The Curia

The Curia

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Curia, the House of the Roman Senate

During the Roman Republic, Roman senators met together in their senate-house, which was known as the curia, a building whose history predates the Republic.

In the mid-6th century B.C., the legendary King Tullus Hostilius is said to have built the first curia in order to house 10 elected representatives of the Roman people. These 10 men were the curiae. This first curia was called the Curia Hostilia in honor of the king.


St. Francis taught about the extraordinary love of God for even the littlest of his creatures, and he spoke of the wonderful humility of God who chose to be born in poverty in Bethlehem, and who every day humbles himself to be truly present under the appearance of a little piece of bread on the altar.

In 1209, the first group of friars went on foot from Assisi to Rome and, in an extraordinary example of the working of the Holy Spirit, the ragged band of brothers was received by Pope Innocent III, who approved their way of life.

The number of friars and sisters increased rapidly, spreading out from the tiny church of Our Lady of the Angels, the Portiuncula, and within the lifetime of St. Francis, the friars had established themselves all over Europe. During those early days, the first martyrs of the Order were killed in Morocco, and Francis rejoiced that he had brothers who had given their lives for Christ. Francis himself went to the Holy Land during the Crusades, where he had the respectful meeting with Sultan and spoke to him about spiritual matters.

Later, he received the Stigmata on Mount Alverna – outward signs of his life of intense prayer and devotion to the Passion of the Lord, and confirmation of his following in the footprints of Christ. Despite severe ill-health, he still sang the Canticle of Brother Sun in the praise of God and the Creation, until Sister Death came to visit him in 1226.

The history of the Curia

On the feast of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary in 1897, the General Minister, Father Bernardo of Andermatt [Edoardo Christen] († 1909), sent a letter to all the Provincial Ministers of the Order asking them to meet the needs of the Capuchin Poor Clare Nuns of Rome who were expelled from Corporus Christi Monastery of Monte Cavallo al Quirinale – which was their home since April 20, 1576. This was at the time of the “imprisonment” of four Poor Clare Nuns from the Monastery Saint Mary of Jerusalem – also known as the “Trentatre” – of Naples.

The Capuchin Poor Clares had permanently left the monastery of Monte Cavallo in 1887 under the blows of the suppression laws for religious orders issued by the government of the newborn Kingdom of Italy, which were soon felt in Rome after the taking of Porta Pia on September 20, 1870.

Both the monastery, established by the Confraternity of the Holy Crucifix of San Macello al Corso, (actually founded in 1574), and the church, consecrated by Cardinal Francesco Barberini on November 30, 1669, had until then resisted numerous assaults and successfully withstood the occupation of Rome by the army of the French Republic in 1798, the law of suppression of Napoleon Bonaparte after the conquest of Rome in 1810 and the short-lived Roman Republic in 1848.

The government of the Kingdom of Italy granted the Capuchin Poor Clares ad tempus a cramped shelter in a building on Via Galilei. Their hope was to return to the monastery after the upheaval. But hope soon turned to disappointment. In fact, in 1888, the year after their expulsion, the monastery of Monte Cavallo at the Quirinale, designed by Giacomo Della Porta and containing paintings and frescoes by some famous masters (Cristoforo Roncalli, Jacobino Del Conte, Marcello Venusti of Mantua) and especially appreciated and frequently visited by many popes, was completely razed to the ground.

The Capuchin Poor Clares found themselves without a home and in a more than precarious situation, because the place assigned to them was not a permanent solution but a provisional arrangement eventually due to expire. Building a new monastery, therefore, became yet another concern for Father Bernardo of Andermatt during his long pastoral ministry and leadership as General Minister of the Capuchin Franciscan Order from 1884 to 1908.

After realizing the impossibility of "regaining" the land near the Quirinale Palace where the Corporis Christi monastery once stood, the search for a place to build a new monastery ended with the allotted properties near Porta Pia, where a new Roman district was on the rise, featuring large and austere buildings capable of housing the new leadership of the newly formed capital of Italy.

Work on the new monastery, church and convent was directed by Br. Luigi da Senigallia, Capuchin Tertiary of the Province of the Marches and creator of, among other things, the stuccoes of the altar and the bas relief of the Crucified Christ among the saints.

According to accounts of the time, the structure appeared solid and elegant on the outside while its interior shone with an unmistakable austerity and poverty characteristic of the community that would have inhabited it. These reports stated that nothing was contrary to the Rule of the Capuchin Poor Clares or had even in the least suggested "some accommodation". By building a few walls, the enclosure was also safeguarded from both the prying eyes of the exterior as well as the danger of "looking out" for those inside.

Finally, on June 26, 1907, exactly ten years after the appeal to the Minister General for a new home, the Capuchin nuns took possession of the monastery of Via Sardegna-Piemonte which preserved the ancient title: Corporis Christi.

With a solemn celebration, the Minister General, Father Bernardo of Andermatt, welcomed the nuns to the door of the church and, after pausing in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, introduced them into the enclosure.

