Italian Cultural Institute
Italian Cultural Institute, 686 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10065
Events at this location
Marina Caffiero, University of Rome
Marina Caffiero, University of Rome La Sapienza.
Free and open to the public. Reservations: email@example.com
Marina Caffiero will discuss the symbolism of the ceremony of the Papal adventus, its transformation over time and the role of the Jews.
In the Middle Ages, Roman Jews used to exhibit for the new Pope and later present him with a Torah scroll. Through this act they defined themselves as people of the book. Some sources report of a ritual in which upon receiving it, the Pope let the Torah drop on the ground. The symbolism surrounding the law of the Torah and the legitimacy of the two religions is very present at this time. By the 14th century the Pope confirmed the law but rejected any rabbinical interpretation of it. With Leone X, in 1513, the ritual of the book ended. The years following are those of the sack of Rome in 1527, the burning of the Talmud in 1553, and the installation of the Ghetto in 1555. We do not have documents concerning the participation of the Jews in the papal installation during this period.
Starting in 1590, however, the Universitas Haebreorum, as the Jewish Community was called, was again present in the inaugural horse parade that brought the new Pope across the city from San Peter to San Giovanni in Laterano. The Jews were assigned the Arch of Septimius Severus and decorated it with panels and welcoming inscriptions in Latin and Hebrew. Around the middle of the 1600 they were moved to the route that goes from the Arch of Titus (under which Roman Jews traditionally do not pass) to the Coliseum, which they were requested to decorate with tapestry and painted paper panels installed over wooden racks. Pius VI was the last Pope to be installed with the triumphal cavalcade in 1775. After him, Pius VII was elected in exile because of the Napoleonic wars. He arrived in Rome a year later and took power with a much simpler ceremony. He eliminated the participation of guilds, associations, and the Jews from the public ceremony, and receives their gift in private.
Marina Caffiero is Professor of History at the University of Rome ”La Sapienza.” She is the author of many books and editor of Sources for Women’s History. Her study Forced Baptisms was published in English in 2011 and makes use of newly available archival sources to reexamine the Roman Catholic Church’s policy, from the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries, of coercing the Jews of Rome into converting to Christianity. Marina Caffiero, one of the first historians permitted access to important archives, sets individual stories of denunciation, betrayal, pleading, and conflict into historical context to highlight the Church’s actions and the Jewish response. Caffiero documents the regularity with which Jews were abducted from the Roman ghetto and pressured to accept baptism. She analyzes why some Jewish men, interested in gaining a business advantage, were more inclined to accept conversion than the women. The book exposes the complexity of relations between the papacy and the Jews, revealing the Church not as a monolithic entity, but as a network of competing institutions, and affirming the Roman Jews as active agents of resistance.