A part compartimento of northern Italy, bounded on the north by Switzerland, on the west by France, on the south by Liguria, and on the east by Lombardy. It includes the plain of the Upper Po, and the Alpine valleys that descend towards the plain from the south side of the Pennine Alps, from the east side of the Graiian and Cottian, and from the north side of the Maritime Alps. Its name, pedes montium, from which arose Pedimontium, came from its geographical position, enclosed on three sides by high mountains. At the present time it includes the four Italian provinces of Turin, Novara, Alessandria, and Cuneo. In the Middle Ages and in antiquity the country was important chiefly because it contained the passes over the Alps which led from Italy to Gaul. Until the beginning of the fourth century Christianity had made little progress. However, in the course of the fourth and fifth centuries Christianity spread rapidly among the people, now completely Romanized. The earliest episcopal sees were established in this era, namely Turin, Asti, and Aosta.
In the early Middle Ages various petty feudal states were formed in the Piedmontese country, the most important of which were the Marquessates of Ivrea, Suso, Saluzzo, Montferrat, and the Countship of Turin. The counts of Savoy early made successful attempts to establish their authority in this region. At the beginning of the eleventh century Aosta and the territory under its control belonged to Count Humbert I of Savoy. His son Oddo (Otto, d. 1060) married the Marchioness Adelaide of Turin, and in this way became possessed of the Marquessate of Susa, with the towns of Turin and Pinerolo, the foundation of the later Piedmont. After the death (1232) of Thomas I, Count of Savoy, this marquessate went to a younger branch, the descendants of Thomas II (d. 1259), son of Thomas I; Amadeus V, son of Thomas II, is the ancestor of the present Italian royal family. These rulers called themselves Counts of Piedmont. On account of the position of their territories the Dukes of Savoy had a large share in the wars for supremacy in northern Italy. Besides extending their authority into Switzerland in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, they also gained new domains in Italy: the lordships of Vercelli, Asti, and Cava, and the feudal suzerainty over Montferrat. In the wars between the Emperor Charles V and Francis I of France, Duke Charles III (d. 1553) of Piedmont lost the greater part of his duchy. In the Peace of Câteau-Cambresis (1559), however, his son Emmanuel Philibert (d. 1580) regained nearly all of his father's possessions, and obtained, in exchange for other territories, the Marquessate of Tenda and the Principality of Oneglia.
Emmanuel Philibert's successor, Charles Emmanuel I (1580-1630), acquired the Marquessate of Saluzzo and a large part of Montferrat, which his son Victor Amadeus I (1630-37) was able to retain by conceding two other lordships to France. During the regency of the widow of Victor Amadeus I, the French Princess Christine, the influence of France in the Duchy of Savoy was greatly increased. Her son Charles Emmanuel II (d. 1675) sought in vain to escape this dominating control. Victor Amadeus II (1675-1730) joined the great alliance against France in the War of the Spanish Succession. By the victory of Turin in 1706 Prince Eugene drove out the French troops that had made a sudden descent upon Piedmont, thus ridding the duke of his enemies. As a reward for joining the alliance the duke received by the Peace of Utrecht of 1713 the Marquessate of Montferrat, the City of Alessandria, and the Districts of Val Sesia and Lomellina, so that the part of his territories situated in Italy had essentially the same extent as the present Department of Piedmont. Outside of these new territories he was granted the Island of Sicily, which, however, he lost again when Spanish troops attacked the island in 1718. In 1720 as compensation for this loss he received the island of Sardinia. He now assumed the title of King of Sardinia; besides the island, the kingdom included Savoy and Piedmont on the mainland. In the Polish and Austrian wars of succession the next king, Charles Emmanuel III (as king, Charles Emmanuel I, 1730-73), acquired the additional Italian districts of Tortona and Novara, also Anghiera, Bobbio, and a part of the principality of Pavia. His son Victor Amadeus III (1773-96) was a weak man of little importance. During his reign the storms caused by the French Revolution swept over his kingdom. Napoleon's victories obliged him in 1796 to cede Savoy and Nice to France, and his son and successor Charles Emmanuel II (1796-1802) lost all his territories on the mainland, which, together with Liguria and Parma, were united to Fance. The king abdicated, entered the Society of Jesus, and in 1802 resigned the crown to his brother Victor Emmanuel I. At first the latter resided in Sardinia.