The Capuchin Poor Clares remained in their new home until December 1, 1950, when the then General Minister, Father Clement of Milwaukee [William Neubauer] († 1969), in anticipation of the "de-urbanization" of the International College of St. Lawrence of Brindisi and the consequent need to find in central Rome a location for the General Curia , decided on their transfer to a new monastery that would be built in the "Garbatella" district and precisely on the "Villa Pozzi" property located on a small hill at Piazzale delle Sette Chiese .

On December 2, 1950, renovation began on the former monastery of Via Sardegna-Piemonte, in order to house the General Curia of the Order. The work was entrusted to the architects Paolo and subsequently Mario Leonardi and to the Construction Society of the brothers Luigi and Pietro Galli.

The renovation work proceeded quite quickly. In addition to the reconstruction of the interior, which was necessary for the proper functioning of the General Curia, provisions of the Constitutions were observed and, according to accounts at the time, were respectful of the nature of Capuchin life "quae omnen ornatum devitat" (which avoids all embellishments) an extensive renovation of the Via Piemonte wing was carried out with the rebuilding and addition of a second floor, thus giving uniformity to the entire building. The entrance to the new General Curia was located in the same Via Piemonte wing.

The work being completed, on April 9, 1953 early in the morning, the Minister General, Father Benigno of Sant'Ilario Milanese [Giovanni Battista Re Cecconi] († 1974), the members of the General Curia and many friars present in Rome, welcomed at the door of the church Cardinal Clemente Micara, Protector of the Order, who, after having consecrated the altar, went to the refectory to bless the crucifix that would later be placed in that location. This was the ordinary gesture in the Capuchin tradition for moving into a new place: to plant the cross as a sign of belonging and adherence to Christ. This was followed by a solemn celebration of Holy Mass accompanied by the singing of the student choir from the College of Saint Lawrence of Brindisi.

Thus the life of the fraternity of the General Curia began. The building underwent some changes little by little as was necessary in order to give more space or simply for ordinary maintenance. The Second Vatican Council and the new liturgical norms led to the restructuring of the Church especially as regards the positioning of the altar.

The 2006 General Chapter, while evaluating the need for renovation of some of the structures on the property housing the General Curia, recommended to the new Minister General, Br. Mauro Jöhri, a project of total renovation.

The General Definitory took the first steps of implementing the renovation project at the beginning of 2009, when the restructuring of the Church at the International College of St. Lawrence of Brindisi and of the Order's property in Jerusalem had already begun.

The idea took shape of transferring the General Curia to the current convent of the Capuchin Poor Clares at Garbatella and then subsequently to transfer the sisters to another location. It was an idea that mirrored what had already happened in 1950 when the Capuchin Poor Clares left the monastery of Via Sardegna-Piemonte to make room for the General Curia.

This scenario, first presented in a feasibility study on June 24, 2009, was found unworkable as the size of the monastery building was not sufficient enough to house the entire structure of the General Curia and, moreover, architectural and historical constraints did not allow for an expansion of the monastery itself.

Having laid this idea aside, in March 2010, the General Definitory decided to renovate the building at Via Piemonte 70, and at the same time announced a call for bids for a complete project. Three projects were presented. On June 25, 2010, the General Definitory chose the project of architect Cesare Nota Rodari who, in the following months, after considering the suggestions and directions of the general leadership, presented the revised drawings of the four floors and the terrace with the related proposals for the renovation.

In the meantime, an attempt was made to find a solution for the temporary transfer of the offices of the General Curia so as to leave the building at Via Piemonte 70 completely free. Various propositions were worked out to ensure that the General Curia would remain in the city, but none proved feasible due to insufficient space. The only place capable of containing the entire General Curia was the College of St. Lawrence of Brindisi.

After the presentation of the project, modified according to the suggestions received, other meetings followed between the architect Cesare Rota Nodari accompanied by his associates and the General Definitory, which was later joined by an ad hoc commission set up to follow more closely the preparation of the project in all its complexity.

On June 24, 2011, exactly one year after the first drawings were presented, the General Definitory approved the overall project and decided that in September, 2011 the Order would be informed of the start of the work, the timeframes and the financial resources that would have to be contributed. At the same time, the transfer of the General Curia from Via Piemonte 70 to the International College of St. Lawrence of Brindisi began.

On December 1, 2011, the General Definitory decided to commit the renovation of the building at Piemonte 70 to Manelli Construction according to the plans prepared by architect Cesare Rota Nodari and reviewed by the commission charged with following up on the work. In the following months, the bureaucratic process began of presenting the project to the relevant municipal and state authorities along with the request for the renovation’s approval.

A period of intense activity followed which saw several teams of workers, each in their own field of expertise, working intensely over thirty-two months to deliver to the General Curia of the Order of Capuchin Friars Minor the completed work by the deadline date that had already been set: June 30, 2014.

Paterculus' Roman History

Velleius Paterculus (c. 20 BCE - after 30 CE) Roman officer, senator, and scholar, author of a brief Roman History.

In 1515, the manuscript of Velleius Paterculus' Roman History was discovered in the abbey of Murbach in the Alsace by a humanist scholar who called himself Beatus Rhenanus but whose real name was Bilde von Rheinau (1485-1547). Five years later, he published the text. Although the original manuscript is now lost, we know that it was badly written and contained many errors.

