PONTIFICIA ACCADEMIA III RELIGIONE CATTOLICA.—The urgent need of organizing Catholic apologetics with a view to the anti-Christian polemics of the “Encyclopedie” and the Revolution gave rise to this academy. The Roman priest Giovanni Fortunato Zamboni founded it in 1801, with the avowed aim of defending the dogmatic and moral teaching of the Church. It was formally recognized by Pius VII, and succeeding popes have continued to give it their support. It holds monthly meetings for the discussion of various points in dogmatic and moral theology, in philosophy, history, etc. Its conferences are generally published in some periodical, and a special edition is printed for the Academy. A number of these dissertations have been printed, and form a collection of several volumes entitled “Dissertazioni lette nella Pontificia Accademia Romana di Religione Cattolica”. The Academy has for honorary censors a number of cardinals. The president of the Academy is also a cardinal. It includes promoters, censors, resident members, and corresponding members. It awards an annual prize for the members most assiduous at the meetings, and is located in the palace of the Cancelleria Apostolica.

PONTIFICIA ACCADEMIA TIBERINA.—In 1809 the well-known archaeologist, A. Nibby, founded the short-lived “Accademia Ellenica”. In 1813 many of its members withdrew to found the “Accademia Tiberina”. One of the members, A. Coppi, drew up its first rules, according to which the Academy was to devote itself to the study of Latin and Italian literature, hold a weekly meeting, and a public session monthly. Great scientific or literary events were to be signalized by extraordinary meetings. It was also agreed that the Academy should undertake the history of Rome from Odoacer to Clement XIV, as well as the literary history from the time of that pontiff. The historiographer of the Academy was to edit its history and to collect the biographies of famous men, Romans or residents in Rome, who had died since the foundation of the “Tiberina”. For this latter purpose there was established a special “Necrologio Tiberiano”. The Academy began in 1816 the annual coinage of commemorative medals. When Leo XII ordered (1825) that all the scientific associations in Rome should be approved by the Sacred Congregation of Studies, the “Tiberina” received official recognition; its field was enlarged, so as to include research in art, commerce, and especially in agriculture. Pius VII had done much for the promotion of agriculture in the States of the Church, and Leo XII was desirous of continuing the good work of his predecessor. Under Gregory XVI, in 1831, a year of grave disorders and political plottings, the Academy was closed, but it was soon reopened by the same pontiff, who desired the “Tiberina” to devote itself to general culture, science, and letters, Roman history and archaeology, and to agriculture. The meetings were to be monthly, and it was to print annual reports, or Rendiconti. The Academy was thus enabled to establish important relations with foreign scientists. Its members, resident, corresponding, and honorary, were 2,000. The “Tiberina” is at present somewhat decadent; its proceedings are no longer printed. Its last protector was Cardinal Parocchi. Like several other Roman Academies, it is located in the Palace of the Cancelleria Apostolica.

PONTIFICIA ACCADEMIA ROMANA DI ARCHEOLOGIA.—A revival of archaeological study, due as much to love of art as to documentary researches in the interest of history, occurred in Rome towards the end of the seventeenth century, especially after the famous work of Antonio Bosio on the Catacombs had drawn the attention of archaeologists to a world forgotten until then. This revival culminated in an academical organization, in the time of Benedict XIV, under whose learned patronage was formed an association of students of Roman archaeology. In a quiet way this association kept up its activity until the beginning of the nineteenth century, when the renaissance of classical art due, in Italy, to Canova gave a flesh impulse to the study of antiquity. In 1816 Pius VII, on the recommendation of Cardinal Consalvi, and of Canova himself, gave official recognition to the “Accademia Romana di Archeologia” already established under the Napoleonic regime. The Academy became a most important international center of archaeological study, the more so as there had not yet been established at Rome the various national institutes of history and archaeology. Among the illustrious foreign members and lecturers of whom the Academy could then boast may be named Niebuhr, Akerblad, Thorwaldsen, and Nibby. Popes and sovereigns wished to be inscribed among its members, or to testify in other ways to the esteem in which they held it. Among these were Frederick William IV of Prussia, Charles Albert of Sardinia, and others. Among its distinguished Italian members were Canova, Fea, Piali, and Canina. Prizes were established for the best essays on Roman antiquity, many of which were awarded to learned foreigners (Ruperti, Herzen, etc). Among the merits of the Academy we must reckon its defense of the rights of art and history in the city of Rome, where, side by side with princely patronage, survived from the old Roman law a certain absolutism of private-property rights which often caused or perpetuated serious damages to the monuments, or inconvenience in their study. Thus, after a long conflict with the owners of hovels that backed upon the Pantheon, the Academy succeeded in obtaining from Pius IX a decree for the demolition of the houses on the left side of the Rotonda (Pantheon), and also protested efficaciously against the digging of new holes in the walls of this famous document in stone. Similarly, the Academy prevented certain profanations projected by bureaucrats or by unscrupulous engineers. When, in 1833, an attempt was made to remove the tomb of Raphael, the earnest protest of the Academy was heeded by Gregory XVI as the expression of a competent judgment. Through one of its members, Giovanni Azzurri, it advocated the restoration of the Tabularium on the Capitoline Hill. Through another member, Pietro Visconti, it succeeded in abolishing the purely commercial administration of the excavations at Ostia, and placed them on a scientific basis. For this purpose it obtained from Pius IX a decree ordaining that all excavations should be kept open, be carefully guarded, and be made accessible to students. In 1824, Campanari, a member of the Academy, proposed the establishment of an Etruscan Museum. The Academy furthered this excellent idea until it was finally realized in the Vatican by Gregory XVI. In 1858, Alibrandi advocated the use of epigraphical monuments in the study of law, and so anticipated the establishment of chairs for this special purpose in many European universities. By these and many other useful services the Academy won in a special degree the good will of the popes. Pius VIII gave it the title of “Pontifical Academy”. On the revival of archaeological studies at Rome, Gregory XVI and Pius IX took the Academy under their special protection, particularly when its guiding spirit was the immortal Giambattista De Rossi. Leo XIII awarded a gold medal for the best dissertation presented at the annual competition of the Academy, on which occasion there are always offered two subjects, one in classical and the other in Christian archaeology, either of which the competitors are free to choose. The seal of the Academy represents the ruins of a classical temple, with the motto: In apricum proferet (It will bring to light). The last revision of its constitution and bylaws was published December 28, 1894. In 1821 was begun the publication of the “Dissertazioni della Pontificia Accademia Romana di Archeologia” which reached in 1864 its sixteenth volume. The Cardinal Camerlengo is its protector. It has a steady membership of one hundred, thirty of whom are ordinary members; the others are honorary corresponding, and associate, members. ‘The Academy met at first in Campidoglio; under Gregory XVI, at tile University. At present its meetings are held in the palace of the Cancelleria Apostolica. See “Leggi della Pontificia Accademia Romana di Archeologia” (Rome, 1894); “Omaggio al II Congresso Internazionale di Archeologia Cristiana in Roma” (Rome, 1900); “Bullettino di Archeologia Cristiana” of Giovanni Battista De Rossi (to the end of 1894) passim; “Il Nuovo Bullettino di Archeologia Cristiana” (Rome, 1894-1906).

