Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Luigi Antonio Muratori

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Catholic Encyclopedia (1913), Volume 10
Luigi Antonio Muratori

by Johann Peter Kirsch


Librarian in Modena, one of the greatest scholars of his time, b. 21 Oct., 1672; d. 23 Jan., 1750. Though he came from a poor family of Vignola in the district of Modena, he received opportunities to devote himself to the higher studies. Having first been instructed by the Jesuits, he studied law, philosophy, and theology at the University of Modena, where he plainly showed his extraordinary talents, especially in literature and history. In 1694 he was ordained priest. In 1695 Count Charles Borromeo called him to the college of "Dottori" at the Ambrosian library in Milan, where he immediately started collecting unedited ancient writings of various kinds. His first publication was the "Anecdota latina ex Ambrosianæ Bibliothecæ codicibus" (2 vols., Milan, 1697-98), followed by two other volumes (Padua, 1713). Duke Rinaldo I (1700) appointed him archivist and librarian in Modena, which position he held until his death. In 1716 Muratori became, in addition, provost of St. Maria della Pomposa, and conducted this parish with great zeal until 1733. He continued publishing unedited writings, first among which was a volume, "Anecdota græca" (Padua, 1709). At the same time he cultivated literature, as is shown by his works, "Della perfetta poesia italiana" (Modena, 1706) and "Riflessioni sopra il buon gusto nelle scienze e nelle arti" (Venice, 1708). He even intended to establish something like a general society of Italian literature, and as early as 1703 published for this purpose, under the pseudonym "Lamindo Pritanio", a plan "Primi disegni della republica letteraria d'Italia". In 1708 a quarrel broke out between the Holy See (aided by the emperor) and the Dukes of Este, over the possession of Comachio, which involved the sovereignty of the district of Ferrara. Muratori supported the claims of his sovereign and of the house of Este against the pope by means of numerous historical researches, which he later on utilized in the preparation of a great historical work, "Antichità Estensi ed Italiane" (2 vols., Modena: 1st vol., 1717; 2nd vol., 1740). He continued studying the sources for a history of Italy, and as a fruit of his untiring researches there appeared the monumental work, "Rerum italicarum Scriptores ab anno æræ christianæ 500 ad annum 1500". It was published in twenty-eight folio volumes with the assistance of the "Società Palatina" of Milan (Milan, 1723-51). A new critical edition is now (since 1900) appearing in serial form under the direction of Giosue Carducci and Vittorio Fiorini in "Città di Castello". J. Calligaris, J. Filippi, and C. Merkel published "Indices chronologici" (Turin, 1885) for the same. At the same time Muratori edited a collection of seventy-five essays on different historical themes, entitled "Antiquitates italicæ medii ævi" (6 vols. fols., Milan, 1738-42), as an elucidation and supplement to his work on the sources. In the third volume of this collection there is found the Muratorian canon which is of the greatest importance for the history of the New Testament canon. In order to render these researches accessible to greater masses of his countrymen, he himself published a new edition in Italian, "Dissertazioni sopra le Antichità italiane" (3 vols., Milan, 1751). Other important publications of sources are his collections of ancient inscriptions ("Novus thesaurus veterum inscriptionum", 4 vols., Milan, 1739-42), the fourth volume containing also the ancient Christian inscriptions; and the edition of the Roman Sacramentaries ("Liturgia romana vetus", 2 vols., Venice, 1748), of value to this day. He wrote a great chronological representation of Italian history ("Annali d'Italia", 12 vols., quarto, Milan, 1744-49), based upon the numerous sources which he published or which otherwise were known. After his death this work was re-edited and continued (Milan, 1753-56 in 17 vols., new edition in 18 vols., 1818-21).

The great mind of this learned man was not limited to the wide province of history; he was also interested in religious questions and he published a work, which attracted considerable attention, on the question as to how far freedom of thinking might go in religious matters, "De ingeniorum moderatione in religionis negotio" (Paris, 1714). Many of his views and opinions were openly challenged; for instance those concerning the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin and the manner of worshipping the saints. Another work, which touches upon religious questions, "Della regolata divozione de' Cristiani" (Venice, 1723), also called out attacks. He defended himself in his work, "De superstitione vitanda" (Milan, 1742). In the quarrel about Hermesianism, his book, "De ingeniorum moderatione", was translated into German by Biunde and Braun (Coblenz, 1837) in the interest of the followers of the Hermesian doctrines. Charity is discussed by Muratori in his "Della carità cristiana" (Modena, 1723). He still continued his literary studies, as is shown by his works on Petrarch ("Vita e rime di F. Petrarca", Modena, 1711) and Castelvetro ("Vita ed opere di L. Castelvetro", Milan, 1727). On philosophy he wrote, "Filosofia morale esposta" (Venice, 1735), "Delle forze dell' intendimento umano" (Venice, 1735), and "Delle forze della fantasia" (Venice, 1745). Law and politics are treated in "Governo della Peste politico, medico ed ecclesiastico" (Modena, 1714; frequently reprinted), "Defetti della Giurisprudenza" (1741), "Della pubblica felicità" (1749). Muratori really proved himself to be a universal genius of rare calibre, at home in all fields of human knowledge. He showed extraordinary qualities as priest and man; he was zealous in the ministry, charitable to the poor, and diligent in visiting the abandoned and imprisoned. He corresponded with a large circle of acquaintances. A collection of his letters by Selmi appeared in Venice (2 vols., 1789); another by Ceruti in Modena (1885). A complete edition is being published by M. Campori ("Epistolario di L. A. Muratori", Modena, 1901 sq.). In spite of many attacks which he had to suffer for his religious views, and notwithstanding many of his opinions regarding ecclesiastical politics were not approved of in Rome, he was highly esteemed in the most exalted ecclesiastical circles, as is shown in the letter which Benedict XIV., on 15 Sept., 1748, wrote to him with the intention of easing his troubled mind. Cardinal Ganganelli, later on Clement XIV, also sent him a letter in 1748, in which he assured him of his highest esteem and respect.

MURATORI, Vita del proposto L. A. Muratori (Venice, 1756); SCHEDONI, Elogio di L. A. Muratori (Modena, 1818); REINA, Vita di L. A. Muratori in Annali d'Italia, I (Milan, 1818); FABRONIUS, Vitæ Italorum, X, 89-391; Historisch-politische Blätter, LXXIV (1874), 353, 524; GAY, L. A. Muratori, padre della storia italiana (Asti, 1885).

J.P. KIRSCH