Mortara case (Italian: caso Mortara) was an Italian cause
célèbre that captured the attention of much of Europe and North
America in the 1850s and 1860s. It concerned the Papal States' seizure
from a Jewish family in
Bologna of one of their children, six-year-old
Edgardo Mortara, on the basis of a former servant's testimony that she
had administered emergency baptism to the boy when he fell sick as an
infant. Mortara grew up as a Catholic under the protection of Pope
Pius IX—who refused his parents' desperate pleas for his
return—and eventually became a priest. The domestic and
international outrage against the pontifical state's actions may have
contributed to its downfall amid the unification of Italy.
In late 1857, Bologna's inquisitor Father Pier Feletti heard that Anna
Morisi, who had worked in the Mortara house for six years, had
secretly baptised Edgardo when she had thought he was about to die as
a baby. The Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal
Inquisition held that this made the child irrevocably a Catholic and,
Papal States forbade the raising of Christians by members
of other faiths, ordered that he be taken from his family and brought
up by the Church. Police came to the Mortara home late on 23 June 1858
and removed Edgardo the following evening.
After the child's father was allowed to visit him during August and
September 1858, two starkly different narratives emerged—one told of
a boy who wanted to return to his family and the faith of his
ancestors, while the other described a child who had learned the
catechism perfectly and wanted his parents to become Catholics as
well. International protests mounted, but the
Pope would not be moved.
After pontifical rule in
Bologna ended in 1859, Father Feletti was
prosecuted for his role in Mortara's seizure, but was acquitted when
the court decided he had simply followed orders. With the
Pope as a
substitute father, Mortara trained for the priesthood in
Kingdom of Italy
Kingdom of Italy captured the city in 1870, ending the Papal
States. Leaving the country, he was ordained in France three years
later at the age of 21. Father Mortara spent most of his life outside
Italy and died in Belgium in 1940, aged 88.
For many, the Vatican's actions encapsulated all that was wrong with
Papal States and exposed pontifical rule as an anachronism.
Several historians highlight the affair as one of the most significant
events of Pius IX's papacy, and juxtapose his handling of it in 1858
with the loss of most of his territory a year later. The case notably
altered the policy of the French Emperor Napoleon III, who shifted
from opposing the movement for
Italian unification to actively
supporting it. The traditional Italian historiography of unification
does not give much prominence to the Mortara case, which by the late
20th century was remembered mostly by Jewish scholars, but a 1997
study by the American historian
David Kertzer has marked the start of
a wider re-examination.
1.1 Political context
1.2 Mortara and Morisi
3.1 Initial appeal; Morisi confronted
3.2 Two narratives
3.3 Lepori's denial; Morisi discredited
3.4 Alatri, then back to Rome
4.1 International scandal; political machinations
4.2 Montefiore's petition; fall of Bologna
5.1 Feletti arrested
5.3 Trial; acquittal
5.4 Plans to recapture Edgardo
6.1 Italian unification; Edgardo flees
6.2 Father Mortara
7 Appraisal and legacy
8 Notes and references
9 External links
Pope Pius IX
Pope Pius IX (r. 1846–1878), depicted in
Harper's Weekly in 1867
Map of Italy in 1843. The
Papal States had their capital in Rome.
For more than a millennium, starting around 754, the
Papal States were
territories in Italy under the direct sovereign rule of the Pope.
The Catholic Church's control over
Rome and a neighbouring swathe of
central Italy was generally seen as a manifestation of the Pope's
secular "temporal" power, as opposed to his ecclesiastical
primacy. After the end of the
Napoleonic Wars in 1815, the other
main Italian states were the Kingdom of Sardinia—governed from
Piedmont on the mainland by King Victor Emmanuel II—the Kingdom of
the Two Sicilies in the south, and the
Grand Duchy of Tuscany
Grand Duchy of Tuscany in the
west. The French occupation during the 1790s had led the Pope's
popularity and spiritual authority to greatly increase, but had
also severely damaged the geopolitical credibility of the Papal
States. The historian
David Kertzer suggests that by the 1850s "what
had once appeared so solid—a product of the divine order of
things—now seemed terribly fragile".
Pope Pius IX, elected in 1846, was initially widely seen as a great
reformer and moderniser who might throw his weight behind the growing
movement for Italian unification—referred to in Italian as the
Risorgimento (meaning "Resurgence"). When the revolutions of 1848
broke out, however, he refused to support a pan-Italian campaign
against the Austrian Empire, which controlled Lombardy–Venetia in
the north-east. This prompted a popular uprising in the Papal
Pope Pius's flight to the Two Sicilies, and the proclamation
in 1849 of the short-lived Roman Republic, which was crushed by
Austrian and French intervention in support of the Pope.
thereafter guarded by French troops while Austrians garrisoned the
rest of the Papal States, much to the resentment of most of the
Pope Pius shared the traditional pontifical view that
Papal States were essential to his independence as head of the
Catholic Church. He regained some of his popularity during the
1850s, but the drive for
Italian unification spearheaded by the
Kingdom of Sardinia
Kingdom of Sardinia continued to unsettle him.
The Jews of the Papal States, numbering 15,000 or so in 1858, were
Pope Pius IX
Pope Pius IX because he had ended the long-standing legal
obligation for them to attend sermons in church four times a year,
based on that week's Torah portion and aimed at their conversion to
Christianity. He had also torn down the gates of the Roman Ghetto
despite the objections of many Christians. However, Jews remained
under many restrictions and the vast majority still lived in the
Mortara and Morisi
Edgardo Levi Mortara,[n 1] the sixth of eight children born to
Salomone "Momolo" Mortara, a Jewish merchant, and his wife Marianna
(née Padovani), was born on 27 August 1851 in Bologna, one of the
Papal Legations in the pontifical state's far north. The family had
moved in 1850 from the Duchy of Modena, just west of Bologna.
Bologna's Jewish population of about 900 had been expelled in 1593 by
Pope Clement VIII. Some Jews, mostly merchants like Edgardo's
father, had started to settle in
Bologna again during the 1790s, and
by 1858 there was a Jewish community of about 200 in the city. The
Bologna practised Judaism discreetly, with neither a rabbi nor
a synagogue. The
Papal States officially forbade them to have
Christian servants, but observant Jewish families perceived gentile
maids as essential because they were not covered by Jewish laws, and
thus provided a way for Jews to have household tasks carried out while
still observing their Sabbath. In practice Church authorities
turned a blind eye, and almost every Jewish family in
at least one Catholic woman.
A few months after Edgardo's birth, the Mortara family engaged a new
servant: Anna "Nina" Morisi, an 18-year-old Catholic from the nearby
village of San Giovanni in Persiceto. Like all her family and friends,
Morisi was illiterate. She had come to the city, following her
three sisters, to work and save money towards a dowry so she could
eventually marry. In early 1855, Morisi became pregnant, as was
not uncommon for unmarried servants in
Bologna at this time. Many
employers would simply sack girls in such situations, but the Mortaras
did not; they paid for Morisi to spend the last four months of her
pregnancy at a midwife's home and deliver the child, then had her
return to work with them. To protect Morisi and themselves from
embarrassment, they told neighbours that their maid was sick and
recuperating at home. Morisi gave her newborn baby to an
orphanage, as the
Papal States required unwed mothers to do, then
returned to work with the Mortaras. She remained there until she
was hired by another
Bologna family in 1857; soon after that she
married and moved back to San Giovanni in Persiceto.
In October 1857 the inquisitor of Bologna, a Dominican friar called
Father Pier Gaetano Feletti, learned of rumours to the effect that a
secret baptism had been administered to one of the city's Jewish
children by a Catholic servant. If true, this would make the child
a Catholic in the eyes of the Church—a fact with secular as well as
spiritual ramifications since the Church stance was that children they
considered to be Christians could not be raised by non-Christians, and
should be taken from their parents in such circumstances. Cases
like this were not uncommon in 19th-century Italy, and often revolved
around the baptism of a Jewish child by a Christian servant. The
official Church position was that Catholics should not baptise Jewish
children without the parents' consent, except if a child was on the
brink of death—in these cases the Church considered the customary
deferment to parental authority to be outweighed by the importance of
allowing the child's soul to be saved and go to Heaven, and permitted
baptism without the parents' assent. Many Jewish families feared
clandestine baptisms by their Christian maids; to counter this
perceived threat some households required Christians leaving their
employment to sign notarised statements confirming that they had never
baptised any of the children.
