Most recent research on Sicilian aristocracy in early modern age has shown how the elite of the island, while keeping its reference “ideological” models in the titled nobility of feudality, was actually a very composite social group, formed by bureaucrats, lawyers, merchants, former “gabelloti” (major tenants of estates) as well as by professionals.Moreover, joining this heterogeneous aristocratic group was increasingly linked, especially since the end of the sixteenth century, to a large availability of financial resources provided by these “new nobles”. During that period, infact, due to mounting economical troubles, the Spanish monarchy actually made a widespread use of conferring – or, better, of selling – titles of nobility, together with – during the second and third decade of the seventeenth century – some massive giveaways of its public domains and jurisdictions. The result was a renewal of Sicilian aristocratic class.The aim of this paper is to recover the role played – in this context of high social mobility – by the cadets who started a successful ecclesiastical career, which vitally contributed to build and strengthen the social prestige, the political influence and economic position of the relevant aristocratic families.In particular, this paper will focus on two most prestigious types of ecclesiastical career:a) members of the ecclesiastical estate of the Sicilian Parliament, in order to identify the owners of the royal benefits of patronage (especially bishops and abbots), the ties with the secular feudality – kinship and common political and economic interests –, the relationship with the central power (viceroy, Court, Consejos) and the Church of Rome, particularly on the mechanisms governing their appointment.b) Sicilian dignitaries and knights of the Military Orders, from the international Order of Malta to the Spanish Orders of Alcántara, Calatrava, Santiago and Montesa and the Tuscan Order of S. Stephen. The “proofs of nobility” – to be admitted to these Orders –, which often represented the first stage of an easy career, offer in this context a large amount of information necessary to rebuild the composition of genuine aristocratic factions and lobbies, i.e. family networks of solidarity, characterized by political strategies and common economic interests.
|Publication status||Published - 2009|