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‘Received in his Name’: Rome’s Busy Baby Box

  • Brenda M. Bolton (a1)

Innocent III, a proud and learned Roman pope, was well acquainted with the history and literature of the Rome of earlier days. He would have been aware of the prophecy given by Virgil in the Aeneid that when the foaming Tiber appeared to run as a river of blood disaster was foretold. In his own day the River Tiber gave him a clear message of a real disaster actually taking place. Far too frequently the fishermen of Rome drew in their nets only to find not a harvest of fish, but the tiny corpses of babies. These had been thrown naked to meet their deaths in the waters of the Tiber. Rome, of course, was by no means a stranger to the problem of abandoned babies. The great legend of the City’s origins with the suckling of the babes who were to become its eventual founders was given a daily reminder since, under the portico of the Lateran Palace, was the famous bronze statue of the Lupa or She-Wolf. In spite of the serious damage caused by a thunderbolt in Antiquity, which had left the Wolf’s feet broken and destroyed the group of the twins, the ‘Mother of the Romans’, as she was known, had come to represent papal jurisdiction over Rome, as well as the nourishing of its children. The River Tiber had always been available for the disposal of the many unwanted infants. Why, then, should the macabre catch of the fishermen of his time have been received by Innocent III as a matter in need of his most urgent attention? It might have been that there were more babies than usual. Population pressure was affecting Rome, and, as elsewhere, social problems were increasing with consequent effects on newborn children. What evidence then can be found to link Innocent with Rome’s Baby Box as a way of remedying such a dreadful situation?

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1 Sermo XXII in solemnitate D. Apostotorum Petri et Pauli, PL 217, cols 555-8. Maccarrone, M., ‘Innocenzo III, prima del pontificato’, Archivio della Società Romana di Storia Patria, 20 (1942), pp. 378 , at p. 16, n. 6, ‘Troviamo citazioni di Orazio, Ovidio, Giovenale, Severino Boezio’.

2 Virgil, Aeneid, book vi, lines 86-8; compare Enoch Powell’s speech at Birmingham, 21 April 1968,‘I am filled with foreboding. Like the Roman, I seem to see the River Tiber foaming with much blood.’

3 Dulière, C. Lupa Romana: Recherches d’iconographie et essai d’interpretation (Brussels, 1979), pp. 2143 ; Gregory, Master The Marvels of Rome, ed. and tr. Osborne, John (Toronto, 1987), pp. 36, 967 ; Borchardt, P.The sculpture in front of the Lateran as described by Benjamin of Tudela and Master Gregorius’, Journal of Roman Studies, 26 (1936), pp. 6870.

4 Krautheimer, R. Rome: Profile of a City, 312-1308 (Princeton, 1980), pp. 1927 ; Venturi, A.Romolo e Remo di Antonio Pollaiolo nella lupa capitolina’, L’Arte, 22 (1919), pp. 1335 ; Schofield, R.Giovanni da Tolentino goes to Rome: a description of the antiquities of Rome in 1490’, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 43 (1980), pp. 24656.

5 PL 217, col. 557, ‘ubi duo fratres … Remus et Romulus, qui urbem istam corporaliter condiderunt … ibi duo fratres … Petrus et Paulus … civitatem istam suis patrociniis tucantur’.

6 Boswell, JohnExpositio and Oblatio: the abandonment of children and the ancient and medieval family’, AHR, 89 (1984), pp. 1033 , and The Kindness of Strangers: the Abandonment of Children in Western Europe from Late Antiquity to the Renaissance (New York, 1988), esp. pp. 322-63. Compare Lyman, Richard B. JnrBarbarism and Religion: Late Roman and early Medieval Childhood’, in Mause, Lloyd de, ed., The History of Childhood (London, 1976), pp. 75100, and Shahar, S. Childhood in the Middle Ages (London, 1990).

7 Delaville le Roulx, J. ed., Cartulaire général de l’Ordre des Hospitaliers de St Jean de Jérusalem (1100-1310), 4 vols (Paris, 1894-1906) [hereafter Cartulaire]; Riley-Smith, J. The Knights of St John in Jerusalem and Cyprus c. 1050-1310 (London, 1967); Richard, JeanHospitals and Hospital Congregations in the Latin Kingdom during the first period of the Frankish Conquest’, in Outremer: Studies in the History of the Crusading Kingdom of Jerusalem, ed. Kedar, B. Z. Meyer, H. E. and Smail, (Jerusalem, 1982), pp. 89100.

8 John of Würzburg, Descriptiones Terrae Sanctae ex saeculo VIII, IX, XII et XV, ed. Tobler, T. (Leipzig, 1874), p. 159 ; Miller, Timothy S.The Knights of Saint John and the Hospitals of the Latin West’, Speculum, 53 (1978), PP.70933.