Basilica of San Domenico
Basilica of San Domenico in Bologna, photographed in 2006
The servant identified in the rumours was Anna Morisi. After receiving
written permission to investigate from the Supreme Sacred Congregation
of the Roman and Universal Inquisition (also called the Holy Office),
the body of cardinals responsible for overseeing and defending
Catholic doctrine, Feletti interrogated her at the Basilica of San
Domenico in Bologna. Morisi averred that while she was employed by
the Mortaras, their infant son Edgardo had fallen gravely sick while
in her care, leading her to fear he might die. She said that she had
performed an emergency baptism herself—sprinkling some water on the
boy's head and saying: "I baptise you in the Name of the Father, and
of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost"—but had never revealed this to
the child's family. Edgardo had since recovered. Feletti had Morisi
swear to keep the story quiet and sent a transcript of the meeting to
Rome, requesting permission to remove the now six-year-old Edgardo
from his family.
It is not known by historians whether
Pope Pius IX
Pope Pius IX was involved in any
of the early Holy Office discussions over Mortara, or was otherwise
aware of Feletti's initial investigation. He was its official head but
he only occasionally attended its meetings, and was not likely to be
consulted about what the cardinals saw as routine matters. For the
Holy Office, situations such as that reported by Feletti presented a
profound quandary—on the one hand the Church officially disapproved
of forced conversions, but on the other it held that the baptismal
sacrament was sacrosanct and that if it had been properly
administered, the recipient was thereafter a member of the Christian
communion. In accordance with the 1747 papal bull Postremo mense,
the laws of the
Papal States held that it was illegal to take a child
from non-Christian parents for baptism (unless it was dying), but if
such a child was indeed baptised the Church was held to bear
responsibility to provide a Christian education and remove it from its
parents.[n 2] The cardinals considered Morisi's account and
ultimately accepted it as bearing "all the earmarks of the truth
without leaving the least doubt about the reality and the validity of
the baptism she performed". Feletti was instructed to arrange
Edgardo's removal and transport to the
House of Catechumens in Rome,
where instruction was given to those newly converted or in the process
of converting to Catholicism.[n 3]
A detail of papal carabinieri (military police) led by Marshal Pietro
Lucidi and Brigadier Giuseppe Agostini arrived at the Mortara
Bologna soon after sunset on 23 June 1858. After asking a
few questions about the family, Lucidi announced: "Signor Mortara, I
am sorry to inform you that you are the victim of a betrayal", and
explained that they were under orders from Father Feletti to take
Edgardo as he had been baptised. Marianna screamed hysterically,
ran to Edgardo's bed and shrieked that they would have to kill her
before taking him. Lucidi said repeatedly that he was only
following Feletti's orders. He reported afterwards that he "would have
a thousand times preferred to be exposed to much more serious dangers
in performing my duties than to have to witness such a painful
Lucidi offered to let Edgardo's father accompany them to the
inquisitor to discuss the matter with him—Momolo refused—then
allowed Momolo to send his eldest son Riccardo to summon relatives and
neighbours. Marianna's uncle Angelo Padovani, a prominent member of
Bologna's Jewish community, concluded that their only hope was to
appeal to Feletti. The inquisitor received Padovani and Marianna's
brother-in-law Angelo Moscato at San Domenico soon after 23:00.
Feletti said that he, like Lucidi, was merely following orders. He
declined to reveal why it was thought that Edgardo had been baptised,
saying that this was confidential. When the men begged him to at least
give the family one last day with Edgardo, the inquisitor acquiesced
on the condition that no attempt was made to spirit the child away. He
gave Padovani a note to this effect to pass on to the marshal. Lucidi
left as ordered, leaving two men to stay in the Mortaras' bedroom and
watch over Edgardo.
The Mortaras spent the morning of 24 June attempting to have Feletti's
order overruled by either the city's cardinal legate, Giuseppe Milesi
Pironi Ferretti, or the Archbishop of Bologna, Michele Viale-Prelà,
but they found that neither was in the city. Around noon, the
Mortaras decided to take steps to make the separation as painless as
possible. Edgardo's siblings were taken to visit relatives while
Marianna reluctantly agreed to spend the evening with the wife of
Giuseppe Vitta, a Jewish family friend. Around 17:00 Momolo
visited San Domenico to make one last plea to Feletti. The inquisitor
repeated all he had said to Padovani and Moscato the previous night
and told Momolo not to worry as Edgardo would be well cared for, under
the protection of the
Pope himself. He warned that it would benefit
no-one to make a scene when the carabinieri returned that evening.
Momolo came home to find the apartment empty apart from Vitta,
Marianna's brother (also called Angelo Padovani), the two policemen
and Edgardo himself. At about 20:00 the carabinieri arrived, in
two carriages—one for Lucidi and his men, and another in which
Agostini would drive Edgardo. Lucidi entered the apartment and took
Edgardo from his father's arms, prompting the two policemen who had
guarded him to shed tears. Momolo followed the police down the
stairs to the street, then fainted. Edgardo was passed to Agostini and
Initial appeal; Morisi confronted
Giacomo Antonelli, the Pope's head of government as Cardinal Secretary
With no way of knowing where the boy had been taken—Momolo found out
only in early July—the Mortaras, supported by the Jewish communities
Rome and elsewhere in Italy, initially focused on drafting
appeals and trying to rally support from Jews abroad. The greatly
expanded public voice wielded by Jews in western European countries
following recent moves towards freedom of the press, coupled with
Jewish political emancipation in the Kingdom of Sardinia, Britain,
France and the United States, caused Mortara's removal to gain press
attention far beyond anything previously given to such incidents.
The papal government was initially disposed to simply ignore Momolo's
appeals, but reconsidered after newspapers began reporting on the
case; the pontifical state's many detractors seized on the episode as
an example of papal tyranny.
Anxious to protect the Papal States' precarious diplomatic position,
Cardinal Secretary of State
Cardinal Secretary of State
Giacomo Antonelli liaised with Rome's
Jewish community to arrange a meeting with Momolo Mortara, and
received him politely in early August 1858. Antonelli promised
that the matter would be referred to the
Pope and granted Momolo's
request that he be allowed to visit Edgardo regularly in the House of
Catechumens. Kertzer cites Antonelli's concession of repeated
visits, as opposed to the usual single meeting, as the first sign that
Mortara case would take on a special significance.
The attempts of the Mortaras and their allies to identify who was
supposed to have baptised Edgardo quickly bore fruit. After their
present servant Anna Facchini adamantly denied any involvement, they
considered former employees and soon earmarked Morisi as a possible
candidate. In late July 1858 the Mortara home was visited by Ginerva
Scagliarini, a friend of Morisi's who had once worked for Marianna's
brother-in-law Cesare De Angelis. Marianna's brother Angelo Padovani
tested Scagliarini by saying falsely that he had heard it was Morisi
who had baptised Edgardo. The ruse worked—Scagliarini said that she
had been told the same thing by Morisi's sister Monica.
The younger Angelo Padovani went with De Angelis to confront Morisi in
San Giovanni in Persiceto. Padovani recalled finding her in tears.
