Life of Cardinal Enrico Noris

(August 29, 1631—February 23, 1704)



Cardinal Enrico NorisEnrico Noris, OESA, was born at Verona, of an Irish family, one of whose ancestors was a soldier in the defense of Cyprus (which fell to the Turks in 1570);  his father, Alessandro, wrote a history of German Wars.  His baptismal name was Hieronymus (Girolamo).

      At the age of fifteen he was sent to study with the Jesuits at Rimini; he studied philosophy and became a serious student of the works of S. Augustine. He decided to join the Order of the Hermits of Saint Augustine.  During his novitiate he attracted the favorable attention of the Father Assistant for Italy, Fr. Celestino Bruni, who recommended him to the Prior General of the Order, Fr. Fulgenzio Petrelli. After his novitiate in Rimini and his solemn profession, he was called to Rome by the Father General. He lived at the Convent of S. Agostino, in the company of a number of scholars in history, both secular and ecclesiastical, and had the opportunity to study at the Angelicum, deepening his appreciation of S. Augustine.  He came to profit from the company of Fr. Christian Lupus, OESA, who became Professor of Ecclesiastical History at the Louvain   [the Life by the Ballerini brothers, in the Berti edition, xx;  Clarorum Venetorum ad Ant. Magliabechium nonnullosque alios Epistolae  Tomus primus (Florentiae 1745), 196-199 (August 12, 1673);  and letter vii, pp. 17-20 and 23].  At the age of 26, Noris began writing his History of Pelagianism.  Having attained proficiency in Theology, his Order assigned him to teach in their houses at Pesaro (he was Reggente dello studio Agostiniano, prima in Pisauro, dipoi in Perugia, ove otenne la consueta laurea del Magistero, e finalmente in Padova, in the words of Bianchini, in Crescembi I, 203), then Perugia (Theologicae scholae praeficitur, primum Pisauri, deinde Perusiae, as Zazzerio puts it), which he did for five years. He then returned to Rome, where he attained the rank of Magister, pro exatlantis laboribus.  He then worked at Padua [Inde Pataviam ... digressus, acceptam tradendae Theologiae provinciam ibidem jubetur persequi—language which some have unjustifiably turned into a professorship at the University], where he also finished the Historia Pelagiana, et Dissertatio de synodo V. oecumenico (Padua 1673), and published the Vindiciae Augustinianae (Padua 1673). The permission to print the work, issued by the Prior General of the Augustinians, Hieronymus Valvasoris, on June 22, 1672, calls Noris, nostri instituti Magistri, ac Regentis—in other words, he was Head Master in the Augustinian College.  The books were denounced to the Inquisition, where, however, he came to the (favorable) attention of the Assessor Msgr. Girolamo Casante (who became a cardinal on June 12, 1673); Noris and Casanate already knew each other.  Casanate had made suggestions to Noris about his work on the bishops of Africa for his History of Pelagianism [Clarorum Venetorum ad Ant. Magliabechium nonnullosque alios Epistolae  Tomus primus (Florentiae 1745), p. 2 (Padua, February 25, 1673)].   Noris was exonerated of the charges of heresy [Crescimbeni, 203].  This did not mean, however, that the charges against the two works were forgotten.  They are still listed in the Bibliothèque Janseniste, ou Catalogue alphabetique des principaux livres jansenistes, ou suspects de Jansenisme, of 1722, with the note: Que cette Histoire de l'Heresie Pelagienne composée par le Cardinal de Noris a été par trois fois deferée au Saint Siege et qu'elle n'a jamais été condamnée.

