Venetian jurisdictionalism in modern times

The ideology of the Venetian patriciate, the ruling class of the Republic of Venice in modern times, is characterized by the strong impregnation of judicialist thought. The supremacy of the nobility of the Serenissima is expressed, in a preliminary way, by an exacerbated jurisdictionalism, which makes it possible to defend the interests of the State in matters of foreign policy and, therefore, to preserve the omnipotence of the patrician group within of Venetian society itself. More than an anticurial policy, it is a political idea in its own right, close to the raison d'etat, which aims to preserve and perpetuate Venetian interests in the face of papal inclinations.

The origins of juridictionnalism

The " giurisdizionalismo ", Term coined by the Italian historian Arturo Carlo Jemolo, is defined by the practice of a specific ecclesiastical policy, which aims to extend and strengthen the authority and control of the State over the organization of the Church. More precisely, it is about a political doctrine, having been developed by certain States of the Italian peninsula, which aspired to a control and an extended power of intervention on civil and legal questions, within the general framework of ecclesiastical affairs. The goal being for the state to " break free from the tutelage of Rome and submit the clergy to common law ", According to the historian Francois Brizay. The 17th century in Italy saw a resurgence of this political idea, which was considerably reinforced in the 18th century within the Kingdom of Naples. The Republic of Venice was, in Italy, the "spearhead" of the juridictionnalism of the Seicento, in other words from the 17th century. In reality, it is a question of making a clear and sharp demarcation between the temporal and the spiritual power. Papal authority, which was above all spiritual, was not to spill over into the temporal prerogatives of states and, in this case, of the Venetian state. The Republic made jurisdictionalism its "trademark" in modern times, in line with the Spanish regalism of the 16th century, developed by the king Philip II. Of course, the Serene was not fundamentally opposed to the Church. Venetian juridictionnalism was expressed above all when the patriciate considered that the perenniality of the state was endangered by the papal authority. This political idea in no way sought to go beyond its prerogatives on dogmatic questions, reserved for the appreciation of the councils.

More precisely still, the " giurisdizionalismo Was characterized by the questioning of the plenitudo potestatis papal, that James henderson burns considers a " true power of government that has close affinities with that of the temporal rulers. »Thus, under the guise of plenitudo potestatis with which they were invested, the sovereign pontiffs tended, in modern times, to assume all or almost all powers, sometimes very clearly going beyond the secular privileges which were the prerogative of the Princeps, of the Prince. Marsil of Padua, from the fourteenth century, denied any temporal claim of the Church on a State: for him, the State was an instrument of power and domination exclusively "terrestrial", concerning only the society of men. One can truly find in his major work, the Defensor Pacis, the premises of Venetian juridictionnalism, even one of its foundations. Even if Marsil of Padua can in no way be considered a staunch defender of Venetian politics, he tends to want to destroy, or at least to weaken, the power of the Pope, unlike Baruch Spinoza who in his Theological-political treatise, wanted to annihilate it. Therefore, and in this, he can truly be considered as a thinker being at the foundations of the theories advocating a separation between temporal and spiritual power, of which jurisdictionalism is part.

Jurisdictionalism was fundamentally and diametrically opposed to the so-called "curialist" doctrine, defended both by the pontifical power and the " papalisti ", That is to say the supporters of the Pope, many among the" Vecchi ", Opponents of" Giovani " to Venise. If Curialism considered the State as an indirect emanation of the designs of God, Venetian juridictionnalism wanted to be, on the contrary, a direct work of the divine will. Francois Brizay has also proposed a very interesting definition of juridictionnalism. According to him, juridictionnalism “ therefore rejected any revolt of the subjects against power, which he wished to strengthen, but demanded the restriction of the jurisdiction of the Church's courts. In addition, he challenged the divine origin of most of the Church's rights, and declared himself a supporter of national churches which would recognize the authority of their councils. "Jurisdictionalism therefore seems to be a policy of" reason of state ", carried out with a view to preserving power in the face of the multiple invectives of papal power. In this, it is truly a patrician idea, constituting part of the fundamental ideology of the ruling group. The patriciate holds power and wants to keep it, and in this sense uses the argument of jurisdictionalism to achieve this goal.