After the visitors assured her that they meant no harm, Morisi
recounted what she had told Feletti. She said that a grocer named
Cesare Lepori had suggested the baptism when she mentioned Edgardo's
sickness, and shown her how to perform it. She had not mentioned it to
anyone, she went on, until soon after Edgardo's brother Aristide died
at the age of one in 1857—when a neighbour's servant called Regina
proposed that Morisi should have baptised Aristide, that she had done
so to Edgardo "slipped out of my mouth". According to Padovani,
Morisi described crying during her interrogation by the inquisitor,
and expressed guilt over Edgardo's removal: "figuring that it was all
my fault, I was very unhappy, and still am." Morisi agreed to have
this formally recorded, but was gone when Padovani and De Angelis
returned after three hours with a notary and two witnesses.[n 5] After
searching for her in vain, they went back to
Bologna with only their
hearsay account of her story, which Padovani thought genuine: "Her
words, and her demeanour, and her tears before she could launch into
her story, persuaded me that what she told me was all true."
Edgardo was visited by his father several times under the supervision
of the rector of the Catechumens, Enrico Sarra, from mid-August to
mid-September 1858. The wildly divergent accounts of what happened
during these encounters grew into two rival narratives of the entire
case. Momolo's version of events, favoured by the Jewish community and
other backers, was that a family had been destroyed by the
government's religious fanaticism, that helpless Edgardo had spent the
Rome crying for his parents, and that the boy wanted
nothing more than to return home.[n 6] The narrative favoured by
the Church and its supporters, and propagated in the Catholic press
throughout Europe, was one of divinely ordained, soul-stirring
redemption, and a child endowed with spiritual strength far beyond his
years—the neophyte Edgardo had faced a life of error followed by
eternal damnation but now stood to share in Christian salvation, and
was distraught that his parents would not convert with him.
The central theme in almost all renditions of the narrative favouring
the Mortara family was that of Marianna Mortara's health. From July
1858 onwards it was reported across Europe that as a result of her
grief, Edgardo's mother had practically if not actually gone insane,
and might even die. The powerful image of the heartbroken mother
was stressed heavily in the family's appeals both to the public and to
Edgardo himself. Momolo and the secretary of Rome's Jewish community,
Sabatino Scazzocchio, told Edgardo that his mother's life was at risk
if he did not come back soon. When Marianna wrote to her son in
August, Scazzocchio refused to deliver the letter on the grounds that,
being relatively calm and reassuring in tone, it might work against
the impression they were trying to give him that she was no longer
herself and that only his return could save her. One correspondent
reported in January 1859: "The father shows a great deal of courage,
but the mother is having a hard time carrying on. ... If the Holy
Father had seen this woman as I saw her, he would not have the courage
to keep her son another moment."[n 7]
There were many different versions of the Catholic story, but all
followed the same basic structure. All had Edgardo quickly and
fervently embracing Christianity and trying to learn as much as
possible about it. Most described a dramatic scene of Edgardo
wondering at a painting of the Virgin Mary in sorrow, either in Rome
or during the journey from Bologna. Agostini, the policeman who
had escorted him to Rome, reported that the boy had at first
stubbornly refused to enter a church with him for mass, but displayed
an apparently miraculous transformation when he did.[n 8] A common
theme was that Edgardo had become a kind of prodigy—according to an
eyewitness account published in the Catholic L'armonia della religione
colla civiltà, he had learned the catechism perfectly within a few
days, "blesse[d] the servant who baptised him," and declared that he
wanted to convert all Jews to Christianity. The most influential
pro-Church article on Mortara was an account published in the Jesuit
La Civiltà Cattolica
La Civiltà Cattolica in November 1858, and subsequently
reprinted or quoted in Catholic papers across Europe. This story
had the child begging the rector of the Catechumens not to send him
back but to let him grow up in a Christian home, and initiated what
became a central plank of the pro-Church narrative—that Edgardo had
a new family, namely the
Catholic Church itself. The article
quoted Edgardo as saying: "I am baptised; I am baptised and my father
is the Pope."
According to Kertzer, the proponents of this pro-Church narrative did
not seem to realise that to many these accounts sounded "too good to
be true" and "absurd." Kertzer comments: "If Edgardo in fact told
his father that he did not want to return with him, that he now
Pope as his true father and wanted to devote his life to
converting the Jews, this message seems not to have registered with
Momolo." Liberals, Protestants and Jews across the continent
ridiculed the Catholic press reports. A booklet published in
Brussels in 1859 outlined the two contrasting narratives, then
concluded: "Between the miracle of a six-year-old apostle who wants to
convert the Jews and the cry of a child who keeps asking for his
mother and his little sisters, we don't hesitate for a moment."
Mortara's parents furiously denounced the Catholic accounts as lies,
but some of their supporters were less certain about where Edgardo's
loyalties now lay. These included Scazzocchio, who had attended some
of the disputed meetings at the Catechumens.
Lepori's denial; Morisi discredited
Momolo returned to
Bologna in late September 1858 after his two
brothers-in-law wrote to him that if he stayed in
Rome any longer the
family might be ruined. He left Scazzocchio to represent the
family's cause in Rome.[n 9] Momolo shifted his priority to
attempting to undermine Morisi's credibility, either by disproving
aspects of her story or by showing her to be untrustworthy. He also
resolved to confront Cesare Lepori, the grocer who Morisi said had
both suggested the baptism and shown her how to perform it. Based
on Morisi's story, Lepori had already been identified by many
observers as being ultimately to blame for the affair. When Momolo
visited his shop in early October, Lepori vehemently denied that he
had ever spoken to Morisi about Edgardo or any baptism, and said that
he was prepared to testify to this effect before any legal
authority. He claimed that he did not himself know how to
administer baptism, so had such a conversation occurred it could
hardly have gone as Morisi described.
Carlo Maggi, a Catholic acquaintance of Momolo's who was also a
retired judge, sent a report of Lepori's refutation to Scazzocchio,
who asked Antonelli to pass it on to the Pope. A cover letter attached
to Maggi's statement described it as proof that Morisi's story was
false. Scazzocchio also forwarded an affidavit from the Mortara
family doctor, Pasquale Saragoni, who acknowledged that Edgardo had
fallen sick when he was about a year old, but stated that he had never
been in danger of dying, and that in any case Morisi had been herself
bedridden at the time she was supposed to have baptised the boy. A
further report sent from
Bologna in October 1858, comprising the
statements of eight women and one man, all Catholics, corroborated the
doctor's claims about the sicknesses of Edgardo and Morisi
respectively, and alleged that the former maid was given to theft and
sexual impropriety. Four women, including the servant Anna
Facchini and the woman who had employed Morisi after she left the
Mortaras, Elena Pignatti, claimed that Morisi had regularly flirted
with Austrian officers and invited them into her employers' homes for
Alatri, then back to Rome
Momolo set out for
Rome again on 11 October 1858, this time bringing
Marianna with him in the hope that her presence might make a stronger
impression on the Church and Edgardo. Anxious about the possible
consequences of a dramatic reunification between mother and son, the
rector Enrico Sarra took Edgardo from
Rome to Alatri, his own home
town about 100 kilometres (62 mi) away. The Mortaras tracked them
to a church in Alatri, where from the door Momolo saw a priest saying
mass—and Edgardo by his side assisting him. Momolo waited
outside, and afterwards persuaded the rector to let him see his son.
Before this meeting could take place, the Mortaras were arrested on
the orders of the Mayor of Alatri, himself following a request from
the town's bishop, and despatched back to Rome. Antonelli was not
impressed, thinking this an undignified line of action that would give
obvious ammunition to the Church's detractors, and ordered Sarra to
bring Edgardo back to the capital to meet his parents.
Edgardo returned to the Catechumens on 22 October, and was visited by
his parents often over the next month. As with Momolo's first
round of visits, two different versions emerged of what happened.
According to Edgardo's parents, the boy was obviously intimidated by
the clergymen around him and threw himself into his mother's arms when
he first saw her. Marianna later said: "He had lost weight and had
turned pale; his eyes were filled with terror ... I told him that
he was born a Jew like us and like us he must always remain one, and
he replied: 'Si, mia cara mamma, I will never forget to say the Shema
every day.'"[n 10] One report in the Jewish press described the
priests telling Edgardo's parents that God had chosen their son to be
"the apostle of Christianity to his family, dedicated to converting
his parents and his siblings", and that they could have him back
if they also became Christians. The clerics and nuns then knelt and
prayed for the conversion of the Mortara household, prompting
Edgardo's parents to leave in terror.