ACCADEMIA FILARMONICA.—It was founded in 1821 for the study and practice of music. It has 200 members, and is located at 225, Piazza San Marcello.

PONTIFICIA ACCADEMIA DELLA IMMACOLATA CONCEZIONE.—This academy was founded in 1835 by young students of Sant’ Apollinare (Roman Seminary) and of the Gregorian University. Among its founders Monsignor Vincenzo Anivitti deserves special mention. Its purpose was the encouragement of serious study among the youth of Rome. Hence, two-thirds of the members must be young students. Its title was assumed at a later date. It was approved in 1847 by the Sacred Congregation of Studies. The work is divided into five sections: theology; philology and history; philosophy; physics, ethics and economics. Its meetings are held weekly, and in 1873 it began to publish bimonthly reports of its proceedings under the title “Memorie per gli Atti della Pont. Accademia della Immacolata Concezione”. Twenty-one numbers were issued. Since 1875 the Academy has published many of the lectures read before its members. The most flourishing period of this academy was from 1873 to 1882. Among its most illustrious deceased members may be mentioned Father Secchi, S.J., Monsignor Balan, and Michele Stefano De Rossi. The Academy, now in its decline, is attached to the Church of the Santi Apostoli.

REGIA ACCADEMIA MEDICA.—It was founded in 1875 for the study of medical and cognate sciences, has fifty ordinary members, and is located in the University.

PONTIFICIA ACCADEMIA DI CONFERENZE STORICO-GIURIDICHE.—This academy was founded in 1878 to encourage among Catholics the study of history, archaeology, and jurisprudence. In 1880 it began to publish a quarterly entitled “Studie Documenti di Storia e di Diritto”, highly esteemed for its learned articles and for its publication of important documents with apposite commentaries. After an existence of twenty-five years this review ceased to appear at the end of 1905. The president of the Academy is a cardinal, and it holds its meetings in the Roman Seminary.

PONTIFICIA ACCADEMIA ROMANA DI SAN TOMMASO DI AQUINO.—When Leo XIII at the beginning of his pontificate undertook the restoration of scholastic philosophy and theology, this academy was founded (1880) for the diffusion of Thomistic doctrine. Its president is a cardinal, and its meetings are held in the Roman Seminary.

