Documento Mese Febbraio2016

A look at the 1500s: the indulgence of Pius IV “for the conservation of peace”

Document for February 2016

The current Jubilee offers the chance, this month, to acquaint readers with a particularly interesting section of the historic archives of Veneranda Fabbrica del Duomo. Section II, entitled Indulgences, conserves documents from  1387 to 1818. It contains all the documents that refer to the granting of indulgences connected with the Cathedral Church: the long period covered by this documentation offers scholars the chance to observe the changes that took place in the practice of indulgences over more than four centuries.

The documents start from the first indulgence, granted by the archbishop of Milan, Antonio da Saluzzo, to all those who helped the construction of the new cathedral by donations or services rendered, and go right through to the more recent indulgences, the result of the complex development of the doctrine of repentance as we know it today.

Among the many documents conserved in this section, the one we present this month is a printed publication of a series of indulgences granted during the period 1561-62 and connected with the Tabernacle of the Cathedral Church.  It was donated by Pius IV to his nephew Carlo Borromeo, and arrived in Milan in August 1561. In the same year, to mark the feast of the Nativity of the Virgin, Pius IV granted a plenary indulgence to all those who visited the Holy Sacrament kept in the Tabernacle and devotedly prayed “for the conservation of peace among the Christian Princes and the exaltation of the holy mother Church”. This reflected the drama of that period for the Church and the whole of Europe, only six years after the Peace of Augsburg. The brief of 1561 was followed by another the year after: in it the Pope made it possible for the infirm, expectant mothers and those who could not personally visit the Duomo, due to legitimate impediment, to obtain the same indulgence by proxy.

In the document (AVFDMi, AS cart. 27 f. 61), several copies of which are conserved in the archives, the text is preceded by the reproduction of the Tabernacle, the coat of arms of the Fabbrica and the coat of arms of the Pope, Pius IV. The Tabernacle, the focus of the indulgence communicated in the text, is reproduced in large dimensions, highlighting its many wonderful details.