The pro-Church accounts, by contrast, described a boy very much
resolved to stay where he was, and horrified by his mother's
exhortations to return to the Judaism of his ancestors. In this
narrative, the main reason for the Mortaras' grief was not that their
son had been taken, but that he now stood to grow up in the Christian
faith. According to La Civiltà Cattolica, Marianna flew into a rage
on seeing a medallion hanging from Edgardo's neck bearing the image of
the Virgin Mary, and ripped it off; one article went so far as to
claim the Jewish mother had done this with the words: "I'd rather see
you dead than a Christian!" Some of the Church's critics had
charged that by keeping Edgardo, it was violating the commandment that
a child should honour his father and mother—La Civiltà Cattolica
countered that Edgardo still loved his family despite their religious
differences and indeed, after being taught by the priests to read and
write, had chosen to write his first letter to his mother, signing it
"your most affectionate little son". Louis Veuillot, the
ultramontane editor of the
L'Univers newspaper and one of the Pope's
staunchest defenders, reported after meeting Edgardo in
Rome that the
boy had told him "that he loves his father and his mother, and that he
will go to live with them when he is older ... so that he can
speak to them of Saint Peter, of God, and of the most Holy Mary."
International scandal; political machinations
Napoleon III of France was among the international figures enraged by
the Papal States' actions over Mortara.
Having made no progress in Rome, Momolo and Marianna Mortara returned
Bologna in early December 1858, and soon afterwards moved to
Turin, in Piedmont. The case—an anti-Catholic "publicist's
dream", to quote Kertzer—had by now become a massive controversy in
both Europe and the United States, with voices across the social
spectrum clamouring for the
Pope to return Edgardo to his
parents. Mortara became a cause célèbre not only for Jews
but for Protestant Christians as well, particularly in the United
States, where anti-Catholic sentiment abounded—The New York Times
published more than 20 articles on the case in December 1858
alone. In Britain,
The Spectator presented the
Mortara case as
evidence that the
Papal States had "the worst government in the
world—the most insolvent and the most arrogant, the cruelest and the
meanest". The Catholic press both in Italy and abroad steadfastly
defended the Pope's actions. The pro-Church articles often took on
an overtly anti-Semitic character, charging for example that if
coverage in Britain, France or Germany was critical this was hardly a
surprise "since currently the newspapers of Europe are in good part in
the hands of the Jews". Scazzocchio suggested that the press
storm attacking the Church was actually counter-productive for the
Mortara family's cause, as it angered the
Pope and thereby steeled his
resolve not to compromise.
Regardless of whether
Pope Pius IX
Pope Pius IX had been personally involved in the
decision to remove Mortara from his parents—whether he had been or
not was debated extensively in the press—what is certain is that he
was greatly surprised by the international furore that erupted over
the matter. He adopted the position, based on Postremo mense, that to
return the baptised child to his non-Christian family would be
incompatible with Church doctrine. As foreign governments
and the various branches of the
Rothschild family one by one condemned
his actions, Pius IX stood firm on what he saw as a matter of
principle. Those angered included Emperor
Napoleon III of France,
who found the situation particularly vexing as the pontifical
government owed its very existence to the French garrison in Rome.
Napoleon III had indifferently supported the Pope's temporal rule
because it enjoyed widespread support among French Catholics; the
scandal over Mortara weakened this considerably and, according to the
historian Roger Aubert, provided the final straw that changed French
policy. In February 1859
Napoleon III concluded a secret pact with
Kingdom of Sardinia
Kingdom of Sardinia pledging French military support for a
campaign to drive the Austrians out and unify Italy—most of the
pontifical domain would be absorbed along with the Two Sicilies and
other minor states.[n 11]
It was then an annual custom for the
Pope to receive a delegation from
Rome's Jewish community shortly after the New Year. The meeting on 2
February 1859 quickly descended into a heated argument, with
berating the Jewish visitors for "stirring up a storm all over Europe
about this Mortara case". When the delegation denied that the Jews
Rome had had any hand in the anti-clerical articles, the Pope
dismissed Scazzocchio as inexperienced and foolish, then shouted: "The
newspapers can write all they want. I couldn't care less what the
world thinks!" The
Pope then calmed down somewhat: "So strong is
the pity I have for you, that I pardon you, indeed, I must pardon
you." One of the delegates proposed that the Church should not
give so much credence to Morisi's testimony, given her spurious
Pope countered that regardless of her character, so far
as he could see the servant had no reason to invent such a story, and
in any case Momolo Mortara should not have employed a Catholic in the
Pope Pius IX's determination to keep Edgardo developed into a strong
paternal attachment. According to Edgardo's memoirs, the pontiff
regularly spent time with him and played with him; the
amuse the child by hiding him under his cassock and calling out:
"Where's the boy?" At one of their meetings,
Pope Pius told
Edgardo: "My son, you have cost me dearly, and I have suffered a great
deal because of you." He then said to others present: "Both the
powerful and the powerless tried to steal this boy from me, and
accused me of being barbarous and pitiless. They cried for his
parents, but they failed to recognise that I, too, am his father."
Montefiore's petition; fall of Bologna
Sir Moses Montefiore, president of the Board of Deputies of British
Jews, attempted to intercede on behalf of the Mortara family.
The Italian Jewish appeals brought the attention of Sir Moses
Montefiore, the president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews,
whose willingness to travel great distances to help his
co-religionists—as he had over the Damascus blood libel of 1840, for
example—was already well known. From August to December 1858 he
headed a special British committee on Mortara that relayed reports
Piedmont to British newspapers and Catholic clergymen, and
happily noted the support expressed by British Protestants,
Evangelical Alliance led by Sir Culling Eardley.
After unsuccessfully attempting to have the British government lodge
an official protest with the Vatican, Montefiore resolved to
personally travel to
Rome to present a petition to the
for Edgardo to be returned to his parents. He arrived in
Rome on 5
April 1859.[n 12]
Montefiore failed to gain an audience with the Pope, and was received
by Cardinal Antonelli only on 28 April. Montefiore gave him the Board
of Deputies' petition to pass on to the Pope, and said that he would
wait in the city a week for the pontiff's reply. Two days later,
Rome that fighting had broken out between Austrian and
Piedmontese troops in the north—the War of 1859 had begun. While
most foreign dignitaries fled
Rome as quickly as possible, Montefiore
waited in vain for the Pope's response; he finally left on 10 May.
On his return to Britain more than 2,000 leading citizens—including
79 mayors and provosts, 27 peers, 22 Anglican bishops and archbishops
and 36 members of parliament—signed a protest calling the Pope's
conduct a "dishonour to Christianity", "repulsive to the instincts of
humanity". Meanwhile, the Church quietly had Edgardo confirmed as
a Catholic in a private chapel on 13 May 1859. Edgardo was by this
time no longer in the Catechumens but at San Pietro in Vincoli, a
basilica elsewhere in
Pope Pius had personally decided the
boy would be educated.
As the war turned against the Austrians, the garrison in
early in the morning on 12 June 1859. By the end of the same day the
papal colours flying in the squares had been replaced with the Italian
green, white and red, the cardinal legate had left the city, and a
group styling itself Bologna's provisional government had proclaimed
its desire to join the Kingdom of Sardinia.
Bologna was promptly
incorporated as part of the province of Romagna. The Archbishop
Michele Viale-Prelà attempted to persuade the citizenry not to
co-operate with the new civil authorities, but had little success.