Yet, the discovery was immediately recognized as important. In those days, Paterculus' now deservedly famous description of the conflict between the Romans and the Germanic tribes, which culminates in his account of the battle in the Teutoburg Forest, seemed remarkably relevant to the conflict between the German reformer Marten Luther and the Roman Catholic church. Today, the Roman History is appreciated as a readable summary of Roman history, and as an important source for the reign of the emperor Tiberius. In fact, Paterculus' treatise is the only surviving historical study from the early empire.

Rhenanus called the text Roman History, and although many scholars have used this title ever since, it is in fact a bit misleading. Paterculus does certainly focus on Rome, but he situates its history in a larger context. Maybe Compendium of World History would have been a better title, although it was obvious to his contemporaries that the conquests of Rome had changed universal history into Roman history. This was an accepted point of view, developed already by the Greek historian Polybius of Megalopolis (c.200-c.118) in his World History.

Paterculus is also indebted to the Roman historian Sallust (86-34), who stated that the fall of Carthage in 146 had been the most important turning point in the history of Rome. Until then, the Romans had been virtuous people, but since they no longer had a serious enemy, their greed was no longer checked and they were corrupted by luxury, which in turn made civil war inevitable. Paterculus agrees:

When Rome was freed of the fear of Carthage, and her rival in empire was out of her way, the path of virtue was abandoned for that of corruption, not gradually, but in headlong course. The older discipline was discarded to give place to the new. The state passed from vigilance to slumber, from the pursuit of arms to the pursuit of pleasure, from activity to idleness. note [ Roman History 2.1.1 tr. F.W. Shipley.]

As if to stress this point, the Roman History is divided into two halves. In the first book, Paterculus describes the events until the capture of Carthage. In this part, which unfortunately contains two long lacunae, there is much room for Greek, oriental and Carthaginian history. The words quoted above are the introduction to the second book, which describes the Roman civil wars and the reigns of Augustus and Tiberius.

Book I [preface missing] Events after the Trojan War Homer origin of the Median empire foundation of Carthage Hesiod the first Olympic games foundation of Rome. [long lacuna] Rome conquers Macedonia Roman intervention in Syria and Egypt Achaean War Third Punic War digression on the foundation of Roman colonies digression on the benefits of competition.
Book II
Roman corruption after the fall of Carthage Roman defeats in Hispania Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus Numantine War Gaius Sempronius Gracchus Germanic incursions famous orators Numidian War Marius versus the Germanic tribes Social War Mithridatic War Sulla Cinna Sulla's dictatorship.
Book II
Rise of Pompey the Great Sertorius War against the pirates Lucullus Conspiracy of Catiline Pompey versus Mithridates Digression on Roman provinces First Triumvirate Defeat of Crassus Julius Caesar conquers Gaul Civil war between Pompey and Caesar Caesar's dictatorship Caesar's death.
Book II
Adoption of Octavian Octavian versus Mark Antony Second Triumvirate Battle of Philippi Suicide of Brutus and Cassius Perugine War Octavian's war against Sextus Pompeius Mark Antony's war against the Parthian Empire Cleopatra Naval battle of Actium Suicide of Mark Antony and Cleopatra Octavian sole ruler Blessings of his reign.
Book II
Beginning of the career of Tiberius Conquest of Raetia Defeat of Lollius Beginning of the Germanic Wars Gaius Caesar in the east His death Tiberius appointed as Augustus' successor his Germanic wars Tiberius suppresses the Pannonian and Dalmatian revolts Varus' defeat in the Teutoburg Forest Tiberius' punitive actions He becomes emperor
Book II
Blessings of Tiberius' reign several successes prayer to Jupiter, Mars, and Vesta for the prosperity of the Empire and the health of its ruler.

In his first book, Paterculus devotes much space to the achievements of non-Roman people (especially the Greeks). He probably was the first Roman to write a universal history. This is interesting, because the Roman History was dedicated to Marcus Vinicius, consul in 30 CE, who is often addressed in the second person. One is tempted to think that Paterculus tried to remind the chief magistrate of Rome that the Roman empire had become a truly Mediterranean empire, and that this created certain responsibilities. If so, the author's thoughts were seriously out of season: during the reign of the conservative Tiberius, the Empire was still there to serve Italy.

Perhaps this interpretation is far-fetched, but there may be more implied criticism in the Roman History. Although Paterculus includes the usual remarks about the blessings of the reign of the emperor Augustus, his account of the Augustan age is essentially the story of a series of military disasters: the defeat of Lollius in 16 BCE, a Thracian insurrection, the rebellion of the Pannonians and Dalmatians in 5 CE, and the battle in the Teutoburg Forest in 9. The introduction to the reign of Augustus is ambiguous - to say the very least:

The civil wars were ended after twenty years, foreign wars suppressed, peace restored, the frenzy of arms everywhere lulled to rest validity was restored to the laws, authority to the courts, and dignity to the Senate the power of the magistrates was reduced to its former limits, with the sole exception that two were added to the eight existing praetors. The old traditional form of the republic was restored. note [Roman History 2.89.3.]

This is the equivalent of praising general Pinochet for bringing peace to Chile. Marcus Vinicius and any other senator reading the Roman History knew that Augustus was responsible for the last fourteen years of civil war, that the power of the magistrates had not been restored to former limits but simply curtailed, and that the foreign wars simply continued. In fact, Paterculus is an important source for the conflicts in Pannonia and Germania.

