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BARONIUS


305


BARONIUS


in his equally determined son. To the influence of his pious and charitable mother, Portia Phaebonia, whose devotion to Cesare's religious interests was intensified by wha<: she considered liis miraculous deliverance from death in infancy, he owed his con- spicuous tender qualities and childlike simphcity of faith. To this latter was due his vivid realization of God's guidance, vouchsafed often in visions and dreams. Baronius received his early education from his intelligent parents and in the schools of nearby Veroli. His intense love of study and intellectual maturity encouraged his father to send him, at the age of eighteen, to the school of law at Naples. There, after a few months, the confusion due to the Franco-Spanish war for Italian dominion compelled him to remove to Rome, where, in 15.57, he became a pupil of Cesare Costa, a master in civil and canon law.

He was there but a short time when he met one who was potently to influence his destiny and de- termine, even to details, his career and occupations. It was Philip Neri, a priest remarkable for his sanctity and for the spirit of piety and charity with which he inspired a little group of priests and lay- men whom he had formed into a confraternity of good works at the church of San Girolamo della Carita. The importance of this meeting cannot be overestimated; a Baronius the world might have had, but the Baronius of history is the creature of St. Philip Neri. He was impressed by the serious law student of such transparent innocence of life and finding in him a responsi\e subject, enrolled him in his little band. Tliis did not prevent Baronius from continuing the studies for which he came to Rome, but in all else his surrender of self to Philip's guidance was spontaneous and complete. It was not without its sacrifices. In token of renunciation he burned a volume of his own Italian verses in the composition of which he had shown marked proficiency; the same fate later befell his doctorate diploma. For three years, in his zeal, he yearneil to become a Capuchin friar, but Philip restrained him. More distressing still was the bitter antagonism of his father, who saw in all this but folly and the frustration of his pater- nal ambition. He feared, too, the extinction of his family, whose hope for a brilliant revival was cen- tred alone in Cesare. Father and son were firm. Camillo cut off his scanty allowance and Cesare was compelled to live on the Iiospitality of one of Philip's friends. For six years Baronius led a semi-religious life with the comnnmity of San Girolamo, the nucleus of the Congregation of the Oratory. From Philip he received direction in study and spiritual guidance, and at his bidding gave all his spare time to charitable work among the sick and poor. During the year 1558 Philip assigned to him the important work of preaching at the conferences given often during the week in the church of San Girolamo. In 1564 he received priestly ordination and resolved to cast his lot with Philip's little band, but so intense was his ardour for the religious life that he had already taken vows of poverty, chastity, humility, and obedience to Philip as to a superior. Of liis will he was to be the jnelding instrument for yet twenty- five years. That time was to be given to the prepara- tion for his work on ecclesiastical history, about which Baronius' life-interest henceforth centres.

The credit of its conception belongs to Philip, as Baronius testifies with filial devotion in the "Annals". The saint shared keenly in the distress and dismay caased in Catholic circles by the publication of the "Centuries of Magdeburg" (Ecclesiastica Historia: integram ecelesise Christi ideam eomplectens, con- gesta per aliquot studiosos et pios viros in urbe Magdeburgic4, 13 vols., Basle, 1559-74). The pur- pose of this work was to commit history to the cause of Protestantism by showing how far the Catholic IT.— 20


Church had departed from primitive teaching and practices, in contrast to the consonance therewith of the Reformed Church. It was conceived in 1552 by Mathias Flach Francowiez (Flacius lUyricus) and, with the collaboration of several Lutheran scholars and the co-operation of evangelical princes and other wealthy Protestants, was hurriedly completed. Its thirteen volumes dealt each with a centurj' of the Christian Era, whence the name "Centuriators" applied to the authors. Though the work had the great merit of being the pioneer in the field of modern- ized church history, and displayed considerable critical spirit, its unscrupulously partisan colouring of Lutheran claims and its misrepresentations of Catholicity predestined it to but ephemeral honour. It is of interest only as a sunken landmark in the field of historical literature, and as the stimulus of Baronius's genius. The publication of its initial volumes, however, at a time when its polemical value made it acceptable to Protestants, provided the Reformers ■nith a most formidable weapon of attack on the Catholic Church. It did much harm. The feasibility of a counter attack appealed to Catholic scholars, but nothing adeqviate was provided, for the science of history was still a thing of the future. Its founder was as yet but twenty-one years of age and knew very little of history. It was in that youth that St. Philip Neri discernetl a possible David who would rout the Philistines of Magdeburg. He forth- with directed Baronius to devote his conferences at San Girolamo exclusively to the history of the Church. Baronius was disconcerted. History had no attraction for him. His youthful zeal would rather vent itself in the fiery moral conferences which he had creditably given during the preceding year. But he obeyed, and within three years summarily covered the field of church history in his conferences and developed a keen interest in historical studies. Twice he gave the course before his ordination to the priesthood, and five times again did he repeat it during the following twenty-three years, perfecting his work vrith each succeeding series. The early historians and the Fathers became his familiars. The libraries of Rome yielded to his diligent quest a host of unpublished documents. Monuments, coins, and inscriptions told to him unsuspected stories. What he did in and about Rome willing correspondents did for him elsewhere, and the name of Baronius came to be known over Europe as a synonjTu for unprecedented historical penetration, power of research, and zeal for verification. Philip's plan for arranging in lasting form the material thus garnered must have been made known to Baronius before 1569, but despite the importance of the work, he was compelletl by his master to share in all the exercises of the now growing Oratory. At the church of San Giovanni dei Fiorentini, which he served from 1564 to 1575, he had his part in the parish ministra- tions and took his turn in the menial domestic ser- vices. "Baronius coquus perpetvms" was the legend he playfully inscribed in the Oratory kitchen, \\diee he often received distinguished ^isitors. To the many mortifications imposed by Philip he added generously, and thereby provoked the digestive dis- orders that often racked his boily in life and ulti- mately precipitated his death. Despite all obstacles, his prodigious capacity for work and contentment with but four to five hours sleep a night made possible an amazing progress in his researches. After the canonical foundation of the Oratory (15 July, 1575) he took up his residence at Santa Maria in Vallicella, definitive home of the new congregation, and led the same busy life. In the early eighties plans were matured for the publication of the new church history, and by 1584, a quarter of a century since he began his preparation, Baronius hatl the work well under way, when his patience suffered a new