Governing the local churches in the Papal State: The Congregation of the Council and the Marca pontificia between the 16th and 17th centuries

Governing the local churches in the Papal State: The Congregation of the Council and the Marca pontificia between the 16th and 17th centuries

PhD Project

As part of the Research group ‘Governance of the Universal Church after the Council of Trent’, this PhD project focuses on the analysis of some specific dioceses belonging to the ecclesiastical district of ‘Marca pontificia’. In pursuing this research field, this project makes a historiographical contribution to the study of a specific territory within the Papal State – one that has not received the level of attention necessary within the discourse as regards the center-periphery perspective. Between the 16th and 17th centuries, this area of central Italy was a particularly fragmented territory from the administrative point of view and in terms of diocesan organisation.

Taking into account the ecclesiastical geography of the Marches territory, I am interested in the local dimension of the global institutions of the Holy See. In particular, the focus of this study will be on the practice and methods in which the dialectical relationship between the local ecclesiastical institutions and the Congregation of the Council was expressed. The aim is to ascertain whether various diocesan organisations (the suffragan dioceses and immediate subiectae dioceses) also corresponded to different ways of relating to the central administration of the government of the Church in Rome. 

I will connect the typical sources of the Congregation of the Council´s archives, such as Positiones, Libri Decretorum, and Libri Litterarum, with the documentation preserved in the diocesan archives to reconstruct the practices used by the different ecclesiastical institutions. The analysis will, on the one hand, examine the petition formation process at the local level and, on the other, the receptivity and adoption of the decrees of the Congregation of the Council in the diocesan dimension. In this regard, the role played by the bishops in carrying out their duties, as collectors of local interests or promoters of petitions, will be taken into account. By observing the quality and frequency of the episcopal participation for every single issue, we will examine the limits and opportunities of episcopal jurisdictional functions.

The project pays particular attention to requests for clarification on procedural and doctrinal aspects regarding the application of the Tridentine decrees. Issues related to the obligation of residence, ecclesiastical benefits and disposals of ecclesiastical property are only some of the most important questions that characterise the relationship between the Congregation of the Council and the dioceses of the Marches in the early modern period. In addition, given the length of the period covered, it will be possible to take account of the changes undergone by the petitions – in terms of practice and content – both from a local and Roman point of view.  

The aim of this project is to make a contribution to studies on the role of the Congregation of the Council on the Italian peninsula, in particular in the Papal State, and thus to enable comparisons with other recent research that has been mainly interested in non-European territories.

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