The Forbidden Affair (1606-1607), the expression of jurisdictionalism in Venice

Before the development of juridictionnalism under the pen of Paolo Sarpi, at the end of the 16th century and at the beginning of the 17th century, the kingdom of France developed during the 15th century a similar politico-religious doctrine: Gallicanism. In our definition of the foundations of “ giurisdizionalismo "Venetian, it is important, if not capital, to point out the prior existence of this anti-curial policy which strongly marked and inspired the Venetian patriciate in its own ideological, cultural and representative definition at the heart of republican society. Gallicanism was born in 1438, upon promulgation by Charles VII of France of the Pragmatic Bourges sanction. With the agreement of the French clergy (united in council, bishops and abbots), this ordinance proclaimed the superiority of the king of France over the pope in matters of the appointment of bishops and ecclesiastical benefits. It was this point in particular that inspired Paolo Sarpi during the drafting of his judicial masterpiece, the Trattato delle materie beneficiarie, or Treatise on ecclesiastical benefits, published in 1624. Nevertheless, it took nearly eighty years for the effects of Gallicanism to be attenuated in France, through the Bologna Concordat, signed in 1516 by the pope Leon x and the chancellor Antoine Duprat, representative of Francis I. Despite the signing of Concordat, Gallican ideas remained absolutely fundamental and essential within the state apparatus of the kingdom of France. Anyway, the idea evoked by Marsil of Padua of a strict separation in matters of spiritual and temporal competence between the State and the papal authority found its first successful application in Gallicanism. Generally speaking, Marsil of Padua has been found to be the basis of anti-curiales: Gallicanism in the first place, and jurisdictionalism in the second. Also the appearance of " giurisdizionalismo In Venice, at the beginning of the 16th century, is in the same vein as the emergence of Gallican ideas in France in the 15th century. The two phenomena are comparable, even if, in Venice, the situation may turn out to be different. The autonomy and asserted freedom of the Venetians are so fundamental that conflicts and dissensions with the papacy are both frequent and violent. TheCase of the Forbidden of 1606-1607 is the most striking example of the affirmation of the Venetian juridictionalist policy in modern times.

In fact, the affair between the Republic and the Papal States between 1606 and 1607 constitutes a very singular example of the characterized expression of Venetian jurisdictionalism. Even more, from the pen of Paolo Sarpi, in the Trattato dell’Interdetto, as we have explained previously, the crisis reveals the affirmation of the judicial policy of the Serenissima. In order to introduce the events related, it is necessary to provide a historical reminder relating to the Forbidden. The first dissension occurred during the month ofAugust 1605 : Scipione Saraceno, canon of Vicenza, in Venetian Mainland, was arrested by order of the Council of Ten for various common law offenses, and more particularly for insults and violence. The October 10, 1605, the Council of Ten also arrested the count Marcantonio Brandolin, Abbot of Nervesa, for homicide and various violence. Pope, Paul V Borghese, demanded, through his nuncio in Venice, that the ecclesiastical criminals arrested and imprisoned by the Venetian state be immediately returned to its authority. Taking advantage of this singular event, the Pope also asked the Doge to repeal a law that had been passed by the Senate, and which in particular prohibited the construction of religious establishments in Venetian territory without the prior authorization of the Republic - l 'we find here, through this legislative measure, all the independence that Venice took on at the time vis-à-vis the Church. Pope Paul V also ordered the revocation of a second law, which allowed the Republic to limit the expansion of religious property within its territory, subjecting to its discretion the alienation of the real estate of the clergy. The Venetian Ambassador Nani replied to the Pope in these terms, according to the eminent Venetian historian Alvise Zorzi : the " Venetians, born in freedom, were not held to account for their operations except to the Lord God, only superior to the doge for temporal things. Venetian jurisdictionalism was born, if not affirmed in the eyes of the world The conflict intensified considerably when Paul V dispatched, in the month of December 1605, two apostolic briefs to the doge, telling him that the two laws which constituted the bulk of the dispute were void and that they should, therefore, be repealed. A few weeks later, the January 10, 1606, Leonardo Donà, supporter of the "Youth" group, hostile to papal interference and male. A few days later, Paolo Sarpi was appointed consultant in iure of the Republic, publishing the same year his famous Trattato dell'interdetto di Paolo V. The April 17, 1606, a monitoire of Paul V decided to excommunicate the Senate and strike down the Venetian territory. The intervention of Paolo Sarpi in the conflict marked the beginning of the " guerra delle scritture ", In other words the" war of writings ". The Venetian thinker, considered by Gaetano Cozzi as the " champion of juridictionnalism " and some " valiant defense of state prerogatives against ecclesiastical interference », Truly embodied the figure of the fierce Venetian legal expert.