9 Cartulaire, 1, 947, pp. 598-9.

10 Grand, Louis LeLes Maisons-Dieux, leurs statuts au xiii siècle’, Revue des questions historiques, 40(1896), pp. 95134.

11 Brune, P. Histoire de l’Ordre Hospitalier du Saint-Esprit (Lons-le-Saunier-Paris, 1892); Fliche, A.Lavie religieuse à Montpellier sous le pontificat d’Innocent III (1198–1216)’, Mélanges Louis Halphen (Paris, 1951), pp. 21724 ; Revel, M.Le rayonnement à Rome et en Italie de l’ordre du Saint-Esprit de Montpellier’, in Cahiers de Fanjeaux, 13, Assistance et charité, ed. Vicaire, M.H. (Toulouse, 1978), pp. 34355 ; Rano, B.Ospitalieri di Santo Spirito’, Dizionario degli Istituti di Perfezione, 6 (Rome, 1980), cols 9941014.

12 Hageneder, O. and Haidacher, A. eds, Die Register Innocenz’ III, Band I, Pontijikatsjahr 1198/99 (Graz and Cologne, 1964), 95, pp. 13940 [hereafter Register]; PL 214, cols 83-4; Regesta pontificium Romanarum inde ab. a post Christum natum 1198 ad 1304, ed. Potthast, A. 2 vols (Berlin, 1874-5, repr. Graz, 1957) [hereafter Potthast], I, p. 96.

13 Register I, 97, pp. 141-4; PL 214, cols 85-6; Potthast I, 102.

14 Levison, W. England and the Continent in the Eighth Century (Oxford, 1946), pp. 3944.

15 de Angelis, P. L’Ospedale di Santo Spirito in Saxia, 2 vols, 1. Dalle origini al 1300; 2. Dal 1301 al 1500 (Rome, 1960-2).

16 Robertson, J. C. ed., Materials for the History of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, 7 vols, RS (London, 1875-85), 5 (1881), pp. 645.

17 Angelis, J. C. Santo Spirito 1, pp. 37980 ; PL 215, col. 1334, 11 November 1207. Compare Cum vacetis operibus, 14 June 1217, cited by Angelis, De Santo Spirito,1, p. 211.

18 Ibid., 1, pp. 211-14, 380-1.

19 PL 215, col. 380.

20 Ibid., col. 377.

21 Compare Luke 7. 22.

22 Bultarium diphmatum et privilegiorum Sanctorum Romanorum Pontificium, 3, ed. Gaude, F. (Turin, 1858), pp. 3203 , for Honorais Ill’s Bull of 13 May 1217 dissolving this union.

23 PL 215, cols 378-80.

24 Ibid., cols 1270-1 and 1424.

25 PL217, cols 1129-58.

26 Maleczek, W. Papst und Kardinalskolleg von 1191 bis 1216 (Vienna, 1984), pp. 195201.

27 Ibid., pp. 184-9.

28 Dykmans, M. ‘D’Innocent III à Boniface VIII. Histoire des Conti et des Annibaldi’, Bulletin de l’Institut historique belge de Rome, 45 (1975), pp. 19211, especially 44-6.

29 Maccarrone, M. Studi su Innocenzo III Italia Sacra 17 (Padua, 1972), pp. 89, 1358.

30 Hugo, C. L. Saerae antiquitatis monumenta (Etival, 1725), Letter XXII, pp. 267 , ‘per litteras vestras quas in hac parte multum esse emcaciam habituras’; De Leo, A. Codice Diplomatico Brindisino, 1 (492-1299), pp. 623, 702 .

31 Le Grand, ‘Les Maisons-Dieux’, pp. 105-6.

32 PL 217, col. 1146.

33 Ibid. col. 1148.

34 14 March 1182, ‘Cet si establi que petiz bers fucent fait por les enfans des femes pelerines quinaissent en la maison, si que il gisent à une part soul, et que li enfant alaitant n’en aient aucun ennuipor le mesaise de lor mere’, Cartulaire, p. 426.

35 Ibid., p. 719, for the meeting of 1185 between Renaud de Bar and Roger des Molins at Chartres.

36 Howe, Eunice D. The Hospital of Santo Spirito and Pope Sixtus IV (Baltimore, 1978).

37 Ibid., pp. 336-41.

38 Ibid., p. 201.

39 My gratitude to Professor Bergami for privileged visits on 24 September 1988 and 29 September 1990.

40 Brune, Saint-Esprit, p. 288.

41 Ibid., p. 38, ‘il paraît avoir frappé bien vivement l’imagination populaire car sa fondation finit parrevêtir le charactère d’une légende aux traits merveilleux.’

