The Council of Trent: an improbable history


The history of the Council of Trent seems to be marked by its improbability. The first intention to write a history of the Council is in the edition of Paolo Manuzio Canones, et decreta sacrosancti oecumenici, et generalis Concilii Tridentini sub Paulo 3., Iulio 3., et Pio 4., pontificibus max. Index dogmatum, & reformationes. Venetiis, 1564:

accipe summam rei, lector optime, quae ad salutem vehementer pertinet: universam vero Tridentini Concilii, trium Pontificum distinctam temporibus, historiam, eodem, cuius ad gloriam haec omnia diriguntur, iuvante Deo, propediem expecta.

The Monumenta Concilii Tridentini is a project promoted by the Historical Archives of the Pontifical Gregorian University. The first goal of the project is to identify and describe handwritten discursive forms in connection with the contemporary printed ones. Following this method of investigation, you can identify, through the analysis of semantics and materiality of the document, its social function, as a form that fulfills a selective function which should be able to guide the expectations of the reader within a given social system. This will involve the need to examine the documentation more than once: as variety of forms that have been conveying the communication of knowledge and, at the same time, following the evolution of the forms themselves. At first glance, the documentation of the Council of Trent includes: istanze, disputazioni, negozi, osservazioni, trattati, consigli, opposizioni, diari and others. For each of these forms, there will be a check of production contexts (with particular attention to the mutual influence of the printed and handwritten media), physical features (size, mise en page, presence of graphic apparatuses) and circulation. Another goal is to identify the method of selection and sorting of the material. The documents, collected over more than thirty years, must have had an internal sorting system aimed at the finding of information considered in turn useful for the composition of the work.[7] From this selection, we could describe an archeology of the information evolution, as ability to gear the approach towards the emergence of new distinctions within the social system. In addition to look at the selection made on the documents, analyzing the stratification that they have suffered will be needed too. In the analysis of this fund, there will be at least three identifiable selection methods, attributable to Terence Alciati (1570-1651), Pietro Sforza Pallavicino (1607-1667) and Hubert Jedin (1900-1980), who collated and selected a large number of materials for drafting, on a case-by-case basis, the “true” history of the Council of Trent.

Please find more information about this project at Monumenta Concilii Tridentini .

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