Imperial Imitation of the Papacy in the Early Modern Period

Prof. Dr. Alexander Koller

The universal pretense of the papacy concerning the spiritual domain in succession of the apostle Peter has been complemented at times by a more or less pronounced secular-political universalism during its history and combined with elements of imperial self-conception. In forming an image of themselves, the popes referred repeatedly to features of antique and medieval imperial symbolism, especially those popes whose name already suggested an imperial imitation such as Alexander and Julius. In particular, the popes of the early modern period used this practice to create a modern representation of their power when the papal court and the curia, following their sojourn in Avignon and the end of the Western Schism, re-established their permanent residence in Rome based on their double function as head of the catholic denomination and secular sovereignty. Preliminary observations have led to the affirmation that this tendency of imperial imitation served the popes as a counter-reaction to the challenge and fundamental questioning of their institution by the Reformation and the rise of secular states. The legitimation of sovereignty in the tradition of the forged donation made allegedly by the emperor Constantine and the city of Rome with its imperial substrate offered ideal conditions to develop this form of self-representation. Therefore using this specific political symbolism, which occurred above all within the topic of rites and in the artistic patronage, the popes obviously tried to compensate for the loss of political power and spiritual leadership. This issue will be analysed in the sphere of policy and ceremonies as well as artistic and urban patronage with an interdisciplinary and diachronic approach. The topic is linked to research at the German Historical Institute on papal ceremonial (Elze, Schimmelpfennig) and intends to add new aspects to early and recent studies on political symbolism in general, as well as specifically Roman idiosyncrasies (Percy Ernst Schramm, Kantorowicz, Stollberg-Rilinger, Brice, Visceglia).

Prof. Dr. Alexander Koller
Deputy Director, Responsible for Early Modern History, Editor of the Series "Online-Schriften des DHI Rom. Neue Reihe | Pubblicazioni online del DHI Roma. Nuova serie"
+39 06 66049225