The kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara

Front Cover
Alfred Knopf, May 6, 1997 - History - 350 pages
20 Reviews
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 entire revolutionary 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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Review: The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara

User Review  - Goodreads

I found this to be an interesting story of a little known event. With all the detail it included, I found it easier to read than I thought it would be. However, in my opinion the author attributes too ... Read full review

Review: The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara

User Review  - Goodreads

This is an outstanding example of history being told through the combination of scholarly historical research and the weaving together of a compelling story. It reads like a novel as it relates the ... Read full review

Contents

The Knock at the Door
3
Jews in the Land of the Popes
13
Defending the Faith
23
Copyright

22 other sections not shown

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About the author (1997)

David I. Kertzer was born in 1948 in New York City. The recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1986, he has twice been awarded, in 1985 and 1990, the Marraro Prize from the Society for Italian Historical Studies for the best work on Italian history. He is currently Paul Dupee, Jr. University Professor of Social Science and a professor of anthropology and history at Brown University. He and his family live in Providence.