Interview with the PhD researchers of the project “Global Governance, Local  Dynamics. Transnational Regimes of Grace in the Roman Dataria Apostolica (17th Century)”

The École française de Rome, in partnership with the German Historical Institute in Rome, is hosting in Rome the Franco-German research project (École nationale des chartes/University of Reims/Goethe University in Frankfurt) devoted to the study of regimes of grace in seventeenth-century Europe, funded by the ANR and the DFG and launched on 21 November 2023. The stay in Rome of the three PhD researchers involved in this project is the first essential stage in this collaborative work. In this interview, Naomi Beutler, Valentino Verdone and Filippo Sara give us a little insight into their work in Rome and the project.

Graceful17
GRACEFUL17 Team. From left to right: Filippo Sarra, Bruno Boute, Christoph Sander, Jörg Hörnschemeyer, Valentino Verdone, Naomi Beutler. (© GRACEFUL17)

What are the research questions and the challenges of the project overall? Why an international project focused largely on the Apostolic Datary?

The project is dedicated to the papal grace regime in the seventeenth century. A period of which it is still assumed today that the heyday of the papacy was over and that it was replaced by princes and absolutism and “national” churches. Contrary to this research assumption, we can already detect a stream of thousands and thousands of petitions to Rome, asking among other graces to pertain the provision of an ecclesiastical office (benefices) and its income. The bulk of these graces were granted by a particular office in Rome which fully developed in the early modern age: the Apostolic Datary. The Datary was the gateway for petitions from the entire catholic orbis christianus. By examining the registers of the Apostolic Datary in the Vatican Archive, we aim to investigate the vast dimensions and resilience of this papal “empire of grace” in the early modern period. The investigation of this “global governance” however does not lead back to top-down narratives of centralization but takes in consideration the many petitioners addressing the papal source of grace. By doing so, we hope to trace the local, bottom-up dynamics behind (transnational) governance as well as it flows from an endless range of localities and communities to the equally polycentric and polymorphic headquarters in Rome.

Which is the Digital Humanities component of the project and how do you contribute to its implementation?

The project’s Digital Humanities component is hosted at the DHI in Rome. The creation of a complex database allows us to store the large quantities of data generated by our work in the Vatican archives. Thanks to this, it will be possible to provide a sophisticated analysis driven by a large amount of linked data. Moreover, in the future, this database will be available in open access. In order to achieve this goal, our DH team at the German Historical Institute in Rome (Jörg Hörnschemeyer and Christoph Sander) is building a Knowledge Graph based on established semantic ontologies that will make it possible to fully unpack the dynamics of the papal grace regime for the first time ever. In the first phase of the project, led by Bruno Boute (Goethe University of Frankfurt), our contribution as the three doctoral researchers consists in providing the general samples clustered around the years 1621-2 (Gregory XV) and 1677-8 (Innocent XI). These allow us to tackle jointly the conundrums of clerical job markets across early modern Europe, but also to create a general mirror for our research into the local circulation of papal authority in specific areas in Spain, France, and the Holy Roman Empire. From the start, the goal is also to provide data and feed it into a database, which makes it possible to analyze and interpret the data and, in a final step, to create applicable knowledge by linking this information. We are therefore working closely with our DH experts to achieve this common goal.

Before talking about your particular research interests, please tell us a little about your academic background. What drove you into the project?

Naomi Beutler

I studied Spanish, History and Educational Sciences at the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz and the Universitat de València. I completed my studies in February 2023 and decided against a career as a teacher in favor of a doctorate in history. From April 2023 I was a PhD scholarship holder at the Gutenberg Graduate School of the Humanities and Social Sciences in Mainz, before I stumbled across the job advertisement as a research assistant in the GRACEFUL17 project in spring of 2023. Thanks to this project I am able to combine my studies of History and the Spanish language in an investigation of the granting of papal provision of ecclesiastical benefices in Catalonia in the 17th century.

