Copyright © The Malta Historical Society, 2005.
Source: Melita Historica. [Malta Historical Society]. 6(1974)3(327-328)
[p.327] Reviews 1974
ALESSANDRO BONNICI O.F.M. Conv. Giulio Degli Oddi contro Martino De Redin 1655-1658. Contrasti tra un Delegate) Apostolico e un Candidate alia Dignità di Gran Maestro dell'Ordine di Malta. Roma 1973.
Fr. Alessandro Bonnici is certainly one of Malta's most assiduous and formidable historians. In addition to his invaluable and highly informative works in Maltese on Church History, meant to give the Maltese public which needs it so much a knowledge of the subject from a modem historical point of view, he has been regularly publishing excellent studies in Italian or English for several years, most of them the result of his extensive researches into the archives of the Inquisitors in Malta and Rome. After studies of the social milieu — chiefly on matters of religion and superstition — in Malta during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (Melita Historica, 1966 and 1967; Maltese Folklore Review, 1973), he has published studies of the sources themselves (Melita Historica, 1968), of bishops Cagliares and Balaguer (ibid., 1969), of the changing juridical powers of the Inquisitors over the Knights (reviewed in ibid., 1972), and of the bad reputation acquired under Mgr. Gori Pannellini (ibid., 1972). He has now given us a study in depth of the quarrels and intrigues into which Inquisitor Degli Oddi plunged soon after his arrival in Malta in 1655 to prevent the election of the Prior of Navarre, Martino de Redin, to the post of Grand Master after the death of the ailing Lascaris. Originally it was published as a series of articles in Annales de l'Ordre Souverain Militaire de Malte between 1970 and 1972.
Of course, this is not a detailed history of the whole span of the relations between the Inquisitor and the Order during the years 1655-58 but of one aspect of it and it must be said that in its restricted scope it can hardly be bettered, though the long extracts from contemporary documents in long-winded Italian written rather hurriedly and perhaps sometimes carelessly do not lighten the style as they were no doubt intended to do. We are regaled with all the details of the plots and counter-plots that took place between the various Knights all eagerly pushing forward their own candidate and doing their best to thwart the designs of their rivals. In particular we see the Pope's own nuncio endeavouring to impose his own will, declaring De Redin ineligible owing to the bribery he was accused of using to secure supporters, and after the ejection declaring his choice invalid. He supported the candidature of Ball De Valanse instead. But in this he reckoned without a proper understanding of the Knights' own psychology. In fact, even De Valanse seems to have preferred acting without the Inquisitor's support, because Degli Oddi's behaviour outraged the 'sentiments of innumerable Knights [p.328] who feared that gradually the Inquisitors in Malta might acquiresomuch power from the Papacy over elections to the post of Grand Master that they would eventually have the decisive voice in all subsequent vacancies. Perhaps this explains the humiliating rebuff Degli Oddi received in 1658: De Redin, though absent from the island at the time (he was acting as Viceroy in Sicily), was elected Grand Master in spite of the Inquisitor's open and relentless opposition, and the latter was himself promptly recalled to Rome. Even Bishop Balaguer, no friend of the Grand Masters, refused to make himself available to the Inquisitor on the day of the election, stealing away at an unearthly hour to the sacristy of St. John's to avoid an encounter with this troublesome prelate of the Holy Office.
Degli Oddi's character and activities are all superbly delineated. The same cannot surely be said to the same extent about those of De Redin himself, but Bonnici is really concerned with the former alone and, anyhow, it is not at all easy to obtain non-official documentation — as would be De Redin's own correspondence until he became Grand Master.