The details of his description of the Augustan age are no less telling. For example, we learn about Augustus' failure as a father (his daughter Julia's children "were to be blessings neither to herself nor to the state", 2.93.2), and Paterculus singles out for praise consul Gaius Sentius Saturninus, who used the absence of Augustus to punish corruption. The implication is that Augustus was unable to cope with these excesses.

It is not hard to see why Paterculus was skeptical about the blessings brought to humankind by Augustus. During his own active career as a soldier, he had seen the wars of the pax augusta. Although he was not directly involved in the battle in the Teutoburg Forest, Paterculus took part in the retaliatory campaigns, and he also had first-hand experience with the difficult Pannonian and Dalmatian wars. He must have understood that the Roman conquest of the earth was not a pretty thing when one looked into it too much, and knew how empty the boasts of Augustus were and how shallow his propaganda was.

There is another reason for Paterculus' skepticism. The long and interesting descriptions of the Pannonian and Dalmatian Wars and the Germanic campaigns were excellent means to introduce the martial qualities of Tiberius, Paterculus' patron, who "by virtue of his services had long been a Caesar before he was such in name" (2.104.3).

This remark is one of the many examples of Paterculus' enthusiastic loyalty to his former comrade-in-arms. Unfortunately, he often crosses the line where an acceptable (and praiseworthy) loyalty degenerates into flattery. In those cases, he is no longer a historian, but becomes a panegyrist.

It must be noted, though, that it is unfair to take the final part of the Roman History , after 2.126.1, as evidence for Paterculus' historical judgment. It is meant as panegyric and clearly presented as such, commencing with a rhetorical question ("Who would undertake to tell in detail the accomplishments of the past sixteen years?") and a triple metonymy ("strife banished from the forum, canvassing from the Field of Mars, discord from the curia").

Yet, Tiberius cannot have been pleased with one detail of the Roman History. One example is Paterculus' description of the battle in the Teutoburg Forest. In the years immediately after the disaster, general Quintilius Varus had been blamed for the Roman defeat. During the reign of Tiberius, however, Varus' noble family had attempted to restore the memory of its relative. The soldiers of the Seventeenth, Eighteenth, and Nineteenth legions were responsible, they said. Tiberius, who had by marriage been connected to Varus, had also been his personal friend, and favored the Roman nobility anyhow, was inclined to support this revision. Paterculus, however, who had known many soldiers who had perished in the disaster, reminded his readers of the heroic behavior of the legionaries, and concluded that

from all this, it is evident that Varus, who was a man of character and of good intentions, lost his life and his magnificent army more through lack of judgment in the commander than of valor in his soldiers. note [Roman History 2.120.5.]

The story of the defeat in the Teutoburg Forest also illustrates the other qualities of Paterculus' Roman History. The description of Varus contains some criticism ("That he was no despiser of money is demonstrated by his governorship of Syria: he entered the rich province a poor man, but left it a rich man and the province poor") but is essentially friendly ("a man of character and of good intentions").

After the almost comical description of Varus' behavior in Germania ("sitting on his tribunal he wasted the time of a summer campaign in holding court and observing the proper details of legal procedure"), there is a turn to the real tragedy, which Paterculus introduces suddenly ("after this first warning, there was no time left for a second"). The story also contains a sad philosophical comment:

It is usually the case that heaven perverts the judgment of the man whose fortune it means to reverse, and brings it to pass -and this is the wretched part of it- that that which happens by chance seems to be deserved, and accident passes over into culpability. note [Roman History, 2.118.4.]

Paterculus reflects upon the human condition, offers a balanced and not uncritical portrait of a man he has known, and changes in a few lines from what amounts to comedy to sad tragedy. The result of this unexpected change is that the reader feels compassion with those brave men whose lives suffered a similar change in fortune. Whatever one may think of Paterculus' frequent hyperboles and his sometimes clumsy sentences, he knows how to tell a good, varied story. He was a narrator, not a writer.

For a very long time, Paterculus has been regarded as a mere flatterer and a poor historian. This is not untrue, but it is possible to stress this point too much. He did his best. His rejection of the Varronian chronology proves that he understood that Caesar and Augustus had tried to manipulate the past - which is more than we can say of modern historians who follow Varro's propaganda.

Finally, it is unfair to say that Paterculus was a bad historian. It is true, he did not consult archives, and it is also true that his analysis runs less deep than that of an author like Tacitus. But these are not the standards to be applied. The ancients thought that a historian had to have first-hand experience with politics and warfare, ought to have interviewed the main actors of his story, and should have visited the countries he was describing. From this point of view, the only one that mattered in Antiquity, Velleius Paterculus was the perfect historian.

2 thoughts on &ldquo Why is History Important? &rdquo

What with being the son of a history teacher I’ve often been more aware of the past than I have of the present. I didn’t actually realise that there is some sort of antipathy against the teaching of history – is there? – although if people genuinely are saying that its teaching is less and less relevant then I guess it is worth saying my bit. I’ll probably simply state stuff that further illustrates the points already made but hey ho.