      Father Noris was back in Rome by July 2, 1673 [Clarorum Venetorum ad Ant. Magliabechium, p. 6].   With all of his troubles with the Inquisition, however, Noris, was actually appointed Qualificator at the Holy Office by Clement X (1670-1676)—a clear papal rebuke to his critics.  This appointment as Qualificator came before August 12, 1673 [Clarorum Venetorum ad Ant. Magliabechium nonnullosque alios Epistolae  Tomus primus (Florentiae 1745), 197-198;  for his work see pp. 21-22, and 197].  He was not happy in Rome, however, expressing complaints over the 'bad air', and seeking permission to get back to Padua.  On July 22, he wrote to Magliabecci, "Ho parlato alli Cardinali Barberino, Albizzi, Bona, Casanata, et altri, che sono della Congregazione del S. Ufizio, e nel sentire la prodiga offerta di 360 piastre, ne anco hanno aperta bocca per impedire con ragioni il trasferimi costa.  Anzi Ottoboni disse essere mie funzioni, per potermi liberare da Roma, ove per forza fui fermato, non piacendomi consumare il tempo in formare consulti, consurare gran tomi, e scrivere literas illiteratissimas a tanti Frati, che per loro negozi mi rubano due intiere giornate della settimana."    He was thus back in Padua, but a correspondent in 1673 and 1674 of  Cardinal Giovanni Bona, who was Consultor at the SC of the Index and the SC of the Inquisition, giving reports to the Consultor on various books [Robertus Sala,  Iohannis Bona...Epistolae selectae (Torino 1755), 298; 300-307; cf. Clarorum Venetorum ad Ant. Magliabechium, ep. xv, p. 37].  In fact, Cardinal Bona and Msgr. Falconieri had been the Revisors of his book when it was under examination [Clarorum Venetorum ad Ant. Magliabechium, p. 83].

      Father Noris' return to Tuscany, however, did not mean that his enemies in the Curia had been defeated or silenced.  Fr. Angelo Finardi, OESA, originally of Verona, wrote to Antonio Magliabechi from Rome on April 27, 1674 [Clarorum Venetorum ad Ant. Magliabechium, II, p. 214]:

L' Eminentiss. Casanatta, per verità, in riguardo del mio riveritissimo Padre Noris, mi favorisce di fianco, con sei altri Cardinali de' più terribili della Congregazione, e hieri avanti il Papa, e hieri l' altro in Congregazione fu dibattuta la gran causa, e per hora risoluto di vedere il sommario del Processo, che si trova in Roma, e non più in Firenze;  onde VS. Illustrissima consoli lo stampatore, a cui non rispondo per non haver tempo, con accertarlo, che di quà ha da uscir la sentenza, ove non si fa tanta stima di pena pecuniaria, la quale anche è molto biasimata. Non pongo tutto in carta. Basti che non partirò se non terminata la causa, la quale per non esservi Monsig. Baldeschi, anderà un poco più in longo, che per altro hoggi otto sarebbe terminata. Et in fine chi più haverà guadagnato, se ne loderà.

      In 1674, on the recommendation of his friend Antonio Magliabecci, the Ducal Librarian, he was appointed court Theologian by Grand Duke Cosimo III of Tuscany. He was also appointed Professor in Ecclesiastical History at Pisa  [according to Bianchini, in Crescembi I, 204; the Life by the Ballerini brothers, however, says he held the title of Doctor, and that the appointment was to a cathedra, xxi; Zazzerio calls him Professor, xiii;  on the title page of his de cruce stationali (Romae 1694), Giovanni Ciampini terms him  in Pisana Academia Professor].  Noris himself explains the nature of the position offered him by the Grand Duke [Clarorum Venetorum ad Ant. Magliabechium, I, p. 26]:

Inoltre la prego avisarmi, se dovero leggere per il principio di Novembre. Se in Pisa vi sono le Letture ordinarie, e straordinarie, come in Padova, ove li Professori della Sacra Scrittura, dell'Etica, delle Meteore, e 6 o 8 Medici, e Legisti con titolo di Professori straordinarii leggono tutte le Domeniche, et Giovedi, et altri pochi giorni. O pure in Pisa non essendovi tal modo di leggere si fanno tutte lezione ordinarie.


There he enjoyed the company of Jacobus Gronovius, who had been appointed Professor of Literae Humaniores at Pisa around the same time, though they were very different as lecturers, and Gronovius by far the more congenial to the students [Guarnacci I, 450; Gronovius left Pisa at the end of 1677: Clarorum Venetorum ad Ant. Magliabechium Volume 2, 220-221, letter of Felice Viali (Padua, January 7, 1678)].  Noris admitted, however, that Gronovius was a more engaging teacher and enjoyed much larger classes. It was also in 1674 that Noris was first attacked by Fr. Francesco Macedo, O.Min., to which Noris replied in his Adventoria, which led to a war of pamphlets [See Noris, Opera omnia theologica II (1759), 553 ff., for the texts].    In 1675, he was elected to Queen Christina of Sweden's Arcadian Academy, with the name Eucrate Agoretico; fellow members were Cardinal Vincenzo Maria Orsini, the future Pope Benedict XIII, under the name Teofilo Samio; and Cardinal Domenico Tarugi (1695-1696), elected in 1691 under the name Egerio Daseo [his "Vita" in Crescimbeni II, 255-271].

