1902 Encyclopedia > Italy > Religious Foundations

(Part 19)


Religious Foundations

As far back as 1855 an Act was passed in the Sardinian states for the disestablishment of all houses of the religious orders not engaged in preaching, teaching, or the care of the sick, of all chapters of collegiate churches not having a cure of souls or existing in towns of less than 20,000 inhabitants, and of all private benefices for which no service was paid by the holders. The property and money thus obtained were used to form an ecclesiastical fund (Cassa Ecclesiastica) distinct from the finances of the state. This Act resulted in the suppression of 274 monasteries with 3733 friars, of 61 nunneries with 1756 nuns, and of 2722 chapters and benefices. In 1860 and 1861 the royal commissioners (even before the constitution of the new kingdom of Italy had been formally declared) issued decrees by which there were abolished—(1) in Umbria, 197 monasteries and 102 convents with 1809 male and 2393 female associates, and 836 chapters or benefices ; (2) in the Marches, 292 monasteries and 127 convents with 2950 male and 2728 female associates ; (3) in the Neapolitan provinces, 747 monasteries and 275 convents with 8787 male and 7493 female associates. There were thus disestablished in the space of seven or eight years 2075 houses of the regular clergy occupied by 31,649 persons ; and the confiscated property yielded a revenue of 9,957,457 lire, or £398,298. And at the same time there had been suppressed 11,889 chapters and benefices of the secular clergy, which yielded an annual income of 4,978,728 lire, or £199,149. The value of the capital thus potentially freed from the dead hand was estimated at £12,000,000 ; though hitherto the ecclesiastical possessions in Lombardy, Emilia, Tuscany, and Sicily had been left untouched. As yet the Cassa Ecclesiastica had no right to dispose of the property thus entrusted to it; but in 1862 an Act was passed by which it transferred all its real property (beni stabili or immobili) to the national domain, and was credited with a corresponding amount by the exchequer. The property could now be disposed of like the other property of the domain ; and except in Sicily, where the system of emphyteusis was adopted, the church lands began to be sold by auction. In order to encourage the poorer classes of the people to become landholders, it was decided that the lots offered for sale should be small, and that the purchaser should be allowed to pay by five or ten yearly instalments. By a new Act in 1866 the process of secularization was extended to the whole kingdom. All the members of the suppressed communities received full exercise of all the ordinary political and civil rights of laymen; and annuities were granted to all those who had taken permanent religious vows prior to 18th January 1864. To priests and choristers, for example, of the proprietary or endowed orders were assigned 600 lire peí annum if they were upwards of sixty years of age, 400 if upwards of 40, and 360 if younger. The Cassa Ecclesiastica was abolished, and in its stead was instituted a Fondo pel Culto, or public worship fund, attached to the department of grace and justice, and administered by a director and a council consisting of three senators, three deputies, and three nominees of the king. From the general confiscation were exempted the buildings actually used for public worship, as episcopal residences or seminaries, &c., or which had been appropriated to the use of schools, poorhouses, hospitals, &c., by the communes and provinces in keeping with the acts of 1861 and 1864 ; as well as the buildings, appurtenances, and movable property of the abbeys of Monte Casino, Delia Cava dei Tirreni, San Martino della Scala, Monreale, Certosa near Pavia, and other establishments of the same kind of importance as architectural or historical monuments. An annuity equal to the ascertained revenue of the suppressed institutions was placed to the credit of the fund in the Government 5 per cent, consols. A fourth of this sum was to be handed over to the communes to be employed on works of beneficence or education as soon as a surplus was obtained from that part of the annuity assigned for the payment of monastic pensions; and in Sicily, indeed, 209 communes entered on their privileges as soon as the patrimony was liquidated. Another Act following on August 15, 1867, decreed the suppression of certain foundations which had escaped the action of previous measures, put an extraordinary tax of 30 per cent, on the whole of the patrimony of the church, and granted the Government the right of issuing 5 per cent, bonds sufficient to bring into the treasury 400,000,000 lire, which were to be accepted at the?'1 nominal value as purchase money for the alienated property. The result of the whole legislation from 1855 to 1867 was the abrogation of nearly 50,000 ecclesiastical foundations which were rendering almost no service to the country beyond that of supporting an idle population of more than 60,000 souls. The following figures (Table XXXIII.) summarize the chief facts of the suppression :—

== TABLE ==

The total of the real property taken over by the domain up to 31st December 1877 may be estimated as yielding an aggregate revenue of 30,969,465 lire or £1,238,778 and possessing a capital value of 839,776,076 lire or £33,910,430. Of the latter sum 530,649,932 lire represent the property disposed of for the benefit of the state, 75,542,813 the property granted in emphyteusis, &c, 8,098,294 the property handed over to Government for administrative purposes, 125,191,797 the property transferred to lawful claimants, and 100,293,200 the property not yet alienated. The Fondo pel Culto derives its income from four different sources:—(1) as already indicated, from the public funds ; (2) from the buildings still occupied by the ex-monks, &c., and other property not transferred to the domain; (3) from rents, ground-annuals, livelli, tithes, and other annual dues ; (4) from contributions exacted from the revenues of ecclesiastical foundations still maintained. The third source is especially valuable, yielding in 1876, for example, 13,984,000 lire, and being capable of considerable augmentation under judicious management. The total expenditure of the fund during the ten years from the institution of the same to the close of 1876 amounted to 278,399,592 lire or £11,135,983, distributed as follows (Table XXXIV.):—

== TABLE ==

The heaviest of these items is one that is gradually diminishing, and will finally become extinct, by the dying out of the pensioners. On the 31st of December 1876 the deficit of the fund was 48,312,686 lire or £1,932,507,-650,180 lire having been the deficit taken over from the Cassa Ecclesiastica. By 1879 the debt was reduced to 1,688,719 lire.

Hitherto only a passing allusion has been made to the legislation relating to the Roman territory acquired after the passing of the Acts above indicated. In the province as distinguished from the city the only thing requisite was to make the existing measures applicable, but in the case of the city and the suburban districts special enactments had to be provided. According to the census of 1871 there were in the city and province of Rome 474 monastic establishments (311 for monks, 163 for nuns), occupied by 4326 monks and 3825 nuns, and possessing a gross revenue of 4,780,891 lire. Of these, 126 monasteries and 90 convents were situated in the city, 51 monasteries and 22 convents in the " suburbicariates. " The action of the law of June 19th 1873 has left untouched 23 of the monasteries and 49 of the convents, which had either the character of private institutions, or were supported by foreign funds. In the city alqne 2977 individuals became recipients of pensions from the fund to the aggregate value of 1,319,832 lire.

Table XXXV. furnishes details regarding the suppression and modification of ecclesiastical foundations.

== TABLE ==

For further information, see G. C. Bertozzi, "Notizie storiche e statistiche sul riordinamento dell' asse ecclesiastico nel regno d'ltalia," in Annali di Stat., 1879 ; and the summary of the same by Bellini in the Archivio di Stat., 1880.

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