Firstly, I agree with all three main reasons stated in the blog that history is of central importance to EVERYTHING we experience today. I actually couldn’t agree more vehemently, in fact. In a roundabout way it managed to centre in on the most important reason (I think splitting it into two) – the fact that to appreciate the value of the world we live in, the democracy we share, the importance of peace and maintaining the tenuous grasp we have on world stability is shaped by our own people’s struggles through the centuries which, in turn, set out a myriad list of lessons of what not to do. We must both appreciate the our legacy and avoid the mistakes made by others. And to do this you first have to understand it.

People who don’t vote, for example. What’s that about? The poor fought for suffrage for centuries, often in the atmosphere of bloody oppression. Women for even longer. And now we’ve got it, 1 in 2 of us don’t appreciate it or use it. To understand the past is to understand the value of democracy and our modern social structures. Few people do understand and perhaps even fewer engage. Living in England, I have no real party to vote for who I believe in – but I’ll still make sure I put a cross next to those who most closely represent me. Otherwise, what it the point in them even being there? You want change? Go vote for it. Around 100 years ago your ancestors had to die for it. History.

What else? Oh, another – creeping anti-semitism across Europe. We’ve been here before on several occasions in history, the most spectacular event resulting in the holocaust. Yet due in a large part to the aggression of Israel against the Palestinians it seems to be tolerated more and more in most countries – synagogues being desecrated, Jewish shops vandalised and burgled. In addition, this hatred we have of immigrants in general. We’re into the next revolution of a constant cycle here where the combination of austerity across Europe and an emergence of both a radical right and left in many countries is seeing the scapegoating of Jews and other minority factions across the continent, including immigrants more generally in the UK. Add to this the lack of backbone or worse the ideological bullying of a number of the continents leading parties and we’re concocting the same toxic cocktail that has led to mass persecution over and over throughout history, usually endorsed by the masses. If you aren’t aware of the signs you won’t be aware of the possible consequences. History.

What about our pals across in the Islamic State? If they didn’t proclaim themselves as the most fundamentally religious gang on earth I could have sworn they were entirely nihilistic. There’s a reason why the destruction of the likes of Palmyra and the artefacts held by Mosul Museum (to name but two atrocities against the fabric of humanity committee by these cretins) resulted in such outcry across the world. It isn’t because of their particular beauty (although some edifices and details are still quite stunning) or their amenity value. Its because they are the blueprint of our modern society and to lose them is to lose the tools of our shared understanding of the past. Here are a group of people who have visibly rejected the value of history and, moreover, are intent on actually stopping the progress of civilisation. I’m not saying that to lack an appreciation of the past means that you’ll end up drowning people in cages but an understanding of our shared struggles through the mists of time certainly goes some way to allowing you to step back and think about the way in which it is nourishing the soul – a soul that these animals in the caliphate singularly lack.

There is a strong argument to say that if you reject history you reject any appreciation of who you are, why you are here and what you can contribute to the future. Put quite simply – history IS humanity and culture all wrapped into one. And I haven’t even gotten on to the likes of Mozart, Renoir, Holman-Hunt, Wren…or perhaps more specifically Constable, Turner, Lowry, people who have embedded our social history within their work. Why would you ever appreciate the subject matter of the Fighting Temeraire or Coming From the Mill if you had no context. Why would you even appreciate a lot of great art if it didn’t speak to you? A grasp of history allows you to lose yourself in the moment that has been captured. A lack of understanding simply leaves you looking at a load of matchstick men and matchstick cats and dogs that a child could have scribbled down.

I was taken around gallery after gallery (often against my will) as a child with the prize of a Pizza Hut at the end of it. I barely eat Pizza Hut any more. I still visit art galleries. I guess what this goes to show, to an extent, is that you have to be smitten with your past whilst still young and impressionable. It is probably no coincidence that while my friends, not of a history teaching stock, read fiction I spend my days reading about historical fact. In which case, to cut back on any teaching of history in schools would be a disaster. To reject history is actually to end it.

I may have slightly over stated it a little. It’s not quite that bad, but there is a general disdain of history among a lot of people who I casually talk to. The ones who I keep around as friends tend to at least have an interest in it, though not always.

That being said, in the educational world, history, especially on the american high school level, is usually underfunded compared to other departments and in a lot of places it’s still taught by coaches as opposed to actual teachers. It’s also an issue that there are occasions where teaching history from more than the accepted point of view is usually not looked upon well by administrators.

In the political world it’s really quite common for politicians to try and manipulate the masses using “historical fact” on both sides of the political divide. In America a lot of people like to accuse republicans solely of this, but in my experience democrats are usually only a little less bad with this practice.

I went to a fair amount of museums and such while I was younger, along with several trips to battlefields and memorials. I’ll freely admit I did not appreciate it enough then and would really like to go back to each of those at some point in time.

About this page

APA citation. Ojetti, B. (1912). Roman Curia. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Ojetti, Benedetto. "Roman Curia." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 13. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Jeffrey L. Anderson.

