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I'm imagining a world set in Medici Florence. As actual history plays out, despite the Medicis' growing power, the start of the Roman Inquisition still necessitated some concessions. For instance, Cosimo de'Medici organized a token book burning to stem pressure from Rome on the patronage of 'heretics'.

I have the tall task of penciling a legal framework that could prevent or at least form a means of legal attrition against the Roman inquisition. That is to say when Rome comes a knocking, demanding canceling funds to heretical scholars or the like, the Medicis will be able to shrug and say "read the fine print, my dear cardinal."

Of course, it could be argued legal constructs were not the reality in Italy at this time. Cosimo was perhaps one of the first Medicis to truly grasp this, as seen by his consolidation of mercenary and military forces. But it would also be a mischaracterization to assert it was 100% law of the jungle. Even if it's 99% law of the jungle, I'm after that 1% that could, plausibly yield a legal buffer for the inquisition that the Medicis can attempt.

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Question

For my world, let's assume that Medicis get wind of the inquisition much earlier than in history. With a vast amount of time, could the Medicis prepare and conceal a legal construct, that looks innocuous at the onset but could later be used as a legal shield against the Roman inquisition?

For the skeptics

Consider the relative success that Galileo had with essentially the same thing. He also used a "trojan horse" approach, publishing a work challenging the Copernican model by masquerading it in the form of entertainment: it was not a treatise (which people burned for) it was a "comedy" written in the vernacular. Though Galileo ultimately had to renounce all this before Rome, just think about how far his gambit got him: [the book](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dialogue_Concerning_the_Two_Chief_World_Systems) got massive readership before Rome had the last laugh. Point being, Rome is nearly omnipotent at this time, but we should perhaps not underestimate the ingenuity of those clever enough to find workarounds.
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    $\begingroup$ And on the third day, Arash said let their be a flawed version of history. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 14, 2022 at 7:49
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    $\begingroup$ I am afraid that the entire question is based on fundamentally flawed premises. Cosimo de' Medici did not burn any books. The Roman Inquisition was created almost a century after the death of Cosimo, and was never even remotely as powerful as its Spanish cousin. Galileo was actually friends with the Pope; his most important book, the Two New Sciences was written and published after his famous (but, as I see, widely misuinderstood) trial. The book was not only not burned, but even was sold openly in Rome itself. (cont.) $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Oct 14, 2022 at 7:53
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    $\begingroup$ (Continued) Most importantly, the Roman Inquisition, unlike its Spanish counterpart, had very limited relationship with the secular law. In particular, it did not operate in accordance with the secular law, was not an organ of enforcement of the secular law. I get it that this is supposed to be alternate history, but in the absence of any specification of how things are different in this alternate history, how can a reasonable answer be constructed? OK, Cosimo de' Medici is not Cosimo de' Medici, and the Roman Inquisition is not the Roman Inquisition: but what are they and how do they work? $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Oct 14, 2022 at 8:04

4 Answers 4

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Appeal to Self-Interest

Against a sovereign such as the Pope during the 15th century, no written word or handshake agreement will stop them from crushing opposition if they deem it in their self interest. Trying to appeal based on canon law is a fool’s errand against the Pope, as he is the law’s highest interpreter. It is therefore critical for Medici to convince the Pope that Medici’s work is actually going to substantially benefit the Pope. This is why the Trojan Horse will be a tool made ostensibly to assist the Inquisition: A Heresiology.

A Heresiology would not be a radical new development, as books such as the infamous Malleus Maleficarum were published but a few decades later, and the study of heresy has even deeper roots into Christian Antiquity with writers such as Iranaeus and Tertullian.

A heresiology would allow for Medici to compile every possible argument against Catholic dogma but with the claim that this was merely a manual to refute such blasphemies and heresies.

Any association the Medici’s have with heretical books and personages can thereafter be argued as merely research material as they advance the Kingdom of God and insure the safety of good Catholics everywhere.

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    $\begingroup$ Fascinating, perhaps this way of getting ahead of the narrative on that topic would be a good starting point for Medici. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 14, 2022 at 7:42
  • $\begingroup$ I’m glad I could provide an interesting idea. Good luck with your story! $\endgroup$
    – user71781
    Commented Oct 14, 2022 at 7:48
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    $\begingroup$ Florence was amuch a sovereign state as the Papal States at that time. Both Florence and the Papal States participated in wars during that era. So a pope would probably not threaten war to get the inquisition extablished in Florence but would simply inqiisitors to set up shop in Florence as part of normall church business which was no concern of the secular government of Florence. And if the Florence government protested the pople might threaten to excommincate them or suggests that if Florence's rivals and enemies agreed to attack Florence, the pope would declare a crusade aginst heretics. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 14, 2022 at 19:30
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Afraid of the Pope? I own the Pope!