Valentino Verdone

Very similar to Naomi’s academic profile, I studied Italian, History and Educational Sciences at the Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main. I graduated in October 2023 and feel grateful to have the possibility to remain associated as a PhD student with the chair of Early Modern History held by Professor Birgit Emich at Frankfurt. Since the chair and therefore the academic education in Early Modern History at Frankfurt is very Rome-oriented, this research project is a perfect opportunity to bring together my educational background in Church and Religion History as well as in Italian language. 

Filippo Sarra

I am Italian, or rather Roman, through and through, but I have the great honor of representing the French part of the research in this Franco-German project. I hold a Bachelor’s degree in Medieval History and Latin Paleography from La Sapienza University. I subsequently completed my studies in France, where I obtained two degrees, one in Medieval History from the University of Lyon 2, and another in Digital Humanities from the Enssib.

What are your specific research themes for the project? Where will they take you after the Vatican Apostolic Archives?

Naomi Beutler:

My dissertation, co-supervised by Olivier Poncet (École nationale des chartes) and Ignasi Fernandez Terricabras (Autonom University of Barcelona), focuses on the granting of benefices and the implementation of graces in Catalonia, at present mainly in the archdiocese of Barcelona. This research question is particularly appropriate for Catalonia, as we are in the middle of the 17th century, a time of domestic and foreign policy crises and thus a time of change and uncertainty at all levels of life. My research aims to show the changes that these unstable times had on the granting of graces. A comparative study is currently being planned which, with the support of sources in the Barcelona archives in particular, will look at the granting of benefices before, during and after the political conflicts.

Valentino Verdone:

My research focus about the benefice system will concern the Holy Roman Empire. As we could detect in the first weeks of the project, the petitions from there are far less numerous than from Spain or France. This by itself is an interesting observation that could lead in various directions. It seems very promising to explore the Imperial Archives in Vienna as well as local archives such as the archive of the archdiocese of Cologne. In this example, together with the Pope in Rome via the Dataria, there are different players providing graces and competing for rights of nomination to ecclesiastical offices. This will hopefully lead to a deep insight into the functioning of premodern states and authorities as well as open a bottom-up view on actors using different strategies to obtain a benefice.

Filippo Sarra:

The title of my dissertation, supervised by Olivier Poncet (École nationale des chartes), is for the moment “The Supplicant Normandy in the 17th Century”. We know from preliminary research that many minor benefices granted by the Pope concern France. However, this observation seems to be in contradiction with the development of the so-called “Gallican Church”, which had virulent anti-Roman tendencies. So why did a part of the clergy turn to Rome to obtain benefices? After a few months of work in the archive, this seems to be the most pertinent question to investigate regarding the benefice system of the Diocese of Rouen in the seventeenth century.

In addition to the team component, the monographic component through the three dissertations and the contribution of Digital Humanities at the DHI, there is another part, the “Companion to Papal Grace”. How does this complement the project?

The “Companion to Papal Grace” component of the GRACEFUL17 project, led by Bertrand Marceau (University of Reims), has set itself the task of creating a transversal overview of the granting of graces and its structures by the Holy See and its “machinery of grace”, as opposed to the team and monographic components which focus mainly on one specific cluster of graces, papal provision to ecclesiastical benefices. The local case studies from the German Empire, France and Catalonia are to be supplemented by an overarching presentation of these grants in the 17th century to complete the picture and provide both a guide and incentives for further research into papal regimes of grace.

The École française de Rome wishes you the best of luck with the project and your theses!

The dome of St Peter’s Basilica seen from Via Nicolò Piccolomini (© GRACEFUL17)


Entretien avec Naomi Beutler, Valentino Verdone et Filippo Sarra,

édité par Lana Martysheva, membre de troisième année


OpenEdition vous propose de citer ce billet de la manière suivante :
EFR (20 juin 2024). Interview with the PhD researchers of the project “Global Governance, Local  Dynamics. Transnational Regimes of Grace in the Roman Dataria Apostolica (17th Century)” À l’École de toute l'Italie. Consulté le 18 juillet 2024 à l’adresse https://doi.org/10.58079/11v2j


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