Curia Charter Members

Alfred Appel 󈧠
Lawrence Abrams 󈧡
Simon Rosenzweig 󈧡
Maxwell H. Tretter 󈧡
Edward Brandriss 󈧢
Hon. Sol Clark 󈧢
Elsa Koestler 󈧢
Arthur Leff 󈧢
Robert Pomerance 󈧢
Charles Snitow 󈧢

Morris Glushien 󈧣
Leo Katzin 󈧣
Col. Jerome Loewenberg 󈧣
Morton Milman 󈧣
Irving Cantor 󈧤
John Corwin 󈧤
Hymen Knopf 󈧤
James Gitlitz 󈧥
Milton Gould 󈧥
Carl Hoffman 󈧥

Historical Background of Vatican II

John XXIII provoked general surprise in the world on January 25, 1959. He announced his intention to convoke a council for the Universal Church. Without having very concrete ideas about the content of the council, Bl. John XXIII identified two objectives: an adaptation (aggiornamento) of the Church and of apostolate to a world undergoing great transformation, and a return to unity among Christians, which seems to be what the Pope thought would happen shortly. The council did not speak so much of the Church fighting against adversaries as it did of finding a way of expression in the world in which she lived and seemed to ignore.

Vatican II was an ecumenical council that took place in Vatican City from October 11, 1962, until December 8, 1965. This council represents a major event in the life of the Church of the 20th century, and for this reason it constitutes a fundamental era in universal history. It came to be the conclusion of the Tridentine period and the beginning of a new phase in the history of the Church. This is due to the prophetic action of Bl. John XXIII who perceived the need for a council that would positively mark the new phase of the Church's evangelizing mission and to the undisputed personality of Paul VI who had the courage to have brought it to its conclusion and to have forged the first steps of reform.

From January 25, 1959, in the Basilica of St. Paul's Outside the Walls, a double movement was initiated: on one hand direct preparation for the council began, accomplished above all by the Roman Curia on the other, the separation of diverse eccesial experiences that tended toward a strong renewal of the life of the Church. A look at preconciliar history clearly reveals the existence of a strong conservative block different factors testify to it we can recall in particular: the concentration of the Curia and the vacant office of the Secretary of State that Pius XII always held the different condemnations of several theological renovations the prohibition against teaching what was held by different valuable professors, like H. de Lubac, Y. Congar, Teilhard de Chardin. after the publication of Humani Generis. Different factors already suggested the change that soon become reality the socio-cultural context already showed the signs of an irreversible industrialization: the countries of the Third World assumed an identity that they had never before had and colonialism was reaching its end in a word: society was fearfully and something was being conceived that would modify more than just civil life.

There were also signs within the Church that signaled change: the ecumenical movement continued to grow with a strong consciousness of creating authentic spaces for encounter and dialogue the laity assumed an appearance of authentic ecclesial maturity the theological context seemed to be sustained by an investigation that returned to the genuine sources of Scripture and the Fathers. The preparatory commission was presided over by Cardinal Tardini the Secretary General of the council was Bishop Pericles Felici the material for discussion was prepared by ten commissions composed of various theologians from the Curia and was set out in 70 schema. The majority of the people involved in the preparation of the Council began with the assurance that it would conclude in a few months unfortunately, these presentiments were inaccurate. In three years of intense work, the council rejected a great part of the preparatory material and formulated some documents that restored an authentically Evangelical horizon to the Church. There were 2,540 bishops present at the Council, coming from every continent, as were at least 480 theologians - "peritos" and auditors -, thus as representatives of reform and orthodoxy. This representation manifested the new expressions of dialogue that had been codified in the documents themselves. Vatican II, a point of change for the pontificate of Bl. John XXIII revolutionized the position of the Catholic Church regarding the ecumenical movement. The ecumenical concern was, in the mind of Pope John XXIII, one of the principle stimuli that had brought him to announce his intention to call a council "to manifest, to a greater degree, our love and benevolence toward those who call themselves Christians but are separated from the Apostolic See, so that they also can closely follow the works of the council and thus more easily find the way to achieve unity for which Jesus directs to the Heavenly Father such an ardent plea."

The celebration of the council constituted a great event for all Christianity. The presence of non-Catholic observers and their collaboration through questions and observations contributed by introducing an ecumenical dimension to the conciliar documents. As such, the occurrence of the council was for all churches, during those years, a sign of hope. It made manifest the possibility that a Church would begin and bring to a good conclusion, in a certain sense, a general updating and reform. It also made for an admirable example of the concilar character of the Church. The concept of "council" was actualized, again, as much in the Orthodox churches as in the whole ecumenical movement.

History and Judicial Reform

All those national and international political factors that affected the everyday of the prevailing Hungarian state exerted an influence - whether positive or negative - over its jurisdiction as well. The state of St. Stephen came to the vanguard of Europe in terms of legal security. With his codes the king - as the prominent person of supreme jurisdiction - laid down the foundations of a thousand year-old development of the legal system. After the 1320s the administration of justice in the Hungarian Kingdom assumed a structure that was to survive for centuries to come. However, the annihilating defeat suffered from the Turks at Mohács in 1526 signified the defeat of Palatine Werbőczy and the political regime of the day together with its system of jurisdiction. With the division of the country into three parts in 1541 the administration of justice involving the presence and personal participation of the king ceased to function in regions under Habsburg control. Elsewhere, in areas ruled by the Turks, the legal system of the occupying forces was introduced. The centralised administration of justice of the Curia, which had previously been of major importance, was now on the decline, to be replaced by local feudal jurisdiction.

