1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Dominis, Marco Antonio de
DOMINIS, MARCO ANTONIO DE (1560-1624), Italian theologian and natural philosopher, was born of a noble Venetian family in 1560 in the island of Arbe, off the coast of Dalmatia. He was educated by the Jesuits in their colleges at Loreto and Padua, and is supposed by some to have joined their order; the more usual opinion, however, is that he was dissuaded from doing so by Cardinal Aldobrandini. For some time he was employed as a teacher at Verona, as professor of mathematics at Padua, and professor of rhetoric and philosophy at Brescia. In 1596 he was appointed to the bishopric of Segnia (Zengg) in Dalmatia, and two years later was raised to the archbishopric of Spalato and primacy of Dalmatia and Croatia. His endeavours to reform the Church soon brought him into conflict with his suffragans; and the interference of the papal court with his rights as metropolitan, an attitude intensified by the quarrel between the papacy and Venice, made his position intolerable. This, at any rate, is the account given in his own apology—the Consilium profectionis—in which he also states that it was these troubles that led him to those researches into ecclesiastical law, church history and dogmatic theology, which, while confirming him in his love for the ideal of “the true Catholic Church,” revealed to him how far the papal system was from approximating to it. After a visit to Rome, when he in vain attempted to gain the ear of Pope Paul V., he resigned his see in September 1616, wrote at Venice his Consilium profectionis, and then went by way of Switzerland, Heidelberg and Rotterdam to England, where he arrived in December. He was welcomed by the king and the Anglican clergy with great respect, was received into the Church of England in St Paul’s cathedral, and was appointed master of the Savoy (1618) and dean of Windsor (1619); he subsequently presented himself to the living of West Ilsley, Berkshire. Contemporary writers give no pleasant account of him, describing him as fat, irascible, pretentious and very avaricious; but his ability was undoubted, and in the theological controversies of the time he soon took a foremost place. His published attacks on the papacy succeeded each other in rapid succession: the Papatus Romanus, issued anonymously (London, 1617; Frankfort, 1618), the Scogli del naufragio Christiano, written in Switzerland (London, (?) 1618), of which English, French and German translations also appeared, and a Sermon preached in Italian, &c., before the king. But his principal work was the De republica ecclesiastica, of which the first part—after revision by Anglican theologians—was published under royal patronage in London (1617), in which he set forth with a great display of erudition his theory of the church. In the main it is an elaborate treatise on the historic organization of the church, its principal note being its insistence on the divine prerogatives of the Catholic episcopate as against the encroachments of the papal monarchy. In 1619 Dominis published in London, with a dedication to James I., Paolo Sarpi’s Historia del Concilio Tridentino, the MS. of which he had brought with him from Venice. It is characteristic of the man that he refused to hand over to Sarpi a penny of the money present given to him by the king as a reward for this work.
Three years later the ex-archbishop was back again in Rome, doing penance for his heresies in St Peter’s with a cord round his neck. The reasons for this sudden revolution in his opinions, which caused grave scandal in England, have been much debated; it is probably no libel on his memory, however, to say that they were connected with the hopes raised by the elevation of his kinsman, Alessandro Ludovisi, to the papal throne as Gregory XV. (1621). It is said that he was enticed back to Rome by the promise of pardon and rich preferment. If so, he was doomed to bitter disappointment. He had barely time to publish at Rome (1623) his Sui reditus ex Angliae consilium, an abject repudiation of his anti-papal works as written “non ex cordis sinceritate, non ex bona conscientia, non ex fide,” when Gregory died (July 1623). During the interregnum that followed, the proceedings of the Inquisition against the archbishop were revived, and they continued under Urban VIII. Before they were concluded, however, Dominis died in prison, on the 8th of September 1624. Even this did not end his trial, and on the 20th of December judgment was pronounced over his corpse in the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva. By order of the Inquisition his body was taken from the coffin, dragged through the streets of Rome, and publicly burnt in the Campo di Fiore. By a strange irony of fate the publication of his Reditus consilium was subsequently forbidden in Venice because of its uncompromising advocacy of the supremacy of the pope over the temporal powers. As a theologian and an ecclesiastic Dominis was thoroughly discredited; as a man of science he was more happy. He was the first to put forward a true theory of the rainbow, in his De radiis visus et lucis in vitris perspectivis et iride (Venice, 1611).
See the article by Canon G. G. Perry in the Dict. Nat. Biog., and that by Benrath in Herzog-Hauck, Realencyklopädie (ed. 1898), iv. p. 781, where a full bibliography is given. Also H. Newland, Life and Contemporaneous Church History of Antonio de Dominis (Oxford, 1859).