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Original scientific paper

Dubia et consulta: Opinions of the State Theologians of the Dubrovnik Republic in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century

Relja Seferović ; Zavod za povijesne znanosti HAZU, Dubrovnik, Hrvatska

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Since the medieval times, the commune of Dubrovnik, similar to the Republic of Venice, was determined to remain independent in regulating its relations with the Church, avoiding stronger influence of prelates upon its domestic affairs. A record from as early as the fourteenth century bears witness to the assignment of the Ragusan theologians in the dealings with the bishop of Ston. Over the centuries the counselling role of the local theologians be - came institutionally framed, commonly known in seventeenth- and eighteenthcentury sources as teologi di Stato or ‘state theologians’. They were elected by the Minor Council, confirmed by the Senate, and invested in a special ceremony, after which they held their position for life. State theologians were unpaid, but highly honoured, and some of them worked their way up to the rank of bishop. Their work is studied on the basis of nearly hundred consulta or counsels kept at the State Archives in Dubrovnik. A division by themes is suggested: the issues of church asylum, the Inquisition and relations with non-Catholic groups, offences, state supremacy over the Church, taxes and financing, confraternities, wills, relations among the laymen, relations among the clerics and interior questions of the Church. All these opinions, consulta, were given as answers to the official enquiries from the Senate or dubia. Luckily, the fact that they had to be submitted in written form in order to be read out at the Senate meetings helped their survival to date. Written largely in Latin and Italian, these documents were drafted and signed by ten theologians, friars mainly, in the period following the Great Earthquake of 1667 until the 1770s. The bulk of the opinions owes its authorship to the Franciscan Sebastijan Slade Dolci, who spent more than forty years as state theologian of the Dubrovnik Republic. Their conclusions were supported by authoritative writings (papal epistles, decisions of the church councils, but also legal writings) and legal customs. They have proved themselves most knowledgeable about historical facts, life of the city, surroundings and local customs.
The aspirations of the highest political body of the Republic the state theologians tended to refract through Canon law, particularly the issues governing material and financial matters. The Senate sought counsel from legal experts in Naples and in Rome on several occasions pertaining to isolated episodes involving the Ragusans at the Italian banks, difficulties with tax collecting and legacy executions. In their devoted service to the Senate, the state theologians tried to distance themselves from the dissension within the Church (particularly between some Orders) and remain as loyal to the Church and its needs as possible. The collection of consulta housed at the Dubrovnik State Archives represents a valuable monument to scholarship and spiritual culture of the time.


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