Maurizio Sangalli – Between church, university and academies: Paolo Beni in Padua, 1599-1623



Event Date: 17 – 18 September 2011
British Library Conference Centre
The British Library
96 Euston Road
London NW1 2DB

The Italian Academies 1525–1700 Project presents:


This major international conference is being hosted as part of the AHRC funded research project The Italian Academies 1525-1700: the first intellectual networks of early modern Europe.

Academies represent a vital and characteristic dimension of early modern culture.
There were ca. 600 Academies in Italy in the period 1525-1700. Frequently international in membership, and in correspondence with scholars across Europe, they were fundamental to the development of the intellectual networks later defined as the ‘République des Lettres’, and to the dissemination of ideas in early modern Europe. Their membership included pioneering scientists, writers, artists, political thinkers, and representatives of both sexes and all social classes. The interests of the Academies ranged from the humanities, to the figurative and performance arts, natural sciences and medicine; many were interdisciplinary in their outlook and activities.

However, the social and cultural phenomenon of the Italian Academies has hitherto attracted relatively little research due in part to the wide range of their interests and difficulties in accessing relevant information.

The conference aims to explore research questions raised by the activities of Academies in this period.

Maurizio Sangalli (Siena) – Between church, university and academies: Paolo Beni in Padua, 1599-1623

The period of time between the end of the Sixteenth and the beginning of the Seventeenth Centuries was one of the most interesting in the already glorious history of the University of Padua, and not only for the presence of a scholar like Galileo Galilei. At that time, the intellectual Paduan ‘network’ could count on the contribution of Gianvincenzo Pinelli, Paolo Gualdo, Antonio Querenghi, among the others. And they were scholars who were in contact not only with Italian, but also with most of the European highbrows.

Among them, we must recognize a place of no less importance to Paolo Beni. Born in Gubbio approximately in 1552-1553, he studied in Padua during the Seventies and then he entered the Society of Jesus. At the beginning of the Nineties, he was called to teach in Milan, and then philosophy in Rome. Finally, after having left the Jesuits, he returned to Padua in 1599, when he was elected to the chair of humanities, that he held for almost a quarter of a century, till 1623.

Until the important essay by Paul Diffley, Paolo Beni. A Biographical and Critical Study (Clarendon Press, Oxford 1988), Paolo Beni was remembered almost only for his anti-Cruscan campaign and his contribution to the Querelles des anciens et des modernes. Personally, I had the possibility to study his figure during the last years, when I was working at my essays on the Venetian history of the Society of Jesus and its thwarted relation with the University of Padua. Specifically, I could show better the features of his “Jesuit interlude”, as Diffley defined it, fixing the dates of his entrance and of his resignation, and also of his curriculum studiorum. In another essay, I studied a well structured plan that he wrote in 1619 for the reform of the University of Padua.

In light of all those works, the aim of my paper will be to study his presence and his contribution to the important academies founded in Padua since the Sixteenth Seventies to the Seventeenth Twenties. During his studies in Padua, the young Paolo Beni was member of the Accademia degli Animosi, where he met Torquato Tasso. But most important was his affiliation to the Accademia dei ricovrati in 1600, a year later its foundation by Federico Corner, a remarkable Venetian patrician, who later became cardinal and bishop of several dioceses, from Bergamo to Venice. Finally, Beni was close to the planned Accademia di lettere dei Riformatori, that never saw the light of the day, but which is an interesting attempt to found an institution halfway between an academy and a college. So, re-considering the place of Paolo Beni at the intersection between Church, university and academies could contribute to better enlighten a crucial period of the Italian Counter-Reformation, in a city where the so-called scientific revolution stemmed from, and where important Italian scholars crossed their lives.



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