       At the same time Noris published on numismatics, epigraphy, and chronology, and he continued answering his critics on the matter of Pelagianism and Saint Augustine.  In April of 1676 he was the subject of acrimonious debate at the Holy Office:  Cardinal Francesco Albizzi (1654-1684) wanted his Vindiciae banned completely; Cardinal Colonna (1673-1691) vehemently resisted Albizzi [Noris to Magliabechi (May 4, 1676), quoted in Valery (ed.), Correspondence inédite de Mabillon et de Montfaucon avec l' Italie  III (Paris 1847), p. 229 n. 3].  Albizzi was an expert on Jansenism, and suspected Noris' Augustinianism as being, at the least, an aid and comfort to the enemy. Noris' powerful friends, however, continued to protect him. He was offered the Bishopric of Pistoia, but he refused (This would have been after the death of Bishop Francesco Renuccini on March 2, 1678).  In December, 1691, he was offered the post of Coadjutor of the papal Sacristan Msgr. Ladrù [Clarorum Venetorum ad Ant. Magliabechium, p. 155 (May 31, 1692)], which he refused, having no desire to become a prelate [Pélissier, 49].

      In 1692, after eighteen years in Florence, he was brought back to Rome by Innocent XI and made sub-Librarian of the Vatican Library [Clarorum Venetorum ad Ant. Magliabechium, ep. lxxxi, p. 158-159 (July 26, 1692)], in succession to Emmanuel de Schelstrate (died April 5, 1692).  From Paris Dom Jean Mabillon expressed his happiness in a letter to Antonio Magliabecchi of June 23, 1692 [P. Valery (ed.), Correspondence inédite de Mabillon et de Montfaucon avec l' Italie  II (Paris 1847), no. cclxx, p. 336]: "Enfin, le P. Noris a donc accepté le soin de la bibliothèque Vaticane.  Ce choix fait plaisir à tous les gens de lettres et à moi en particulier qui l' estime comme il mérite.  Je lui écris aujourd'hui pour lui témoigner ma joie."  In 1694 Noris was Vaticanae Bibliothecae Praefectus.   His books were denounced again to the Inquisition, due apparently to the efforts of Father Diaz  [Clarorum Venetorum ad Ant. Magliabechium, p. 153]; forty-six propositions drawn from his published works were denounced. After an extensive examination by a special commission of five theologians, appointed by the Pope, motu proprio, Noris was again completely vindicated [Clarorum Venetorum ad Ant. Magliabechium, ep. lxxxiv, pp. 163-165 (March 6, 1694);  Pélissier, 50].  (This never stopped the Spanish, however; the Spanish Inquisition continued to harass Noris long after he was dead.)  He wrote again in defense of S. Augustine and published the 4th edition of his Pelagian history. In September, 1694, the Pope made him Consultor at the Roman Inquisition, an honor which was by no means to Noris' taste: contro tutte le mie ripugnanze   [Clarorum Venetorum ad Ant. Magliabechium, ep. lxxxviii, pp. 271-272;  Pélissier, 51].

      He was raised to the cardinalate on December 12, 1695, and was granted the titulus of S. Agostino (1696-1704). Two days earlier, as he noted the festivities surrounding the occasion, his book on the Pelagians had been denounced again, to the Inquisition in Spain [Pélissier, 52; and see Clarorum Venetorum ad Ant. Magliabechium, lxxxxv p. 181-182 (December 17, 1695)].  In January, 1696, the Datary assigned him the Badia d' Anghiari to supplement his income; he resigned the position in August, 1697.  His own Republic of Venice offered him a pension of 6000 scudi (as they regularly did for any cardinal of the Serene Republic), but Noris declined to become obligated [Pélissier, 52].   His new eminence brought inconveniences, as he wrote to Magliabecchi [Valery (ed.), Correspondence inédite de Mabillon et de Montfaucon avec l' Italie  III (Paris 1847), p. 13 n. 3]:

