Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Marchese Francesco Scipione Maffei

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Catholic Encyclopedia (1913), Volume 16
Marchese Francesco Scipione Maffei

by Blanche Mary Kelly


Italian littérateur and archaeologist, b. at Verona, 1 June, 1675; d. there, 11 Feb., 1755. He sprang from an ancient and illustrious family which came originally from Bologna; his brother was General Alessandro Maffei, whose "Memoirs" he published. He began at an early age to write poetry which, however, was marred by the bad taste of the period, but association with such men as Pastorini and Maggi and the study of the great Italian poets brought about a change in his style. In 1699, during a sojourn in Rome, he became a member of the Accademia degli Arcadi and on his return to Verona established in that city a branch of the Roman Arcadia. In 1703 he enlisted in the Bavarian army, in which his brother held the rank of lieutenant-colonel and in 1704 took part in the battle of Donauworth. In 1709 he went to Padua, where he shared with Apostolo Zeno the editorship of the "Giornale de Letteraria d'Italia", but soon abandoned the work. In 1710 he spent some time at Turin for the purpose of studying the MSS. in the Royal Library, and while there he arranged the collection of objects of art which Charles Emmanuel had brought from Rome. Declining posts proffered by Pope Clement XI and King Victor Amadeus he returned to Verona, where he devoted himself to the study of the Italian drama, with the object of raising it from its state of decadence, and his efforts in this direction may be regarded as the beginning of the rehabilitation of the Italian theatre.

Maffei had already devoted some years to archaeological and artistic studies and in this connection had amassed in his palace a very valuable collection. In particular his scholarly publications on the history of his birthplace aroused such enthusiasm on the part of the Veronese that it was only with difficulty that he prevailed on them not to erect a statue to him during his lifetime. His familiarity with charters and other medieval documents resulted in his "Istoria diplomatica" (Mantua, 1727), a work which added much of importance to the history of diplomatics. In 1732 he went to the south of France for purposes of archaeological research and from there he went to Paris, where he remained four years and was received as member of the Académie des Inscriptions. At this time also the Jesuits requested him to write in defence of the orthodox system of grace against the doctrine of the Jansenists. In compliance he wrote his "Istoria teologica delle doctrine e delle opinione corse ne cinque primo secoli della chiesa in proposito della divina grazia, del libero arbitrio e della predestinazione" (Trent, 1742; Latin tr., Frankfort, 1765). Prior to the appearance of this work he went to London (1736), visited Oxford, where he obtained the degree of doctor, and was received in London by the most noted men of the country. In the same year he returned by way of Holland and Germany to Verona, where he thenceforth remained, save for occasional absences. He built a museum, which together with his valuable collection he bequeathed to his native city. Besides his historical and archaeological studies he interested himself in physics and astronomy, and even built an observatory that he might study the movements of the stars. At the age of eighty he began to study Hebrew and he is said to have learned it in a few months. The following is a list of his most important works: "Per la nascita del principe di Piemonte genetliaco" (Rome, 1699); "Conclusioni di amore" (Verona, 1702); "La prima radunanza della colonia arcadica Veronese" (Cervia, 1705); "La scienza cavalleresca" (Rome, 1710), a treatise against duelling, which was instrumental in diminishing the practice in Italy; "De fabula equestris ordinis Constantiniani" (Zurich, 1712; Paris, 1714), written to prove that all the orders of knighthood date only from the Crusades and affording valuable information concerning the aristocracy of the early Middle Ages; "Merope", a tragedy (Venice, 1714; since published in numerous editions and translations); "Dell' antica condizione di Verona" (Venice, 1719); "Istoria diplomatica" (Mantua, 1727), containing documents not previously published and a discourse on primitive Italy; "Teatro del Marchese Maffei" (Venice, 1730); "Verona illustrata" (2 vols., Verona, 1732; a corrected edition according to the author's notes was issued in 4 vols., Milan, 1825-27); "Galliae antiquitates quaedam selectae" (Paris, 1733), on the inscriptions and monuments observed by Maffei during his sojourn in France and dedicated to Louis XV; "Graecorum siglae lapidariae collectae atque explicatae" (Verona, 1746); "Della formazione dei fulmini" (Verona, 1747); "Il Raguet" (Verona, 1787), a comedy; "Museum Veronense" (Verona, 1749); "Supplemento al Tesoro delle Inscrizioni di Muratori" (Lucca, 1765); this was published by Donati according to notes collected by Maffei for a complete work on the subject. Besides these original works Maffei also collaborated in editions of the works of St. Hilary (Verona, 1730), St. Jerome (1734), and St. Zeno (1739). He bequeathed his collection of MSS. to the canons of the cathedral of Verona.

BOUGAINVILLE, Eloge de Maffei in Hist. de l'Acad. des Inscrip., XXVII; PINDEMONTE, Elogio (Verona, 1784).

Blanche M. Kelly.