One of the new order's first official acts was to introduce freedom of
religion and make all citizens equal before the law. In November 1859
Luigi Carlo Farini
Luigi Carlo Farini issued a proclamation abolishing the
Luigi Carlo Farini, governor of
Romagna after the papal authorities in
Bologna fell in 1859, ordered an inquiry into the "authors of the
Momolo Mortara spent late 1859 and January 1860 in Paris and London,
trying to rally support. While he was away his father Simon, who lived
about 30 kilometres (19 mi) west of
Bologna in Reggio Emilia,
successfully asked the new authorities in
Romagna to launch an inquiry
into the Mortara case. On 31 December 1859 Farini ordered his justice
minister to pursue the "authors of the kidnapping". Filippo
Curletti, the new director-general of police for Romagna, was put in
charge of the investigation. After two officers identified the
erstwhile inquisitor Feletti as having given the order to take
Edgardo, Curletti and a detachment of police went to San Domenico and
arrested him at about 02:30 on 2 January 1860.
The police inspectors questioned Feletti, but each time they asked
about anything to do with Mortara or his removal the monk said that a
sacred oath precluded his discussing affairs of the Holy Office. When
Curletti ordered him to hand over all files relating to the Mortara
case, Feletti said that they had been burned—when asked when or how,
he repeated that on Holy Office matters he could say nothing.
Pressed further, Feletti said: "As far as the activities that I
carried out as
Inquisitor of the Holy Office of Bologna, I am obliged
to explain myself to one forum only, to the Supreme Sacred
Congregation in Rome, whose Prefect is His Holiness
Pope Pius IX, and
to no-one else." After the police searched the convent for
documents relating to the Mortara case—they found nothing—the
inquisitor was escorted to prison. The news that Feletti had been
arrested caused the press storm surrounding Mortara, which had died
down somewhat, to flare up again across Europe.
Father Feletti's trial was the first major criminal case in Bologna
under the new authorities. The magistrate Francesco Carboni
announced on 18 January 1860 that Feletti and Lieutenant-Colonel Luigi
De Dominicis would be prosecuted, but not Lucidi or Agostini.[n 13]
When Carboni interviewed Feletti in prison on 23 January, the friar
said that in seizing Edgardo from his family he had only carried out
instructions from the Holy Office, "which never promulgates any decree
without the consent of the Roman Pontiff". Feletti then recounted
a version of the Church narrative of the case, stating that Edgardo
had "always remained firm in his desire to remain a Christian" and was
now studying successfully in Rome. He predicted in conclusion that
Edgardo would one day be the "support and pride" of the Mortara
On 6 February Momolo Mortara gave an account of the case that
contradicted the inquisitor's at almost every turn; in Rome, he said,
Edgardo had been "frightened, and intimidated by the rector's
presence, [but] he openly declared his desire to return home with
us". Carboni then travelled to
San Giovanni in Persiceto
San Giovanni in Persiceto to
interrogate Morisi, who gave her age as 23 rather than the actual
26.[n 15] Morisi said that Edgardo had fallen sick in the winter of
1851–52, when he was about four months old. She recounted having
seen the Mortaras sitting sadly by Edgardo's crib and "reading from a
book in Hebrew that the Jews read when one of them is about to
die". She repeated her account of giving Edgardo an emergency
baptism at the instigation of the grocer Lepori and later telling the
story to a neighbour's servant called Regina, adding that she had also
told her sisters about the baptism.[n 16] As before, Lepori denied
any role in the affair whatsoever, indeed saying he could not even
remember Morisi. The "Regina" in Morisi's story was identified as
Regina Bussolari; though Morisi averred to have told her the whole
story, Bussolari professed to know nothing of the case. She said that
she had only spoken with Morisi "once or twice, when she was going up
to the storage room to get something", and never about anything to do
with the Mortaras' children.[n 17]
Elena Pignatti, who had employed Morisi after she left the Mortaras in
1857—her words about Morisi's misconduct had formed part of the
Mortaras' appeal to the Pope—testified that "seven or eight years
ago ... a son of the Mortaras, whose name I don't know, became
sick, and it was said that he was going to die. Around then, one
morning ... I ran into Morisi. Among the other things we talked
about, she—without mentioning the child's illness—asked me, 'I've
heard that if you baptise a Jewish child who's about to die he goes to
Heaven and gets indulgence; isn't that right?' I don't remember what I
told her, but when the Mortara boy was kidnapped by order of the
Dominican Father, I was sure that he must have been the one who was
sick". Pignatti said that she had herself seen Edgardo during his
illness, and Marianna sitting by the crib—"Since his mother was
crying, and despaired for his life, I thought he was dying, also
because of his appearance: his eyes were closed, and he was hardly
moving." She added that during the three months when Morisi worked
for her in late 1857, the servant had been summoned to San Domenico
four or five times, and had said that the inquisitor had promised her
Bussolari's denial that she had discussed any baptism with Morisi
raised the question of who could have reported the rumours to the
inquisitor in the first place. On 6 March, Carboni interviewed
Morisi again and pointed out the inconsistencies between her story and
the testimony of the Mortara family doctor, the Mortaras themselves,
and both Lepori and Bussolari. She replied: "It's the Gospel
truth". Carboni put it to Morisi that she might have invented the
whole story out of spite against the Mortara family in the hope that
the Church might reward her.[n 18] When Carboni asked Morisi if she
had been to San Domenico apart from for her interrogation, she stated
that she had been there on two other occasions to try to secure a
dowry from Father Feletti. Carboni suggested that Morisi must have
herself prompted the interrogation by recounting Edgardo's baptism
during one of these visits—Morisi insisted that the interrogation
had been first and the other two visits later.[n 19]
After one last interview with Feletti—who again said almost nothing,
citing a sacred oath—Carboni informed him that so far as he could
see, there was no evidence to support his version of events. Feletti
replied: "I commiserate with the Mortara parents for their painful
separation from their son, but I hope that the prayers of the innocent
soul succeed in having God reunite them all in the Christian
religion ... As for my punishment, not only do I place myself in
the Lord's hands, but I would argue that any government would
recognise the legitimacy of my action." The next day Feletti and
De Dominicis, the latter of whom had fled to the rump Papal States,
were formally charged with the "violent separation of the boy Edgardo
Mortara from his own Jewish family".
Feletti faced a court trial under the code of laws in effect in
Bologna at the time of Edgardo's removal. Carboni proposed that
even under the pontifical laws, the seizure was illegal—he reported
that he had seen no evidence to support the friar's claim that he had
acted following instructions from Rome, and that there was substantial
evidence casting doubt on Morisi's account, but so far as he could see
Feletti had done nothing to verify what she had said before ordering
the child removed. After Feletti refused to appoint a defence
counsel when prompted, saying he was putting his defence in the hands
of God and the Virgin Mary, the experienced
Bologna lawyer Francesco
Jussi was appointed by the state to defend him.
The hearing before a panel of six judges on 16 April 1860 was attended
by neither the Mortara family nor Feletti—the former because they
Turin and learned of the trial date only two days beforehand,
and the latter because he refused to recognise the new authorities'
right to put him on trial. With the evidence gathered by Curletti and
Carboni already in hand, the prosecution had no witnesses to call.
The prosecutor Radamisto Valentini, a lawyer fighting his first major
case, declared that Feletti had ordered the seizure alone and on his
own initiative, and then turned his focus to Carboni's second point of
how the authorities in
Rome could have possibly concluded that
Morisi's story was genuine. Valentini went over Morisi's account in
detail, arguing that even if things had happened as she said, the
baptism had not been administered properly and was therefore
invalid. He then highlighted the inconsistencies between her
testimony and the other accounts, condemned Morisi as a silly girl
"corrupted by the foul breath and touch of foreign soldiers ...
[who] rolled over without shame with them", and finally charged that
Feletti had ordered the seizure himself out of megalomania and "an
inquisitor's hatred of Judaism".