Vado provando, e non posso finire d' addobbare la mia casa, che non è capace di 28 persone, quante formano la mia corte. Ho comprato cinque carrozze, e tengo 8 cavalli. Ho spesi spora mille scudi nella Cappella ec., e spesso ripeto con Seneca appresso Tacito lib XIV: Ubi est animus ille modicis contentus? Non ho piedi per fare caminate, perchè li Cardinali non possono andare a piedi per Roma. Non ho mani per scrivere, perchè sta uno ab epistolis che mi assiste; non per bere, mentre altro adest a potionibus.  Se mi voglio vestire, mi attorniano tre Aiutanti di Camera, ed io paio una statua, che viene vestita. Il peggio, è a me più strano si è, che sonate le ore 14 la giornata non è più mia, ma si deve consumare o in dare udienza, o nell' assistere alle congregazioni, onde posso dire con S. Paoo cap 2 ad Galatas: Vivo autem jam non ego. E pure in questa gran metamorfosi ogn' uno meco si rallegra, e ancora V. S. nel leggerla descritta, si mouverà alle risa.


At the same time, in a letter of December 26, 1695, Dom Jean Mabillon responds to the news of Noris' creation  [V. Thuiller (editor), Ouvrages posthumes de D. Jean Mabillon et de D. Thierri Ruinart   I (Paris 1724), p. 501 (December 26, 1695)]:

Son Alt. Monseigneur le Cardinal de Bouillon me fit hier la grace de m'envoier la liste des Cardinaux de la derniere promotion. J'ai été ravi d'y voir le R. P. Abbé de S. Gal et le Revérendissime P. Noris.  Je vous puis assurer que la promotion sur tout de ce dernier fait un véritable plaisir à tous les gens de Lettres desinteressez de ce pais-ci. J'en ai un très-grand en mon particulier, connoissant comme je sais sa personne aussi-bien que son mérite et ses rares qualitez. Sa Sainteté a honoré les Lettres en sa personne, et je ne sai s'il y aura personne dans cette promotion qui lui fasse plus d'honneur, et qui autorise davantage son bon choix....

In February, 1696, he was appointed one of the Examiners of Bishops. By 1697, as he himself says, he was attending not one or another Congregation, but all of them.  He himself mentions the SC Consistorial, the Index, the Holy Office, the Regulars, and the Council [Ballerini, Opera Omnia  Tomus Quartus (Verona 1732), at pp.  xxxii-xxxiii].  On July 4, 1698, Estiennot wrote to Mabillon [Valery (ed.), Correspondence inédite de Mabillon et de Montfaucon avec l' Italie  III (Paris 1847), 9] about the latest news in Rome, "Son Eminence Noris vous aime et vous estime.  Mais ce pauvre seigneur est accablé; il a preque tous les jours des congrégations ordinaires ou extraordinaires.  Il faut par conséquent qu'il travaille. Il aime la congrégation et l'a fait voir dans sa réponse aux Scruples d'un docteur de Sorbonne [Responsio ad scrupulos doctoris Sorbonici]."   The two Benedictines considered Noris to be one of 'our friends':  "Vous pouvez toujours sur ma parole," Mabillon writes to Estiannot, "dire à nos amis, c'est à dire à leurs Emin. Casanata, Colloredo, d'Aguirre, et Noris, que cette pièce est approuvée ici de tous les Savans et de M. de Paris même....' [V. Thuiller (editor), Ouvrages posthumes de D. Jean Mabillon et de D. Thierri Ruinart   I (Paris 1724), p. 508 (February 25, 1697)].

In the Autumn of 1700, Cardinal Noris took part in the Conclave which followed on the death of Pope Innocent XII (Pignatelli) on September 27, 1700.  It was alleged by Cardinal Gabrielli, one of Noris' opponents in the Holy Office, where the conflict over Quietism between Bossuet and Fenelon was being debated, that Noris had designs on the Papacy for himself.  Noris had a strong dislike of Louis XIV [Pélissier, 41].  He was apparently hostile to the Gallican Articles and Gallicanism [Valery (ed.), Correspondence inédite de Mabillon et de Montfaucon avec l' Italie  I (Paris 1847), p. 296-297—if the unsigned letter produced and attributed to him by Fr. Schelstrate was actually his].   The Conclave eventually elected Cardinal Giovanni Francesco Albani as Pope Clement XI (November 23, 1700).

