Caesar Baronius

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Cesare Baronio

Cardinal Priest of Santi Nereo ed Achilleo
Portret van kardinaal Baronius, onbekend, schilderij, Museum Plantin-Moretus (Antwerpen) - MPM V IV 111 (cropped).jpg
ChurchCatholic Church
Appointed21 June 1596
Term ended30 June 1607
PredecessorGianfrancesco Morosini
SuccessorInnocenzo Del Bufalo-Cancellieri
Other post(s)Librarian of the Vatican Library (1597 – 1607)
Ordination27 May 1564
Created cardinal5 June 1596
by Pope Clement VIII
Personal details
Cesare Baronio

30 August 1538
Died30 June 1607(1607-06-30) (aged 68)
Rome, Papal States
BuriedSanta Maria in Vallicella
Styles of
Caesar Baronius
Template-Cardinal (Bishop).svg
Reference styleHis Eminence
Spoken styleYour Eminence
Informal styleCardinal

Cesare Baronio (as an author also known as Caesar Baronius; 30 August 1538 – 30 June 1607) was an Italian cardinal and historian of the Catholic Church. His best-known works are his Annales Ecclesiastici ("Ecclesiastical Annals"), which appeared in 12 folio volumes (1588–1607). Pope Benedict XIV conferred upon him the title of Venerable.


Cesare Baronio was born in the Duchy of Sora (present day Sora in Italy) in 1538, the only child of Camillo Baronio and his wife Porzia Febonia.

Baronio was educated at Veroli and Naples, where he commenced his law studies in October 1556. At Rome, he obtained his doctorate in canon law and civil law. After this, he became a member of the Congregation of the Oratory in 1557 under Philip Neri, a future saint, and was ordained to the subdiaconate on 21 December 1560 and to the diaconate on 20 May 1561. Ordination to the priesthood followed in 1564.[1] He succeeded Philip Neri as superior of the Roman Oratory in 1593.[2]

Pope Clement VIII, whose confessor he was from 1594, made him a cardinale on 5 June 1596 and also appointed him to head the Vatican Library.[2] Baronio was given the red hat on 8 June and on 21 June was assigned the title of Cardinal Priest of Santi Nereo e Achilleo.

Baronio restored this titular church and in 1597 a procession was held to transfer there a number of relics.[3] He also had work done on the Church of San Gregorio Magno al Celio.[citation needed]

At subsequent conclaves, Baronio was twice considered to be papabile – the conclaves which in the event elected Pope Leo XI and Pope Paul V. On each occasion, Baronio was opposed by Spain on account of his work "On the Monarchy of Sicily", in which he supported the papal claims against those of the Spanish government.[2]

Baronio died at Santa Maria in Vallicella in Rome on 30 June 1607, and was buried in that same church.


Baronio is best known for his Annales Ecclesiastici. It was after almost three decades of lecturing at Santa Maria in Vallicella that he was asked by Philip Neri to tackle this work, as an answer to a polemical anti-Catholic historical work, the Magdeburg Centuries.[2]

In the Annales, he treats history in strict chronological order and keeps theology in the background.[2] Lord Acton called it "the greatest history of the Church ever written".[4] In the Annales, Baronio coined the term "Dark Age" in the Latin form saeculum obscurum,[5] to refer to the period between the end of the Carolingian Empire in 888 and the first inklings of the Gregorian Reform under Pope Clement II in 1046.

Notwithstanding its errors, especially in Greek history where he was obliged to depend upon secondhand information, Baronio's work stands as an honest attempt at historiography. Sarpi, in urging Casaubon to write a refutation of the Annales, warned him never to accuse or suspect Baronio of bad faith.[2]

Baronio also undertook a new edition of the Roman Martyrology (1586), in the course of his work he applied critical considerations to removed entries he considered implausible for historical reasons, and added or corrected others according to what he found in the sources to which he had access.[2] He is also known for saying, in the context of the controversies about the work of Copernicus and Galileo, "The Bible teaches us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go."[6] This remark, which Baronio probably made in conversation with Galileo, was cited by the latter in his Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina (1615).

At the time of the Venetian Interdict, Baronio published a pamphlet, Paraenesis ad rempublicam Venetam (1606). It took a stringent papalist line on the crisis.[7] It was answered in the same year by the Antiparaenesis ad Caesarem Baronium of Niccolò Crasso.[8]


A Latin biography of Baronio by the oratorian Hieronymus Barnabeus (Girolamo Barnabeo or Barnabò) appeared in 1651 as Vita Caesaris Baronii.[9] Another Oratorian, Raymundus Albericus (Raimondo Alberici), edited three volumes of Baronio's correspondence from 1759.[10] There are other biographies by Amabel Kerr (1898),[11] (republished as Cesar Cardinal Baronius: Founder of Church History, Lulu, 2015) and by Generoso Calenzio (La vita e gli scritti del cardinale Cesare Baronio, Rome 1907).[12] The works of Mario Borrelli also contributed to the biographia of Baronius.


Baronio left a reputation for sanctity, which led Pope Benedict XIV to approve the introductions of his cause for canonization, which led to Baronio's being proclaimed "Venerable" (12 January 1745).[13]

In 2007, on the 400th anniversary of his death, a petition was presented by the Procurator General of the Oratory of St Philip Neri.[14] to reopen the cause for his canonization, which had been stalled since 1745.



  1. ^ Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Ven. Cesare Baronius" . Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Taunton 1911.
  3. ^ Cyriac K. Pullapilly, Caesar Baronius: Counter-Reformation Historian (1975), University of Notre Dame Press, p. 77.
  4. ^ Lord Acton (1906). Lectures on Modern History, "The Counter-Reformation", p. 121.
  5. ^ Baronius, Caesar. Annales Ecclesiastici, Vol. X. Roma, 1602, p. 647.
  6. ^ Cerrato, Edoardo Aldo. "How to go to Heaven, and not how the heavens go"
  7. ^ William J. Bouwsma (29 August 1984). Venice and the Defense of Republican Liberty: Renaissance Values in the Age of the Counter Reformation. University of California Press. p. 379. ISBN 978-0-520-05221-5. Retrieved 12 September 2012.
  8. ^ Niccolò Crasso (1606). Antiparaenesis ad Caesarem Baronium Cardinalem pro S. Venetia republica. Retrieved 12 September 2012.
  9. ^ Hieronymus Barnabeus (1651). Vita Caesaris Baronii ex congregatione Oratorii S.R.E. Presbyteri cardinalis et Apostolicae Sedis bibliothecarii. Casoni. Retrieved 12 September 2012.
  10. ^ Gaetano Moroni (1846). Dizionario di erudizione storico-ecclesiastica da S. Pietro sino ai nostri giorni ... (in Italian). Tipografia Emiliana. p. 141. Retrieved 12 September 2012.
  11. ^ Lady Amabel Kerr. The Life of Cesare Cardinal Baronius of the Roman Oratory, London, 1898
  12. ^ (in Italian), Calenzio, Generoso.
  13. ^ "CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Venerable Cesare Baronius".
  14. ^ Zev, Elizabeth. "A Saintly Chef: Cardinal Baronio's Canonization Cause Revived" Archived 2012-03-16 at the Wayback Machine


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