Jussi found himself in the unusual position of attempting to defend a
client who refused to defend himself. With no evidence at his
disposal to support Feletti's testimony, he was forced to rely almost
entirely on his own oratory. Jussi put forward some aspects of the
sequence of events that he said suggested that orders had indeed come
from Rome—for example, that Feletti had sent Edgardo straight off to
the capital without seeing him—and asserted that the Holy Office and
Pope were far better placed to adjudge the validity of the baptism
than a secular court. He quoted at length from Angelo Padovani's
account of his meeting with Anna Morisi in July 1858, then cast doubt
on the grocer Lepori's claim that he did not even know how to baptise
a child—Jussi produced a police report in which Lepori was described
as a close friend of a Jesuit priest. Jussi proposed that Lepori
and Bussolari might both be lying to protect themselves, and that
Morisi's sexual impropriety did not necessarily mean her story was
false. He concluded that since Feletti had been inquisitor at the
time, he had merely done what that office required him to do, and no
crime had been committed.
The judging panel, headed by Calcedonio Ferrari, ruled following a
swift deliberation that Feletti should be released as he had acted
under instructions from the government of the time. The interval
between the priest's arrest and his trial, coupled with the swift
progress being made towards Italian unification, meant that the
Mortara case had lost much of its prominence, so there was little
protest against the decision. The Jewish press expressed
disappointment—an editorial in the Italian Jewish paper L'Educatore
israelitico suggested that it had perhaps been unwise to target
Feletti rather than someone more senior. In France Archives
Israélites took a similar line, positing: "what good does it do to
strike at the arm when it is the head that in this case conceived,
carried out, and sanctioned the attack?"[n 20]
Plans to recapture Edgardo
The Mortaras were not surprised by the verdict in Feletti's trial.
Momolo hoped that his son might be a major topic of discussion at an
international conference on the future of Italy, but was disappointed
when no such summit materialised. His cause and visit to Paris
partly motivated the formation in May 1860 of the Alliance Israélite
Universelle, a Paris-based organisation dedicated to the advancement
of Jewish civil rights across the world. As the Italian
nationalist armies advanced through the peninsula, the fall of Rome
seemed imminent. In September 1860 the Alliance Israélite Universelle
wrote to Momolo offering him financial and logistical support if he
wished to reclaim his son by force, as "getting your child back is the
cause of all Israel". A separate plan was formulated by Carl
Blumenthal, an English Jew serving in Giuseppe Garibaldi's nationalist
volunteer corps: Blumenthal and three others would dress up as
clergymen, seize Edgardo and spirit him away. Garibaldi approved this
plan in 1860, but it was apparently called off after one of the
Italian unification; Edgardo flees
Kingdom of Italy
Kingdom of Italy (red) and the
Papal States (purple) in 1870
Pope remained steadfastly determined not to give Edgardo up,
declaring: "What I have done for this boy, I had the right and the
duty to do. If it happened again, I would do the same thing." When
the delegation from Rome's Jewish community attended their annual
meeting at the Vatican in January 1861, they were surprised to find
the nine-year-old Edgardo at the pontiff's side. The new Kingdom
of Italy was proclaimed a month later with Victor Emmanuel II as king.
A reduced incarnation of the Papal States, comprising
Rome and its
immediate environs, endured outside the new kingdom because of
Napoleon III's reluctance to offend his Catholic subjects by
withdrawing the French garrison. He pulled these troops out
following the entrance of a Jewish child from the Roman Ghetto,
nine-year-old Giuseppe Coen, to the Catechumens in 1864. The
removal of the French garrison brought the
Roman Question to the fore
in the Italian parliament. The statesman
Marco Minghetti dismissed a
proposed compromise whereby
Rome would become part of the kingdom with
Pope retaining some special powers, saying: "we cannot go to guard
the Mortara boy for the Pope". The French garrison returned in
1867, following an unsuccessful attempt by Garibaldi to capture the
In early 1865, at the age of 13, Edgardo became a novice in the Canons
Regular of the Lateran, adding the Pope's name to his own to become
Pio Edgardo Mortara.[n 21] He wrote repeatedly to his family, he
recalled, "dealing with religion and doing what I could to convince
them of the truth of the Catholic faith," but received no reply until
May 1867—his parents, who were now living in Florence, wrote that
they still loved him dearly, but saw nothing of their son in the
letters they had received. In July 1870, just before Edgardo
turned 19, the French garrison in
Rome was withdrawn for good after
Franco-Prussian War broke out. Italian troops captured the city on
20 September 1870.
Momolo Mortara followed the
Italian Army into
Rome hoping to finally
reclaim his son. According to some accounts, he was preceded by his
son Riccardo, Edgardo's elder brother, who had entered the kingdom's
service as an infantry officer. Riccardo Mortara fought his way to San
Pietro in Vincoli and found his brother's convent room. Edgardo
covered his eyes, raised his hand in front of him and shouted: "Get
back, Satan!" When Riccardo said that he was his brother, Edgardo
replied: "Before you get any closer to me, take off that assassin's
uniform."[n 22] Whatever the truth, what is certain is that
Edgardo reacted to the capture of
Rome with intense panic. He later
wrote: "After the Piedmontese troops entered Rome ... they used
their force to seize the neophyte Coen from the Collegio degli
Scolopi, [then] turned toward
San Pietro in Vincoli
San Pietro in Vincoli to try to kidnap
me as well." The Roman chief of police asked Edgardo to return to
his family to appease public opinion, but he refused. He subsequently
met the Italian commander, General Alfonso Ferrero La Marmora, who
told him that as he was 19 years old he could do as he wished. Edgardo
was smuggled out of
Rome by train along with a priest on 22 October
1870, late at night and in lay clothes. He made his way north and
escaped to Austria.[n 23]
Father Pio Edgardo Mortara (right) with his mother Marianna, c.
Edgardo found shelter in a convent of the Canons Regular in Austria,
where he lived under an assumed name. In 1872 he moved to a monastery
Poitiers in France, where
Pope Pius regularly corresponded with the
bishop about the young man. After a year, Pio Edgardo Mortara was
ordained as a priest—with special dispensation as at 21 he was
technically too young. He received a personal letter from the
mark the occasion, as well as a lifetime trust fund of 7,000 lire to
Father Mortara spent most of the rest of his life outside Italy,
travelling throughout Europe and preaching. It was said that he could
give sermons in six languages, including Basque, and read three more,
including Hebrew. "As a preacher he was in great demand," Kertzer
writes, "not least because of the inspirational way he was able to
weave the remarkable story of his own childhood into his sermons. As
he recounted it, his saga was the stuff of faith and hope: a story of
how God chose a simple, illiterate servant girl to invest a small
child with the miraculous powers of divine grace, and in doing so
rescued him from his Jewish family—good people but, as Jews, on a
Momolo Mortara died in 1871, shortly after spending seven months in
prison during his trial over the death of a servant girl who had
fallen from the window of his apartment. He had been found guilty of
murdering her by the Florentine court of appeal, but then acquitted by
the court of assizes.
Pope Pius IX
Pope Pius IX died in 1878. The same year
Marianna travelled to
Perpignan in south-western France, where she had
heard Edgardo was preaching, and enjoyed an emotional reunion with her
son, who was pleased to see her, but disappointed when she refused his
pleas to convert to Catholicism. Edgardo thereafter attempted to
re-establish connections with his family, but not all of his relatives
were as receptive to him as his mother.
Following Marianna's death in 1890, it was reported in French
newspapers that she had finally, on her deathbed and with Edgardo
beside her, become a Christian. Edgardo refuted this: "I have always
ardently desired that my mother embrace the Catholic faith," he wrote
in a letter to Le Temps, "and I tried many times to get her to do so.
However, that never happened". A year later, Father Pio Edgardo
Mortara returned to Italy for the first time in two decades to preach
in Modena. A sister and some of his brothers came out to hear his
sermon, and for the rest of his life Edgardo called on his relatives
whenever he was in Italy. During a 1919 sojourn in
House of Catechumens he had entered 61 years before.
By this time he had settled at the abbey of the Canons Regular at
Bouhay in Liège, Belgium. Bouhay had a sanctuary to the Virgin of
Lourdes, to which Father Mortara felt a special connection, the
Lourdes apparitions of 1858 having occurred in the same year as his
own conversion to Christianity. Father Pio Edgardo Mortara resided at
Bouhay for the rest of his life and died there on 11 March 1940, at
the age of 88.