      In 1700, Cardinal Noris, Cardinal Casanate, and Cardinal Ferrari, OP, were appointed by Clement XI to examine the question of Chinese rites, which had been a problem for the Jesuits for years [Valery (ed.), Correspondence inédite de Mabillon et de Montfaucon avec l' Italie  III (Paris 1847), pp. 106-107 and n. 5; letter of Montfaucon to Gattola, October 23, 1700;  Laemmer, Zur Kirchengeschichte, pp. 97-98]. These three cardinals were favorable to the Jesuits, and therefore the Jesuit view would receive a friendly hearing. But on March 3, 1700, Cardinal Casanate died.  Noris was appointed Librarian and Archivist of the Holy Roman Church (1700-1704) in succession to Cardinal Casanate — and granted an annual pension of 5585 scudi by Pope Clement XI from the Pope's own personal income.  He was also appointed to a special Commission, organized by Clement XI in 1701, to deal with the problem of moveable feasts in the Gregorian calendar, and the question of whether epacts should continue to be used in the calculations.  The situation had been made pressing since the decision of the Protestant powers to finally adopt the Gregorian system.  Noris' three earlier treatises on the Syro-Macedonian calendar made him the resident expert on the topic.

     Around the year 1700, the Cardinal began to suffer symptoms of a swelling in the neighborhood of his umbilical cord. He was for many years in fear of hydropsy, a case of which he had seen in a colleague during his years in Padua.   He did not see a doctor, he took no medicines, he continued his heavy work load.  The condition grew worse and worse.  Finally, the swelling of his feet indicated to him that his disease was in its last stages. He undertook his spiritual preparations for his death [life by the Ballerini brothers, in Opera Omnia  Tomus Quartus (Verona 1732), xxxviii]. Noris died on February 23, 1704, and on the third day after his death was buried in his titular church, S. Agostino, where his bust and memorial inscription are to be seen [V. Forcella  Inscrizione delle chiese di Roma 5, p. 100, no. 300].  His funeral was attended by Giusto Fontantini, a fellow member of the Arcadian Academy, who sent a brief description to Magliabecchi [Clarorum Venetorum ad Ant. Magliabechium, p. 249 (March 1, 1704)]:  Lunedì fu sepolto a S. Agostino il Cardin. Noris, e tutta Roma concorse all' esequie. Abbiamo perduto un grand' Uomo, e al Vescovo di S. Asaf spiacerà, che non possa leggere la sua Cronologia.  Povero Noris!  Adesso vedrà il Macedo, V. Alloix, l' Ammato, il Garnerio, e gli altri suoi Aversarii, e si riderà de i contrasti di questo Mondo.


His memorial inscription in S. Agostino reads:






Cardinal Enrico NorisA "Vita" of Cardinal Noris by Hieronymus Zazzerio, OESA, precedes the 1708 edition of his Historia Pelagiana (Patavii 1708); it is reprinted in J. L. Berti, OESA, Henrici Norisii Opera Omnia Theologica  Tomus Primus (Venice 1769), xii-xviii.  

A second, by Msgr. Francesco Bianchini, also of 1708, was published by Giovan Mario Crescimbeni, Le vite degli Arcadi illustri  Parte prima (Roma: Antonio de' Rossi 1708), 199-222.  Francesco Bianchini of Verona was a Canon of the Liberian Basilica, Referendary of the Two Signatures, and Domestic Prelate of the Pope; he died on March 2, 1729, at the age of 67, and was buried in S. Maria Maggiore. [V. Forcella, Inscrizioni delle chiese di Roma XI, p. 90 no. 179; Oreste Raggi, Monumenti sepolcrali eretti in Roma agli uomini celebri  I (Roma 1841) pp. 215-220]

A third life, by Pietro and Hieronymo Ballerini, first published in 1732, can be found at pp. xix-xxxiv in the Berti edition, and in the Opera Omnia  Tomus Quartus (Verona 1732), at pp.  xiii-xlii. 

See also  M. Guarnacci, I, 447-454;  Moroni,  Dizionario storico-ecclesiastica 49 (Venezia 1848), 103-105; Pélissier, Studi e documenti di storia e diritto   11 (1890), 25-64; 253-332.

Cardinal Noris' papers are preserved in the Bibliotheca Angelica at S. Agostino.   Hugo Laemmer  [Kirchengeschichte des sechszehnten un siebenzehnten Jahrhunderts (Freibourg i. Breisgau 1863), pp. 96-102] gives an overview of some of the contents, including materials on the Quietism debate, the Chinese controversy, the work of the Congregation of the Index, issues before the Holy Inquisition, the correction of the Calendar, the Issue of Regalian rights in France, etc.











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