ACADEMIC SCHOOLS OF ROME.—The following is a brief account of the several academic schools mentioned above. One is ecclesiastical, the others are devoted to the fine arts. Some are Roman, and others are foreign:—

PONTIFICIA ACCADEMIA DEI NOBILI ECCLESIASTICI—It was founded in 1701 by Clement XI, to prepare for the diplomatic service of the Holy See a body of men trained in the juridical sciences and in other requisite branches of learning. At the time, European diplomacy was usually confided to the nobility; hence the Academy was instituted and maintained for noble ecclesiastics. However, later, it opened its doors more freely to the sons of families in some way distinguished and in comfortable circumstances. Occasionally this academy languished, especially in the first half of the nineteenth century, but since then it has recovered and has steadily improved. Of late it has become a school of higher ecclesiastical education, with an eye to a diplomatic career for its students. This, however, does not imply that all its students, or even a majority of them, are destined for that career; indeed, the school tends constantly to set aside its earlier limitation. The academic course includes ecclesiastical diplomacy, political economy, diplomatic forms (stile diplomatico), the principal foreign languages, and, in addition, a practical course (after the manner of apprenticeship) at the bureaux of various congregations for such students as wish to prepare themselves for an office in any of these bodies. As a rule, Romans are not admitted to this academy, it having been expressly designed for those who, not being Romans, would have no other opportunity to acquire such a peculiar education and training. Its students pay a monthly fee. It has a cardinal-protector and a Roman prelate for president (rector). It owns and occupies its own palace (70, Piazza dell a Minerva).

The Roman Academies in the service of the fine arts are the following: REGIA ACCADEMIA ROMANA DI SAN LUCA (Accademia delle Belle Arti). This academy exhibits the evolution of the Roman corporation of artist-painters, reformed under Sixtus V (1577) by Federigo Zuccari and Girolamo Muziano. It took then the title of academy, and had for its purpose the teaching of the fine arts, the reward of artistic merit, and the preservation and illustration of the historic and artistic monuments of Rome. In respect of all these it enjoyed papal approval and encouragement. It rendered great services and counted among its members illustrious masters and pupils. In 1870 it passed under the control of the new government, and is now under the patronage of the King. It possesses a gallery of paintings and an excellent library, open to the public (44, Via Bonella).

REGIA ACCADEMIA DI SANTA CECILIA (Accademia di Musica). Pierluigi da Palestrina and G.M. Nanini founded in 1570 a school of music that was later (1583) canonically erected into a confraternity, or congregation, by Gregory XIII. The popes encouraged this association as an ideal instrument for the dissemination of good taste and the promotion of musical science. Urban VIII decreed that no musical works should be published without the permission of the censors of this congregation, and that no school of music or of singing should be opened by any church without the written permission of its deputies. This very rigorous ordinance provoked numerous complaints from interested parties, and its restrictions were soon much neglected. In 1684 Innocent XI conceded to the congregation the right to admit even foreign members, and in 1774 women were admitted as members. Owing to the political troubles of the period, the congregation was suspended from 1799 to 1803, and again from 1809 to 1822. Among its members have been illustrious musicians. We may mention, besides the sixtysix founders, Carissimi; Frescobaldi, the organist; Giuseppe Tartini, violinist and author of a new system of harmony; the brothers Fede, celebrated singers; and Muzio Clementi, pianist. From 1868 John Sgambati and Ettore Finelli taught gratuitously in this academy. Since 1870 the congregation of St. Cecilia has been transformed into a Royal Academy. In 1876 the “Liceo di Musica” was added to it, with a substantial appropriation from the funds of the province and city of Rome. In 1874 the statutes of this school were remodeled. It is greatly esteemed and is much frequented (18, Via dei Greci).

ACCADEMIA DI RAFFAELE SANZIO.—This is a school of modern foundation, with daily and evening courses for the study of art (504, Corso Umberto I).

There are several foreign academies of a scholastic kind. The American Academy, founded in 1896, is located in the Villa del’ Aurora (42, Via Lombardi). The Academie de France was founded by Louis XIV in 1666. This illustrious school has given many great artists to France. Its competitive prize (Prix de Rome) is very celebrated. It owns and occupies its own palace, the Villa Medici on the Pincio. The English Academy was founded in 1821, and possesses a notable library (53, B Via Margutta). The Accademia di Spagna was founded in 1881 (32, B Piazza San Pietro in Montorio). Finally, it should be noted that, as formerly, there are now in Rome various associations which are true academies and may be classed as such, though they do not bear that name.

SOCIETA DI CONFERENZE DI SACRA ARCHEOLOGIA (founded in 1875 by Giambattista De Rossi). Its name is well merited, expressing as it does the active contributions of its members. In each conference are announced or illustrated new discoveries, and important studies are presented. The meetings are held monthly, from November to March and are open to the public. This excellent association has done much to popularize the study of Christian archaeology, especially the study of the Roman catacombs. Its proceedings are published annually in the “Nuovo Bulletino di Sacra Archeologia”. Its sessions are held in the palace of the Cancelleria Apostolica.

CIRCOLO GIURIDICO DI ROMA.—It was founded in 1899, and offers a meeting-ground for students and professors of legal and sociological lore, and sciences, through lectures, discussions, etc. Attached to it is the “Istituto di Diritto Romano” founded in 1887 for the promotion of the study of Roman law (307, Corso Umberto I).

THE BRITISH AND AMERICAN ARCHJEOLOGICAL SOCIETY was founded in 1865 to promote among English-speaking people, through discussions and lectures (for which latter it possesses a convenient library), a broader and more general culture in all that pertains to Rome (72, Via San Nicola da Tolentino).


Did you like this content? Please help keep us ad-free
Enjoying this content?  Please support our mission!