Appraisal and legacy
Mortara case is given little attention in most Risorgimento
histories, if it is mentioned at all. The first book-length
scholarly work was
Rabbi Bertram Korn's The American Reaction to the
Mortara Case: 1858–1859 (1957), which was devoted entirely to public
opinion in the United States and, according to Kertzer, often
incorrect about details of the case. The main historical
reference until the 1990s was a series of articles written by the
Italian scholar Gemma Volli and published around the centenary of the
controversy in 1958–60. When
David Kertzer began studying the
case he was surprised to find that many of his Italian colleagues were
not familiar with it, while specialists in Jewish studies across the
world invariably were—Mortara had, as Kertzer put it, "[fallen] from
the mainstream of Italian history into the ghetto of Jewish
history". Kertzer explored many sources not previously studied
and eventually published The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara (1997),
which has become the standard reference work for the
Mortara case was, in the view of Timothy Verhoeven, the greatest
controversy to surround the
Catholic Church in the mid-19th century,
as it "more than any other single issue ... exposed the divide
between supporters and opponents of the Vatican". Abigail Green
writes that "this clash between liberal and Catholic worldviews at a
moment of critical international tension ... gave the Mortara
affair global significance—and rendered it a transformative episode
in the Jewish world as well". Mortara himself suggested in 1893
that his abduction had been, for a time, "more famous than that of the
In the months before Pius IX's beatification by the
Catholic Church in
2000, Jewish commentators and others in the international media raised
the largely forgotten Mortara episode while analysing the Pope's life
and legacy. According to Dov Levitan, the basic facts of the
Mortara case are far from unique, but it is nevertheless of particular
importance because of its effect on public opinion in Italy, Britain
and France, and as an example of "the great sense of Jewish solidarity
that emerged in the latter half of the 19th century [as] Jews rose to
the cause of their brethren in various parts of the world". The
Alliance Israélite Universelle, whose formation had been partly
motivated by the Mortara case, grew into one of the most prominent
Jewish organisations in the world and endures into the 21st
century. The case is the subject of Francesco Cilluffo's two-act
opera Il caso Mortara, which premiered in New York in 2010.
According to Michael Goldfarb, the Mortara controversy provided "an
embarrassing example of just how out of touch with modern times the
Church was", and demonstrated that "
Pope Pius IX
Pope Pius IX was incapable of
bringing the Church into the modern era". Kertzer takes a similar
line: "The refusal to return Edgardo contributed to the growing sense
that the Pope's role as temporal ruler, with his own police force, was
an anachronism that could no longer be maintained." Kertzer goes
so far as to suggest that as a primary motivator for the French change
of stance that precipitated
Italian unification in 1859–61, this
"story of an illiterate servant girl, a grocer, and a little Jewish
child from Bologna" may well have changed the course of both Italian
and Church history.
Notes and references
^ Edgardo's full name is variously recorded as Edgardo Levi Mortara,
which he is on record as stating himself in adulthood, Edgardo
Mortara Levi, or simply Edgardo Mortara.
^ Other Catholic nations such as the
Austrian Empire had similar
^ The Holy Office's final letter of recommendation to Feletti
regarding Mortara has not survived—Kertzer suggests that it was
burned by Church authorities when the
Papal Legations fell in
^ One of the Mortaras' neighbours recalled Lucidi saying in the
apartment that he "would have rather been ordered to arrest a hundred
criminals than to take that boy away".
^ During the visitors' absence Morisi's sisters and the parish priest
told her to say nothing more. She vacated her apartment and hid
elsewhere in the town.
^ Momolo also reported that according to the rector, Edgardo had said
his fear when the police came for him was because he thought they
wanted to behead him.
^ He added: "The widespread rumour that she has gone mad is not true.
She still has all of her wits."
^ Agostini attested that as soon as six-year-old Edgardo entered the
church, "thanks to the Heavenly wonders, there was an instantaneous
change. Getting down on his knees, he took part quietly in the Divine
Sacrifice," and listened intently as the policeman explained what was
happening. Agostini taught Edgardo first to make the sign of the
cross, then to say the Hail Mary. The boy thereafter "forgot his
parents", Agostini reported, and insisted on visiting the church of
every town they entered until they reached Rome.
^ Rumours were by now flying between the Italian Jewish communities to
the effect that Edgardo had received a second, more regular baptism in
the Catechumens, but Kertzer suggests that this was probably not
^ The Shema—"Hear, O Israel: the Lord is our God, the Lord is
One"—is one of the most important prayers in Judaism, and is
supposed to be said by Jews every morning and evening.
^ This followed an earlier agreement along similar lines between the
Emperor and King Victor Emmanuel's Prime Minister, Сount Cavour, on
21 July 1858. The case was brought to Napoleon III's attention
early by a cousin based in Bologna, Marquis Gioacchino
Pepoli (it), before representatives of France's Jewish community
sent him a written appeal in August 1858.
^ Europe had lost much of its interest in Mortara by this point, but
across the Atlantic it continued to command great attention; the New
York Herald reported in March that American interest had grown to
^ The reasoning was that the latter two had merely followed orders
from a direct superior, while De Dominicis would have had some
responsibility to ascertain the order's legality.
^ Among other things, Feletti told Carboni that the
Pope had arranged
free passage for Edgardo's parents so they could come to
Rome to visit
him. Carboni checked this with the
Bologna stagecoach office, which
reported no evidence of any such request from
Rome during the second
half of 1858.
^ The illiterate Morisi was never clear on her exact age. As Kertzer
comments, this would normally have made little difference, but the
massive press attention turned her exact age into a topic of
debate. She herself said that she had baptised Edgardo when she
was only 14, a claim that supporters of the Mortara family seized upon
as another reason to discount the baptism. Her birth certificate was
dated 28 November 1833, meaning that she would actually have been
about 19 years old at the time of the incident.
^ When Carboni posited that if Lepori had spoken to her about
baptising a Jewish child he would surely have asked afterwards if she
had gone through with it, Morisi replied that they had never discussed
^ Like Morisi, Bussolari came from San Giovanni in Persiceto. Carboni
looked into her background and found that she was described as
spending a lot of time at church, which he thought might indicate an
upright character who could be trusted, but the police reports soon
turned up the revelation that Bussolari was "a procuress ... her
house is frequented by all types of people, indeed even priests, for
relations with women."
^ Momolo had testified that Morisi had left his employment after "some
words with my wife", but that "there weren't any bad feelings of a
sort that would reasonably lead to any fear of a vendetta".
^ In any case, she said, she had not ultimately received a dowry, and
had married without one.
^ Feletti's staunch refusal to recognise the court endeared him
considerably to his Dominican superiors and the Pope. After the trial
he was made prior of a convent in Rome, where he remained until his
death at the age of 84 in 1881.
^ In religious settings he was sometimes also known as Pio Maria
^ This account is given in Gemma Volli's 1960 work on the Mortara
Il caso Mortara nel primo centario. Ketzner writes that "as a
piece of drama, it seems almost too good to be true ...
unfortunately, I could find no good evidence to support it, although
we do know that Riccardo Mortara had become a career army
^ Giuseppe Coen, who was by now 16 years old, was restored to his
family against his will after a court decided that as he was not yet
an adult his father still held legal rights over him. Coen returned to
Rome as soon as he could and became a priest.
^ a b Benton 2013.
^ a b c d e Hearder 2013, pp. 287–288.
^ Hearder 2013, p. 96.
^ Hearder 2013, p. vi.
^ a b c Kertzer 1998, pp. x–xi.
^ Kertzer 1998, p. 21.
^ a b c d Kertzer 1998, pp. 22–23.
^ Kertzer 1998, p. 79.
^ Kertzer 1998, pp. 49, 59, 89.
^ a b Kertzer 1998, pp. 49, 59.
^ Gilley & Stanley 2006, p. 243.
^ a b Canestri 1966, p. 46.
