[Notes on the Englishman Agostino Matthei, restless professor of Moral Theology of the University of Pisa]. This article is an the erudite reconstruction of John Gibbons biography as well as an exploration of the figure of Agostino Matthei as an example of a generation of exiled English Catholics. Agostino Matthei’s real name was John Gibbons, born in the parish of St. Mary’s, Exeter, in Devonshire in 1652 to John and Joanna Gibbons, a wealthy Protestant family. After studying at Ottery St. Mary Gibbons went to Spain, perhaps for commerce, and remained for three years. In Seville he converted to Catholicism inspired by the Jesuit Henry Edwards. Following his conversion he decided to go to Italy and on 27 February 1676, at the age of 24, was admitted as a boarder to the English College in Rome under the assumed name of Augustine Pollard. After taking the mandatory oath he was ordained subdeacon in June, then deacon and priest in July 1676. Called back home for family matters, he requested permission from the the protector of the English college to absent himself and for England on 30 August 1677. In England, Pollard befriended with Francesco Terriesi, who had been the Tuscan representative at the English court since 1680, and of which Pollard became chaplain. After several months, Pollard left for Florence arriving in early May 1683 where he was appointed chaplain to the knights of St. Stephen in Pisa. Pollard, who had by then assumed his new name – Augustino Matthei – could have “a decent ecclesiastical job” without having to mix directly “with the English of Leghorn.” This would presumably allow him to avoid direct polemics with the British Factory, which had been expressing increasingly strong opposition to any form of religious interference by the Catholic Church. A few weeks later the English clergyman was given lectureship of Moral Theology in the University of Pisa, which included a substantial annual income of 300 crowns. However, in October 1683, on the eve of the academic year, Pollard surprised the Grand Ducal authorities by requesting “license to return to England,” arguing that he desired to “take care of the entire conversion of his mother,” who had been moving closer to Catholicism. Matthei’s stay in Livorno was coming to an end. In February 1685 Charles II died and was succeeded by his brother, the Catholic James II. His accession to the throne was accompanied by an avalanche of Jesuits, monks and Catholic priests settling in England, including many foreign-trained English Catholic clerics, such as Matthei. The latter upon hearing of Charles II’s death requested to return home from Tuscany in hopes of finding a good job with the sovereign. In England, Matthei was disappointed as, contrary to his hopes, entered into the sovereign’s service only in June 1686. Terriesi communicated to the Tuscan court that Matthei, thanks to the King, had been appointed military chaplain and followed the troops under the command of the Earl of Dunbarton, “with the prospective to move to Windsor, as soon as the last fires of the rebellion of Monmouth would quench.” Within two years, however, the Glorious Revolution forced James II to flee dashing Matthei’s hopes. When in March 1691 Francesco Terriesi left England to return to Italy permanently, Matthei hoped to return to the service of the Grand Duke acting as a political informer. From August of that year he sent a series of newsletters in Spanish to the Tuscan Secretary of State, Apollonio Bassetti, summarizing weekly news from England. Matthei’s project, however, did not go well; in October 1691 this function was entrusted to Thomas Platt and Matthei sent his last newsletter on December 27, 1691. Anna Maria Crinò – the doyen of Anglo-Tuscan history – mentioned Agostino Matthei many times without being able to identify him. The figure of John Gibbons is interesting because it exemplifies a generation of exiled English Catholics in search of patronage, ever hesitating between settling into a quiet pastoral appointment abroad and undertaking risky missionary activity in England. His story is also interesting because it allows us to reconstruct the channels of transmitting political information between Tuscany and England (countries with important trade links): the interplay between Terriesi and Matthei and Matthei and Platt is very significant in this context. In addition to Matthei’s personal vicissitudes in Tuscany there is the role played by the British community of Livorno. Of significance is the reluctance of the Grand Ducal authorities to develop any sort of missionary activity for fear of damaging the economic relations between the two countries.
|Autori interni:||VILLANI, STEFANO|
|Titolo:||Note sull’inglese Agostino Matthei irrequieto professore di teologia morale dell’Università di Pisa (1683-1685)|
|Anno del prodotto:||2004|
|Appare nelle tipologie:||1.1 Articolo in rivista|