Within the framework of the judicial reform in 1723, Act XXIV dealt with the Table of Seven, the highest judicial forum consisting of seven judges and presided by the Palatine, who was at the same time the president of the whole Curia. Based on the development of law of earlier centuries, Act XXV regulated the position of the Royal Court of Appeal led by the Chief Judicial Representative, which had its first session on May 2, 1724. The Curia, made up of two forums, the Table of Seven and the Royal Table (or the Royal Court of Appeal), was turned into a permanent court working in Pest independently of the royal court, though it did not meet regularly until the reign of Joseph II. With the establishment of four and from 1726 onwards five regional courts beside the Curia the framework of jurisdiction valid up to 1868 was laid down.

Following the surrender at Világos on 3 November 1849, Franz Joseph I dissolved the entire system of Hungarian courts. Out of the former courts of the Curia the Appeal Court of Exchange was partially and temporarily reinstituted at the end of 1849 but in 1850 - when in line with the ideas of absolutism the "imperial and royal" court structure was created (together with its supreme court) - it was dissolved again. The Table of Seven, which had previously been the highest legal forum, was dissolved. Its jurisdiction was taken over by the Kaiserlicher und Königlicher Oberster Gerichts- und Cassationshof that ruled in Vienna from 1848 and its competence was extended to cover the whole of Hungary. The legal successors of the Appeal Court of Exchange and the Royal Table were five regional courts called Oberlandsgerichte. The occupying forces destroyed the system of both the high courts and the lower-level judicial forums of the country and the legal system associated with the world of the estates was replaced by a centralised, unified, and clear-cut system of courts, the achievement of a foreign absolute power. It served modernisation by separating public administration from the administration of justice almost completely and by dividing the functions of prosecution and jurisdiction. The October Diploma of 1860 (the imperial decree granting Hungary independence in internal affairs once again) set a limit to the jurisdiction of foreign legal forums, abolishing the judicial system forced on Hungary at the time of absolutism.

The Conference of the Lord Chief Justice in 1861 reinstituted the judicial structure of the period before the revolution of 1848. The Royal Hungarian Curia began functioning again on 3 April 1861 in its building on Friars' Market in Pest. The Conference of the Lord Chief Justice left the structure of the feudal Curia untouched, however, in the light of the demands of bourgeois development and the changes it involved, the framework of the judicial system associated with the estates, which had been restored in several aspects, proved untenable. Act LIV of 1868 brought about two courts of appeal, with panels of five, one in Budapest and one at Marosvásárhely, to replace the dissolved regional appellate courts. The statute declared that "the highest legal authority as regards the whole jurisdiction of the two royal courts of appeal would rest with the highest court under the name 'Royal Hungarian Curia' located in Pest." This meant that the functions of the supreme court consisting of two departments - the Court of Cassation adjudicating appeals in the field of the law of procedure and the Supreme Tribunal dealing with cases of third instance on the merits - were narrowed down to the jurisdiction of the former Table of Seven.

On 1 June 1869 the Court of Cassation held its statutory meeting under the chairmanship of Lord Chief Justice Count György Majláth. The Royal Court of Appeal of Pest which was reinstituted on 1 May 1861 started its activities on 1 June 1869 and in spite of its feudal framework it adjudicated according to bourgeois values. Its ensuing presidents were István Fábry, Miklós Szabó, Miklós Mihajlovits, dr. Károly Vajkay, Bódog Czorda, Sándor Vértessy, Adolf Oberschall and Ferenc Csathó, and it functioned until its partition on 4 May 1891. In 1891 president dr. Károly Vajkay was appointed president of the newly established Royal Court of Appeal of Budapest as well and later on of leaders of the courts of appeal Miklós Szabó (1888-1905) and Adolf Oberschall (1906-1908) became presidents of the Curia. Article 2 of Act LIX of 1881 merged the two departments of the Curia as from 1 January 1882: "With regard to the jurisdiction of both royal tables, the highest judicial authority is hereby vested in the Royal Hungarian Curia in Budapest." With Act XXXVIII of 1884 the offices of the Lord Chief Justice and the President of the Curia were separated. Béla Perczel, the former vice-president, became the assassinated Count György Majláth's successor from 27 November 1884 and he was the first president of the Royal Hungarian Curia who was no longer Lord Chief Justice at the same time.

Alajos Hauszmann was ready with the plans of the present day building of the Municipal Court in 1884 but it was built only in 1887. The building provided place for several legal forums. It is known from Hauszmann's biography that Teofil Fabiny, Minister of Justice commissioned him to draw up the plans of the Royal Curia as well, the actual construction of which started in 1983. Meeting the requirements, the building was completed by the festival of the millennium. The last stone of it was put to its place by Franz Joseph on 6 October 1936. (Other sources point out the period between 1891 and 1897 as the time of construction.)