^ a b De Mattei 2004, p. 153.
^ Kertzer 1998, p. 14.
^ a b Kertzer 1998, pp. 37–38.
^ a b Kertzer 1998, pp. 23, 39.
^ a b c Kertzer 1998, pp. 95–96.
^ Kertzer 1998, pp. 23, 39–41.
^ Kertzer 1998, p. 83.
^ Kertzer 1998, pp. 33, 147.
^ Kertzer 1998, p. 34.
^ Kertzer 1998, p. 97.
^ Kertzer 1998, pp. 34–39.
^ a b Kertzer 1998, pp. 83–84.
^ Kertzer 1998, pp. 40–41, 83, 148.
^ a b Kertzer 1998, pp. 145–147.
^ a b c d De Mattei 2004, p. 154.
^ Kertzer 1998, pp. 148–149.
^ a b Kertzer 1998, pp. 54–55, 83–84.
^ a b c d e f g Kertzer 1998, pp. 3–8.
^ a b c d e f Kertzer 1998, pp. 8–12.
^ Kertzer 1998, pp. 64, 85–86.
^ Kertzer 1998, p. 43.
^ Kertzer 1998, pp. 65–66, 85–87.
^ a b c Kertzer 1998, pp. 65–66.
^ Kertzer 1998, pp. 39–40.
^ a b c d e Kertzer 1998, pp. 40–41.
^ a b Kertzer 1998, pp. 50–52, 67–69, 70–71.
^ Kertzer 1998, pp. 51–52.
^ a b c Kertzer 1998, pp. 102–103.
^ a b Kertzer 1998, p. 104.
^ a b c Kertzer 1998, pp. 67–70.
^ a b Kertzer 1998, pp. 53–54.
^ a b c d e f g h Kertzer 1998, pp. 70–71.
^ Kertzer 1998, p. 72.
^ a b Kertzer 1998, pp. 92–93.
^ a b c d Kertzer 1998, pp. 93–94.
^ Kertzer 1998, pp. 94–95.
^ a b c Kertzer 1998, pp. 97–101.
^ a b c Kertzer 1998, pp. 104–108.
^ a b c d Kertzer 1998, pp. 109–112.
^ Appel 1991, p. 11.
^ a b c Kertzer 1998, pp. 112–115.
^ Kertzer 1998, p. 172.
^ a b Kertzer 1998, pp. 116–118.
^ Kertzer 1998, p. 184.
^ a b Kertzer 1998, pp. 126–127.
The Spectator 1858, p. 13.
^ Kertzer 1998, p. 128.
^ Kertzer 1998, p. 135.
^ a b Green 2012, p. 264.
^ Kertzer 1998, p. 162.
^ Kertzer 1998, pp. 83–85.
^ Jodock 2000, p. 41.
^ De Mattei 2004, pp. 155–156.
^ Kertzer 1998, pp. 87–90.
^ a b c d Kertzer 1998, pp. 85–87.
^ Kertzer 1998, p. 167.
^ a b c d e f Kertzer 1998, pp. 158–161.
^ Kertzer 1998, p. 255.
^ a b c Kertzer 1998, pp. 163–167.
^ a b c Kertzer 1998, pp. 168–170.
^ Green 2012, p. 279.
^ Kertzer 1998, pp. 170–171.
^ Kertzer 1998, pp. 175–176.
^ a b Kertzer 1998, pp. 179–183.
^ a b Kertzer 1998, pp. 185–191.
^ a b c d Kertzer 1998, pp. 191–194.
^ a b c d e Kertzer 1998, pp. 196–201.
^ Kertzer 1998, p. 228.
^ a b Kertzer 1998, pp. 201–205.
^ a b c d e Kertzer 1998, pp. 205–208.
^ a b c Kertzer 1998, pp. 208–212.
^ a b c d Kertzer 1998, pp. 212–217.
^ a b c Kertzer 1998, pp. 217–220.
^ a b Kertzer 1998, pp. 226–227.
^ a b c d e Kertzer 1998, pp. 227–229.
^ Kertzer 1998, pp. 229–231.
^ Kertzer 1998, pp. 231–232.
^ a b c Kertzer 1998, pp. 232–237.
^ a b c d Kertzer 1998, pp. 240–242.
^ Kertzer 1998, p. 244.
^ a b c d Kertzer 1998, pp. 247–252.
^ De Mattei 2004, p. 156.
^ a b Kertzer 1998, pp. 255–257.
^ a b Kertzer 1998, pp. 258–260.
^ a b c Kertzer 1998, pp. 260–261.
^ a b c d Kertzer 1998, pp. 262–263.
^ Kertzer 1998, p. 327.
^ Kertzer 1998, pp. 263–265.
^ a b c d e f g h i Kertzer 1998, pp. 295–298.
^ Kertzer 1998, pp. 293–294.
^ a b c d Kertzer 1998, pp. 299–302.
^ Grew 2000.
^ a b Levitan 2010, p. 3.
^ Green 2012, p. 485: "This account is taken from the standard
history of the affair: David Kertzer, The Kidnapping of Edgardo
^ Verhoeven 2010, pp. 55–57.
^ Kertzer 1998, p. 250.
^ Tommasini 2010.
^ Goldfarb 2009, pp. 250–251.
^ Kertzer 2005, p. 471.
^ Kertzer 1998, p. 173.
Newspaper and journal articles
Grew, Raymond (March 2000). "Review: The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara
by David I Kertzer". Journal of the American Academy of Religion.
Oxford: Oxford University Press. 68 (1): 189–191.
Tommasini, Anthony (26 February 2010). "Boy Is Ensnared in
19th-Century Papal Politics". The New York Times. New York. Retrieved
7 October 2016.
"Analogues of the Mortara Case". The Spectator. London. 13 November
1858. pp. 13–14.
Benton, Maya (18 December 2013). "The Story Behind the Painting That
is the Basis for Steven Spielberg's Next Film". Tablet. New York.
Retrieved 6 December 2015.
Levitan, Dov (27 November 2010). "'I was kidnapped from the land of
the Hebrews' (Gen. 40:15): The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara". Ramat
Gan: Bar-Ilan University. Archived from the original (doc) on 8
February 2016. Retrieved 8 February 2016.
Appel, Gersion (1991) . The Concise Code of Jewish Law. Volume
1. New York: Ktav Publishing House. ISBN 978-0-87068-298-8.
Canestri, Alberto (1966). L'anima di Pio IX: quale si rivelò de fu
compresa dai Santi. Volume 3 (in Italian). Marino, Lazio: Santa Lucia.
De Mattei, Roberto (2004) . Pius IX. Trans. John Laughland.
Leominster, UK: Gracewing. ISBN 978-0-85244-605-8.
Gilley, Sheridan; Stanley, Brian, eds. (2006). The Cambridge History
of Christianity. Volume 8: World Christianities c. 1815 – c.
1914. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Goldfarb, Michael (2009). Emancipation: How Liberating Europe's Jews
from the Ghetto Led to Revolution and Resistance. New York: Simon
& Schuster. ISBN 978-1-4165-4796-9.
Green, Abigail (2012) . Moses Montefiore: Jewish Liberator,
Imperial Hero. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
Hearder, Harry (2013) . Italy in the Age of the Risorgimento
1790–1870. Longman History of Italy. Abingdon, UK and New York:
Routledge. ISBN 978-1-317-87206-1.
Jodock, Darrell (2000). Catholicism Contending with Modernity: Roman
Catholic Modernism and Anti-Modernism in Historical Context.
Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Kertzer, David I (1998) . The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara. New
York: Vintage Books. ISBN 978-0-679-76817-3.
Kertzer, David I (2005). "Mortara Affair". In Levy, Richard S.
Antisemitism: A Historical Encyclopedia of Prejudice and Persecution.
Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO. pp. 470–471.
Verhoeven, Timothy (2010). Transatlantic Anti-Catholicism: France and
the United States in the Nineteenth Century. New York: Palgrave
Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-230-10287-3.
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