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F. Tonizzi, Democrazia e religione a Venezia

Gregory J. Fairbanks

Fabio Tonizzi


, Democrazia e religione a Venezia. Il Patriarca Giovanelli e il suo cleronegli anni dell'incertezza (1793-1800), Marcianum Press, Venezia 2008.


Fabio Tonizzi's Democracy and Religion in Venice


offers an interesting insight into the history of the effects of the French revolution in Venice. Tonizzi's work describes well the situation of the local Church in the vital years of the French revolution in Venice. Tonizzi points out he astonishing statistic that in 1790, just before the French Revolution, there was one priest for every sixty nine inhabitants. The numbers of clergy had increased by some 65% in the years preceding the revolution. The ability of the poor to enter seminary, and not just the landed aristocracy, had greatly contributed to the growth in vocations, and made Venice far different in its transition to democratic reforms. This growth in vocations was also accompanied by a reform of the seminary structure.


Clergy often took the lead in preaching that democracy and religion are not incompatible. In fact, Tonizzi points out that the clergy of Venice took the lead in Christianizing the democratic movement in Venice, giving the reforms a Gospel based rationale. The Church of Venice certainly struggled and was hurt by the Napoleonic reforms: parishes were closed, as were monasteries and religious houses. These closures were a cause of great concern for Patriarch Giovanelli, especially the pressures placed upon the diocesan seminary. The forfeiture of the physical wealth of the diocese to the state inhibited its ability to respond to the needs of the people. The patriarch had to deal with a range of priests, including Jacobin priests in his midst, and Tonizzi highlights the case of Father Zalivani as an example. The struggle of diocesan versus religious clergy, each with its own merits and problems, is also studied.


This struggle for the soul of democratic reform in Venice, whether it would be of secular or religious foundations, is what gives this localized study its unique value in the history of the transition to modernity in the Church.