Benedict XIV

After the time I spent in a course from the Congregation for Causes of Saints, my fingers – mainly from muscle memory I think – tend to type Benedict XIV instead of Benedict XVI.

Here is a wonderful painting of Papa Lambertini (+1758) by Pierre Hubert Subleyras at the Met.  It is a relatively new acquisition.

Benedict XIV was a fascinating guy and there are many amusing anecdotes about his ways and wit.

He was a brilliant canonist who gave us what is still pretty much still today the procedures followed for the causes of beatification, miracles, martyrdom, canonization, etc.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Recorder says:

    Interesting references to “the cleverest man in Christendom” here:

  2. irishgirl says:

    Who did that painting of Benedict XIV? Looks almost like Sir Thomas Lawrence-he did one of Pius VII that I saw at Windsor Castle, England, in the Waterloo Chamber.

  3. irishgirl says:

    Oh, duh….should have read the description before posting….but it does look something like a Lawrence…

  4. Lee says:

    My wife and I are now reading in the evening a biography of Prospero Lambertini called Philosopher King- The Humanist Pope Benedict XIV by Renee’ Haynes (London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1970). Its a good read on the whole, and he certainly is a fascinating man, probably the most scholarly of all the popes.

    Not far from us is Mt. Angel Seminary which has in its library something like 15 large volumes of his writings in Latin.

    Haynes pointed out that all this writing was done with goose quill that had to be dipped in ink every two or three lines, and sharpened frequently with a pen knife. After his appointment as archbishop of his native city, Bologna, he would do much of that writing in the early hours of the morning.

    “Lambertini’s wide-ranging intelligence was occupied in almost every field of learning, and with the attempt to integrate them all into a single body of organic, interrelated knowledge, a task perhaps easier in his time than ours…

    “His own training had been in the context of law, logic and historical precedent, but he was acutely aware of the new experimental and mathematical modes of reasoning….One of his beautiful microscopes is, by the way, still to be seen in the Wellcome Historical Museum in London.”

    A pope with a microscope! Think of it…

    A woman of Bologna, “Gaetana Agnesi, concentrated her attention on mathematics and produced a book…on algebra, geometry and infitesimal calculus…. She sent a copy to Prospero Lambertini, by that time Pope, and he was so delighted by the clarity of her exposition that he asked the academic senate of Bologna to offer her the Chair of Mathematics, vacated by her father’s death. They duly did so…. [He wrote to her] in his own handwriting…. We are most happy to see your sex drawn to illuminate both science and your own talents. I exhort you to train companions who resemble you, so that it may be well established that you are worth at least as much as we are when it comes to study. The soul becomes frivolous when it only occupies itself with frills and trinkets, but it is sublime when it knows how to reflect. I promise you that in browsing through libraries, I should be really delighted to find there beside our learned doctors sensible women who enshrine their knowledge in modesty. This would be the way for women to inhabit the Palace of the Popes, and the means of bringing you very often into my memory….” Haynes, 69.

    A few weeks ago when the subject of penance came up here, when it was mentioned in the press that Pope John Paul II used a discipline from time to time, someone wrote in the comment box that the idea of using the discipline, the hairshirt and other penances seems to militate against our obligations under the fifth commandment to take care of our health. In his work on canonization Benedict XIV deals with this topic, though I wouldn’t know where to find the exact quote now. His answer was to the effect that so long as a person does not intend to harm himself or to shorten his life, but rather intends to offer up penance to God, there is nothing standing in the way of him doing so. That was the nub, as I recall it, but obviously it would be far better to have the exact quote framed in the precise language of moral theology.

    At any rate, making the acquaintance of this man might be something worth putting on your to-do list.

  5. Gaetana Agnesi is the one who invented/discovered “the Witch of Agnesi”, IIRC.

    Benedict XIV’s work on how to investigate sainthood causes apparently also includes a page or two of stuff on how saintly incorruptibility has nothing to do with vampires, which apparently was included because some clerical buddy of his wrote a book on vampires. I’ve never seen the original of this stuff in English, though. It’s one of those factoids passed from vampire book to vampire book, and I think only Baring-Gould or Montague Summers bothered to dig up the reference. (If it was Baring-Gould, he probably just ran across it while reading the saint investigation stuff.)

  6. DPhilippi says:

    This painting reminds me of the 21st of December 2005 when the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI., wore the first time again the camauro</a. And the did not wear the camauro after this day again. He has as well the Easter version which he never wore.

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