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The Synod of Pistoia was a diocesan synod held in 1786 under the presidency of Scipione de' Ricci (1741-1810), bishop of Pistoia, and the patronage of Leopold, grand-duke of Tuscany, with a view to preparing the ground for a national council and a reform of the Tuscan Church.

Circular letter

On January 26 the grand-duke issued a circular letter to the Tuscan bishops suggesting certain reforms, especially in the matter of the restoration of the authority of diocesan synods, the purging of the missals and breviaries of legends, the assertion of episcopal as against papal authority, the curtailing of the privileges of the monastic orders, and the better education of the clergy.

In spite of the hostile attitude of the great majority of the bishops, Bishop de Ricci issued on July 31 a summons to a diocesan synod, which was solemnly opened on the September 18. It was attended by 233 beneficed secular and 13 regular priests, and decided with practical unanimity on a series of decrees which, had it been possible to carry them into effect, would have involved a drastic alteration of the Church on the lines advocated by Febronius.


The first decree (Decretum de fide et ecclesia) declared that the Roman Catholic Church has no right to introduce new dogmas, but only to preserve in its original purity the faith once delivered by Christ to His apostles, and is infallible only so far as it conforms to Holy Scripture and true tradition; the Church, moreover is a purely spiritual body and has no authority in things secular. Other decrees denounced the abuse of indulgences, of festivals of saints, and of processions and suggested reforms; others again enjoined the closing of shops on Sunday during divine service, the issue of service-books with parallel translations in the vernacular, a vernacularization of the Roman Rite and recommended the abolition of all monastic orders except that of St. Benedict, the rules of which were to be brought into harmony with modern ideas; nuns were to be forbidden to take the vows before the age of 40. The last decree proposed the convocation of a national council. Its claims and teachings incorporated many demands made by the Jansenist clergy previously, though the synod cannot be said to have been Jansenist in essence.

Assembly in Florence

These decrees were issued together with a pastoral letter of Bishop de' Ricci, and were warmly approved by the grand-duke, at whose instance a national synod of the Tuscan bishops met at Florencemarker on April 23, 1787. The temper of this assembly was, however, wholly different. The bishops refused to allow a voice to any not of their own order, and in the end the decrees of Pistoia were supported by a minority of only three. They were finally condemned at Rome by the bull Auctorem fidei of August 28, 1794. De' Ricci, deprived of the personal support of the grand-duke (now the emperor Leopold I), exposed to pressure from Rome, and threatened with mob violence as a suspected destroyer of holy relics, resigned his see in 1791, and lived in Florencemarker as a private gentleman until his death. In May 1805, on the return of Pope Pius VII from Parismarker, he signed an act of submission to the papal decision of 1794.


De' Ricci's own memoirs, Memorie di Scipione de' Ricci, vescovo di Prato e Pistoia, edited by Antonio Galli, were published at Florence in two volumes in 1865. Besides this, his letters to Antonio Marini were published by Cesare Guasti at Prato in 1857; these were promptly put on the Index. See also De Potter, Vie de Scipion de Ricci (2 vols., Brussels, 1825), based on a manuscript life and a manuscript account of the synod placed on the Index in 1823. There are many documents in Zobi, Storia civile della Toscana, vols. ii. and iii. (Florence, 1856). The acts of the synod of Pistoia were published in Italian and Latin at Pavia in 1788.


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