The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara

Front Cover
Alfred Knopf, 1997 - Biography & Autobiography - 350 pages
8 Reviews
"National Book Award Finalist
Bologna, 1858: A police posse, acting on the orders of a Catholic inquisitor, invades the home of a Jewish merchant, Momolo Mortara, wrenches his crying six-year-old son from his arms, and rushes him off in a carriage bound for Rome. His mother is so distraught that she collapses and has to be taken to a neighbor's house, but her weeping can be heard across the city. With this terrifying scene--one that would haunt this family forever--David I. Kertzer begins his fascinating investigation of the dramatic kidnapping, and shows how the deep-rooted antisemitism of the Catholic Church would eventually contribute to the collapse of its temporal power in Italy. As Edgardo's parents desperately search for a way to get their son back, they learn why he--out of all their eight children--was taken. Years earlier, the family's Catholic serving girl, fearful that the infant might die of an illness, had secretly baptized him (or so she claimed). Edgardo recovered, but when the story reached the Bologna Inquisitor, the result was his order for Edgardo to be seized and sent to a special monastery where Jews were converted into good Catholics. His justification in Church teachings: No Christian child could be raised by Jewish parents. The case of Edgardo Mortara became an international cause celebre. Although such kidnappings were not uncommon in Jewish communities across Europe, this time the political climate had changed. As news of the family's plight spread to Britain, where the Rothschilds got involved, to France, where it mobilized Napoleon III, and even to America, public opinion turned against the Vatican. The fate of this one boy came to symbolize the entirerevolutionary campaign of Mazzini and Garibaldi to end the dominance of the Catholic Church and establish a modern, secular Italian state. A riveting story which has been remarkably ignored by modern historians--The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara will prompt intense interest and discussion as it lays bare attitudes of the Catholic Church that would have such enormous consequences in the twentieth century.
 

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - SheldonDeVane - LibraryThing

If you only have time to read one chapter, make it the first one "The Knock at the Door." If you have time to read another chapter, make it the Epilogue at the end. Hopefully, you will feel inspired to read all the chapters in the middle. Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - mbmackay - LibraryThing

True story of the Catholic Inquisition in Italy in 1858 taking a 6 yr old boy from his Jewish family because the illiterate maid had secretly baptised him when he was sick! Stunning story told in great detail. Read Feb 2007 Read full review

Contents

Jews in the Land of the Popes
13
Days of Desperation
32
The House of the Catechumens
55
Pope Pius IX
74
A Servants Sex Life
91
Meeting Mother
109
The Church Strikes Back
129
A Matter of Principle
143
The Inquisitors Trial
205
Defending the Inquisitor
222
The Rites of Rulers
238
New Hopes for Freeing Edgardo
247
Edgardos Escape
256
Afterword
299
Acknowledgments
305
Archival Sources and Abbreviations
329

Sir Moses Goes to Rome
162
The Inquisitors Arrest
184
The Case Against the Inquisitor
195

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About the author (1997)

David I. Kertzer is the Paul Dupee, Jr. University Professor of Social Science and professor of anthropology and Italian studies at Brown University, where he served as provost from 2006 to 2011. He is the author of nine books, including The Popes Against the Jews, which was a finalist for the Mark Lynton History Prize, and The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara, which was a finalist for the National Book Award. He has twice been awarded the Marraro Prize from the Society for Italian Historical Studies for the best work on Italian history. He and his wife, Susan, live in Providence, Rhode Island.

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