Although the Pope is understood to be God's representative among men, the way he's chosen is rather mundane: he is elected by a bunch of cardinals, flesh and blood humans who may make mistakes. And if they make the mistake of not voting for the candidate backed by the Medici, it might be the last mistake they ever make, if you follow me.

There's no need to write complicated principles into the law that might end up shielding your rivals. Not when you can get what you want with more subtle and personal influence over the church. What's better, having a bulletproof legal defense or not being prosecuted at all?

Of course, from time to time it's probably best if you and the Pope have a little pro forma feud, just enough to keep up the appearance that you're not in collusion.

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    $\begingroup$ ... With the added twist that in real history the real Cosimo de' Medici did own the Pope. Or rather he owned several popes, one after the other. (As a pinnacle of ownership, he had Pope Martin V issue a papal decision that charging interest on loans was perfectly legal, moral, in no way sinful, and definitely not usury at all, provided that the interest was called an annuity and not interest.) $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Oct 14, 2022 at 14:59
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The Ius novum

A secular legal framework of the "Objection, your Holiness!" variety wouldn't really help, for the reasons in AlexP's comments; however, the Church did develop and respect its own legal system, canon law, which is still extant if greatly modified. In fact, canon law was undergoing a significant restructuring and standardisation during the period that you're interested in. You will want to introduce changes that lead to these reforms in canon law being subtly influenced by the Medici family, so that rules that would work in their interest get incorporated into the Church's own legal system and tied with Catholic dogma.

The Studium Generale

Florence had a University that was given degree-granting powers by Pope Clement VI in 1364, and was meant to have the role of primary faculty of Theology. The Medicis supported the University, but moved it out to Pisa (where it still is - the current UniFi is a modern institution) and encouraged the flourishing of secular faculties (medicine, science, literature). In your alternate history, the University remained in Florence and the Medicis encouraged and financed the teaching of theology, in exchange for influence in appointing high-ranking scholars. These scholars would present arguments favourable to their Medici patrons' interests, but also be highly respected as pious and knowledgeable men of faith; as a result, their contributions would be hard to impugn from the Church. Over time, they would introduce principles in canon law that are religiously sound, but that interpret Catholic doctrine in alignment with the Renaissance state governance model. This would just happen to be rather convenient for the Medicis, and potentially, by extension, the other Italian states of the time.

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Here is a frame challenge. The question asks what Cosimo De' Medici (1389-1464) might have done to protect Florence from the Inquisition if Cosimo somehow magically knew ahead of time that the Inquistion would be formed.

For my world, let's assume that Medicis get wind of the inquisition much earlier than in history. With a vast amount of time, could the Medicis prepare and conceal a legal construct, that looks innocuous at the onset but could later be used as a legal shield against the Roman inquisition?

There wasn't "The inquisition".

There were several inquisitions.

The Medieval Inquisition was a series of Inquisitions (Catholic Church bodies charged with suppressing heresy) from around 1184, including the Episcopal Inquisition (1184–1230s) and later the Papal Inquisition (1230s). The Medieval Inquisition was established in response to movements considered apostate or heretical to Roman Catholicism, in particular Catharism and Waldensians in Southern France and Northern Italy. These were the first movements of many inquisitions that would follow.

The Cathars were first noted in the 1140s in Southern France, and the Waldensians around 1170 in Northern Italy. Before this point, individual heretics such as Peter of Bruis had often challenged the Church. However, the Cathars were the first mass organization in the second millennium that posed a serious threat to the authority of the Church. This article covers only these early inquisitions, not the Roman Inquisition of the 16th century onwards, or the somewhat different phenomenon of the Spanish Inquisition of the late 15th century, which was under the control of the Spanish monarchy using local clergy. The Portuguese Inquisition of the 16th century and various colonial branches followed the same pattern.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medieval_Inquisition

The questions does mention preparing for the Roman Inquisition of the 16th century and later, so it is aware that the Spanish Inquisition wouldn't be a problem in Italy.

But the Papal Inqiistion was founded in 1231, and so would have already been funcitoning by the time of Cosimo De' Medici. however, it seems to have greatly reduced operations before Cosimo was born.

Thus Inquistor Heinrich Kramer, in an effort to increase Inquisiton business, wrote a book, Malleus Malificarum, first published in 1486, to convince the church authorities that there was a new and terrible heresy which had to be be stamped out, witchcraft. Up until then witches were hardly ever persecuted, and Kramer had been chased out of the Tyrol in 1484 for starting a witchcraft persecution there.

So Cosimo De' Medici would have know that there were Inquisitors searching for heresy in his lifetime, even thoughthey were rather thinly scattered, and Cosimo could have imagined that hypothetical events could cause an increase or decrease in activiies of the Papal Inquisition, without imagining the creation of the Roman Inquistion in the future.

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