The "war of writings": the affirmation of Venetian jurisdictionalism

This "war of writings", embodied by the figure of Paolo Sarpi, truly represents the fundamental issue ofCase of the Forbidden, interpreted by his writings. More precisely, the general context of the "war of the writings" is unfavorable to the Venetians. While theCase of the Forbidden, which was suspected to have been undercover by the Spanish, is coming to an end. From then on, Venice was surrounded militarily by the Habsburgs - from Austria and Spain - in the 1610s. Likewise, according to the historian Filippo de Vivo, conspiratorial rumors circulated in Venice, " according to which the Spanish ambassador and the viceroy of Naples had plotted to burn down the Doge's Palace, to kill the most important senators and to seize the city. Fear reigns in Saint Mark's Square. To this tense politico-military situation, we must add the context of the "war of writings", of this " guerra delle scritture ". Always according to Filippo De Vivo, more than two hundred pamphlets criticizing the Venetian system and its legitimacy were then circulating in Venice, at this precise moment, in the 1610s. The cardinal Roberto Bellarmino, strongly committed to the preservation and extension of the temporal rights of the papacy, thus published in 1610 his De potestate summi Pontificis in rebus temporalisbus. The Republic reacted vigorously, and in particular by drafting " consulti "From Paolo Sarpi, that is to say of his "opinions", given regularly to the Lordship of Venice, as well as by the works he distributes. In this sense, he makes an ample contribution to defending with insistence the interests of the Serenissima in the face of interference and manipulation orchestrated by the papal authority. Gaetano Cozzi summarized with finesse the judicial thinking of the famous consultant in iure, advancing that according to " Sarpi, if the Pope […] was wrong, was abusing his power […] a Christian had the duty to disobey him. Everything was said.

Furthermore, Filippo de Vivo believes that during theNot allowed of 1606-1607, « Venice heroically asserts its independence. " So, Paul V Borghese, sovereign pontiff who promulgated the prohibition in 1606, had to oppose the unwavering and powerful firmness of the legalist current. Such an affair marked the beginning of a succession of controversies between the Venetian state and the papacy, notably between the patriciate and the nuncio. The eminent historian Dorit Raines evoked, in this regard, an interesting example, that of the patrician Angelo Badoer who was accused, during the crisis ofInterdetto, to have secretly met the nuncio of Paul V Borghese. Submitted to trial before the State Inquisition of the Republic of Venice, the most secret institution of the Serenissima, he was, in the words he uses in his memoirs, " deprived of all goods, despoiled of dignity ". As a result, a real social and political crisis within the ruling class is brought to light in Venice. The patriciate, which had already been split into two "factions", the Young and the Old, since the 16th century and the institutional crisis of 1582-1583, is experiencing strong ideological radicalization. The use of judicial thinking, in this sense, is absolutely fundamental. Indeed, the group which will best succeed in defending the interests and the prerogatives of the Venetian state against the papacy, in accordance with the precepts of the reason of state, will be able to take over the direction of state affairs. This is a huge stake in Venice, if not preliminary.

The patriciate of the Republic of Venice therefore used jurisdictionalism as a real instrument of power, intended to legitimize and strengthen its power. Moreover, it is an element quite characteristic of the patrician ideology, of this leading group which is the embodiment of the State, and which works permanently in the perspective of its perpetuation ... and therefore also within the framework of guaranteeing the sustainability of the state apparatus. Nevertheless, Venetian juridictionnalism was not the only one to express itself in Italy in modern times. While the patriciate experienced serious demographic difficulties in the 17th century, which greatly influenced its power, the Neapolitans gradually became the "champions" of Italian jurisdictionalism, and would remain so until the end of the 18th century. In this, it is a phenomenon more "Italian" than specifically Venetian, even if the leading group of the Serenissima has largely developed the concept, in particular through its local "genius" in the matter, the servite Paolo Sarpi.


- DELON Michel (dir.), European Enlightenment Dictionary, Paris, Presses Universitaires de France, Coll. Quadrige Dicos Poche, 2007.

- BRIZAY François, Italy in modern times, Paris, Belin, Coll. Sup Histoire, 2001.

- BORGNA Romain, FAGGION Lucien (dir.), The Prince by Fra Paolo. Political practices and forma mentis of the patriciat in Venice in the XVII century, Aix-en-Provence, University of Provence, 2011, p. 90-98 [development on Venetian juridictionnalism].

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