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The Case of Carlo Calà and Giovanni Calà: Historical Truth and Doctrinal Orthodoxy in post-Reformation Italy

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image of Erudition and the Republic of Letters

In the second half of the 1650s, Carlo Calà, Duke of Diano and president of the Regia Camera della Sommaria in Naples, began a well-orchestrated campaign to convince the ecclesiastical authorities to canonize a mysterious and hitherto unknown ancestor, Giovanni Calà. Said to have lived between the twelfth and the thirteenth centuries, Giovanni Calà purpotedly served the Holy Roman Emperor Henry VI as one of his most trusted army captains, aiding the Emperor in conquering southern Italy before eventually becoming a hermit and follower of the Calabrian mystic Joachim of Fiore, whose supernatural and prophetic power he allegedly shared. Carlo Calà’s demands originated a long and complex investigation, which in turn provoked a heated debate within the Roman Curia on how to establish historical authenticity while defending theological dogmas. The case of Carlo Calà and Giovanni Calà opens a unique window on the changing and complex attitudes of post-Reformation Catholicism concerning the relationship between historical truth, philological criticism, and doctrinal orthodoxy. The implications of the debates initiated by this case are still thought-provoking and relevant today.

Affiliations: 1: Department of History, 6265 Bunche Hall, Box 951473, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1473, USA,


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