Act XXV of 1980 decentralised the royal courts of appeal creating eleven courts in place of two. The revolutions that followed World War I brought about temporary modifications in the system of the courts while the Trianon Peace Treaty resulted in fundamental changes: the number of the royal courts of appeal was reduced to 5, the number of the royal tribunals fell to 67 and that of the primary provincial district courts to 150. Following the above mentioned presidents, the Supreme Court of bourgeois Hungary was headed by Antal Günther (1909-1920), Gusztáv Tőry(1920-1925), Andor Juhász (1925-1934), István Osvald (1934-1937), Géza Töreky (1937-1944) and during the pro-fascist Szálasi era Jenő Szemák (1944-1945). The last president of the Hungarian Curia was István Kerekess (1945-1949), during its dissolution it was led by vice-president Ödön Somogyi. By 1947-1948 domestic conditions, including the administration of justice and the conditions of the administrators of justice, entirely changed. Act XX of 1949, the new Constitution of the People's Republic of Hungary ruled on the new judicial structure, referring to the tribunals as county courts, to the courts of appeal as high courts and to the Hungarian Curia as the Supreme Court of the People's Republic. The new highest judicial organ held its first plenary meeting on 18 November 1949 in the building planned by Hauszmann. However, judges could not stay here long, in 1953 the Judicial Palace was given over first to the Historical Museum of Hungarian and International Workers' Movement, then to the Museum of Ethnography, afterwards to the National Gallery and all the while as co-tenants the Workers' Movement Institute of the Hungarian Workers' Party (and its legal successor) and for a short period a department of the National Archives were also placed in the building.

At the beginning the new Supreme Court was led by two vice-presidents, Ödön Somogyi (1949-1950) and Péter Jankó (1950-1953). The first president was Erik Molnár (1953-1954), his successors were József Domokos (1954-1958), Mihály Jahner-Bakos (1958-1963), József Szalay (1963-1968) and Ödön Szakács (1968-1980). Jenő Szilbereky (1980-1990) was the last president of the Supreme Court of the Hungarian People's Republic and the first one of that of the Hungarian Republic. Under his presidency, at the beginning of 1981 he managed to move the judiciary from the Buda side of Chain bridge to Markó street, into the building which had earlier housed the Ministry of Heavy Industries. This palace was built based on Sándor Fellner's plans of 1912. From 1918 it housed the Ministry of Justice, from 1945 the Ministry of Internal Affairs and afterwards it was used by the Ministry of Heavy Industries, the National Supervisory Committee of Technics and the Mining Inspectorate. Since September 1981 the building has housed exclusively the Supreme Court and the Prosecutor-General's Office. After Szilbereky's retirement, Zoltán Nagy was acting head for a short period, filling the presidential vacuum, and following the parliamentary elections in 1990 the new parliament elected Pál Solt as president of the Supreme Court in 1990 and repeatedly in 1996.

Neither in the 19th, nor in the 20th century could Hungarian supreme jurisdiction function independently of political turbulence. Judges had to render decisions in matters of political nature, they were involved in procedures against party and state leaders of various convictions and the expected final decision of these cases was often suggested. This was the case before and after World War I and the revolutions and likewise before and after World War II. Supreme Court judges could not withdraw themselves from political cases, from the sanction following 1956 or later on from the so-called restitution procedures conducted in several waves. The administration of justice from 1945 which served the creation and protection of the Stalin-type regime is appropriately characterised by the three so-called cassation acts which provide for the annulment of any unlawful decision issued between 1948 and 1989 (regardless whether which court at which instance passed the unlawful decision). In 1934 the then president of the Curia, dr. Andor Juhász said: "As soon as a judge has to adjust his judgement to political and social trends, to the preference of the executive power or to that of any domineering contentious party instead of his own personal imperative, he ceases to be a judge." A decade later this ars poetica lost its validity for a long time. An example of the apocalypse could be the fate of the last president of the Curia who led the institution temporarily from 9 April 1945 and then became its president on 27 September until his retirement in January 1949. On 13 August 1954 the 76-year old dr. István Kerekess was arrested by state security officials and was released on 4 November. On 11 December 1954 in its final judgement the Municipal Court sentenced him to two year and three month long imprisonment as the accused of the case Fuddi Otmár and others. He was in prison from 1 September 1955 to 14 April 1956. On 22 April 1996, 33 years after his death the Municipal Court declared its unlawful decision void.

In order to implement the Fundamental Law of Hungary, effective as of 1 January 2012, Act CLXI of 2011 on the organization and administration of the courts, as well as Act CLXII of 2011 on the status and remuneration of judges aim at the elimination of the problems mentioned above, moreover at striking a new path providing an up-to-date and efficient system of courts and judiciary.

The explanation of the act underlines that a new system shall be established as of 1 January 2012, where the administrative and the professional competences are clearly separated: the task of central administration of courts shall be performed by the President of the National Office for the Judiciary, while the President of the Curia shall solely be responsible for professional leadership. An important element of the system is the National Judicial Council (NJC), elected by judges and consisting exclusively of judges, which performs mainly control functions. The competences of the re-established Curia have significantly been widened. Its first President was Dr. Péter Darák who held office between 1 January 2012 and 1 January 2021. Its incumbent President is Dr. András Zs. Varga who took office on 2 January 2021.

Watch the video: Be With Us - HOUSEKEEPING - Ep 04: May I Present the Curia