42 Howe, Santo Spirito, p. 203.

43 Rome, Archivio di Stato, MS 3193; A. Canezza, Liber Reguìae Hospitalis S. Spiritus in Saxia de Urbe, IV Congresso Internationale degli Ospedali, 19-26 Maggio 1935, XIII (Rome, 1936); LaCava, A. F. Liber Regulae S. Spirito, Studi di storia della mediana, 6 (Milan, 1946).

44 Canezza, Liber Regulae, pp. 7-8.

45 Twinger, Jacob Strassburger Chronik (Strasbourg, 1871), p. 569.

46 Dijon, Archives of Saint-Esprit, A4; Peignot, G.Histoire de la fondation des Hôpitaux du Saint-Esprit de Rome et de Dijon’, Memoires de la Commission des Antiquités du Department de la Côte-d’Or,1 (1838), pp. 1770 .

47 Howe, Santo Spirito, pp. 204-7.

48 Ibid. p. 234, n. 41.

49 Vatican, MS Cod. Urb. 1023, fols 11b-12a.

50 Vatican, MS Lat. 9026, fol. 642.

51 Howe, Santo Spirito, pp. 206-7.

52 Vatican, MS Cod. Urb. 1023, fol. 11a, ‘Qualiter ex damnatu coitu progenitos in lucem veniant, crudeles matres diversimode erucidant. Qualiter infantes de Ponte in Tiberini proiecti a Piscatoribus rete pro piscibus capiuntur.’

53 PL 217, cols 1129-30, where an extract from Tamburini’s history is reproduced. Also Tamburini, A. De Iure Abbatum et alionim praelalorum, 2 vols (Lyon, 1640), 2 , Disputano xxiv, Quaest. IV, p. 367: ‘Ad Tiberim se contulit et laxatis retibus, prima vice octaginta septem, secunda vero trecentos et quadraginta extraxit infantes abortivos.’

54 Howe, Santo Spirito, pp. 207-20.

55 Ibid., p. 207.

56 Ibid., pp. 342-50.

57 Brenda Bolton, A., ‘“Hearts not Punes”: Innocent Ill’s Approach to Social Welfare’, Through the Eye of a Needle: Judeo-Christian Roots of Social Welfare, ed. Hanawalt, Emily Albu and Lindberg, Carter (Missouri, 1994), pp. 12345 .

58 He was created Cardinal-Deacon of SS Sergio e Bacco between 3 June 1189 and 8 January 1190.

59 PL 217, cols 701-46; De miseria humane conditionis, ed. Maccarrone, M. (Padua, 1955); On the Misery of the Human Condition, ed. Howard, Donald R. and tr.Dietz, Margaret M. De miseria condicionis humane, ed. Lewis, Robert E. (Athens, GA, 1978).

60 PL217, cols 774-914.

61 Ibid., cols 922-68.

62 Lewis, De miseria, pp. 93-105.

63 Bultot, R.Mépris du monde, misère et dignité de l’homme dans la pensée d’Innocent III’, Cahiers de civilisation médiévale, 4 (1961), pp. 44156, esp. p. 442 .

64 Moore, J. C.Innocent Ill’s De Miseria Humanae Conditionis: a Speculum Curiae ?’, Catholic Historical Review, 67 (1981), pp. 55364 .

65 Lewis, De miseria, p. 103, lines 2–4.

66 Ibid., p. 103, lines 15-18.

67 Ibid., p. 104, lines 1-19.

68 Fisher, J. D. C. Christian Initiation: Baptism in the Medieval West (London, 1965), pp. 10912 .

69 Aquaria, Humbert de (1190-1202), Gallia Christiana, 1 (Paris, 1715), pp. 5645 . For the letter see Denzinger, H. Enchiridion symbolorum, definitionum et dedarationum de rebus fidei et morum, 10th edn. (Freiburg, 1908), pp. 1802 .

70 For similar views, see Innocent’s Advent Sermon VII, PL 217, cols 341-6, especially cols 343-4. Compare O. Pontal, Les Statuts Synodaux Francais du xiiie siècle 1. Les statuts de Paris et le synodal de l’Ouest (xiii siècle) (Paris, 1971), p. 140; Boswell, Kindness of Strangers, pp. 322-5.

71 Brune, Saint-Esprit, p.288.

72 Boswell, Kindness of Strangers, pp. 322-5.

73 PL217, col. 1118.

74 PL215, cols 871-72.

75 Matt. 18.2-6; 19.13-15.

76 Mark 9.36-7, 42; 10.13-16.

77 CestaCL, col. ccxxviii.

78 Cesta Innocenta P.P.lll, PL214, ch. CXL, col. cc.

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