Until the seventeenth century the position of the Church in Piedmont was a satisfactory one; no restriction was placed upon its activities. The country contained numerous dioceses; of these Aosta was a suffragan of Tarentaise, Nice of Embrun, and the other dioceses on Italian soil were suffragans of Milan. In 1515 Turin, where the Dukes of Savoy lived, was made an archdiocese with the two suffragan sees of Ivrea and Mondovì. As lord chancellor and first secretary of state the Archbishop of Turin was by law a member of the council of state. The ducal family was very religious, and until the end of the seventeenth century maintained close relations with the Papal See, which had established a permanent nunciature at Turin in the sixteenth century, while an agent of the Government of Piedmont resided at Rome. For some of their domains the dukes were vassals of the Holy See, but this relation caused no difficulties. There was a large body of clergy, and monasteries were numerous. There were also two religious orders of knights, that of St. Lazarus, an order of hospitallers for the care of the sick, especially lepers, and that of St. Mauritius, which had been founded by Amadeus VIII in 1434 and confirmed in 1572 by Gregory XII. The same pope confirmed the union of the two orders, of which the duke was the perpetual grand master. The original purpose of these knightly orders was, however, very soon lost sight of; in recent times they have been changed into a secular decoration. Duke Charles Emmanuel I was very zealous in the struggle against Protestantism, and both he and his two successors took energetic measures against the growth of the Waldensians. However, Emmanuel Philibert made the execution of the judgments of the ecclesiastical Inquisition dependent on the consent of the senate and judicial investigation by the Government.
Towards the end of the seventeenth century the dukes, who had become absolute rulers, and their administrative officials began to suppress the liberties of the Church in imitation of France. They even interfered in the purely ecclesiastical government of the Church. Thus during the administration of Victor Amadeus, who was the actual ruler from 1684, violent dissensions with the Holy See arose and seriously injured religious life, especially because large numbers of dioceses and higher ecclesiastical benefices remained vacant for a long period. Lengthy negotiations were carried on with Rome. An edict issued by Victor Amadeus in 1694 for the benefit of the Waldensians was rejected at Rome, because it annulled the old law for the protection of the Catholic Church. The duke took the most severe measures against this Roman decree. The senate forbade its publication under heavy penalties, so that it could not be executed, and the tribunal of the Inquisition of Piedmont lost nearly all its importance. The Dioceses of Casale, Acqui, and Ventimiglia included parts of the territory of Piedmont, although the bishops did not reside in the duchy; this was regarded as a great grievance. The duke wished to force these bishops to appoint episcopal vicars for the supervision of those of his subjects belonging to their dioceses; this the bishops refused to do. Whereupon the landed property in Piedmont belonging to the Diocese of Nice was sequestrated; this led the bishop, after three years of unsuccessful negotiations, to excommunicate the secular officials who had carried out the ducal decree. The senate forbade the recognition of the sentence of excommunication under the severest penalties, for the laity the penalty of death, and commanded the priests to grant the sacraments to the excommunicated. This last command, however, was recalled by the duke as too extreme a measure against ecclesiastical authority.
Victor Amadeus now claimed the entire right of presentation to all the sees and to all the abbeys in his territories granted by the pope in consistory, on ground of a privilege conferred by Pope Nicholas V in 1451 upon Duke Louis of Savoy, whereby the pope, before filling sees and abbacies, would ask for the opinion and consent of the duke in regard to the persons nominated. This privilege had been confirmed on various occasions during the sixteenth century. Rome was not willing to acknowledge the privilege in this enlarged form. The duke had also issued an edict by which a secular judge was not to grant permission to those desiring to enter the clergy until he had fully informed himself concerning the ability of the candidate, the number of parishes in the locality, and of the priests and monks there, and the nature of the property to be assigned to the candidate for his support. In 1700 a bitter dispute arose between the Archbishop of Turin and the ducal delegation, when the archbishop by a decree declared invalid the ecclesiastical arrangements proposed by the laity against the decrees of the Apostolic See. However, the bishops, supported by the nuncio, followed the instructions of the pope in all ecclesiastical questions. Further disputes also arose concerning the testamentary competency of regulars, a right which was denied the regular clergy by the Government, and as to the rights of the pope in the fiefs of the Roman Church that were possessed by the dukes. These questions were exhaustively examined at Rome, and the advocate of the consistory, Sardini, was sent to Turin to negotiate the matters; but the agreement adjusting the difficulty that was obtained by him was not accepted at Rome. New troubles constantly arose when the duke confiscated the revenues of benefices accruing during their vacancy and abrogated the spolia (property of ecclesiastics deceased intestate) of ecclesiastical benefices. The Government appointed an administrator of its own for the care and administration of the estates of vacant benefices, but he was not recognized by the bishops. Secular approval of ecclesiastical acts and ordinances was made necessary in a continually increasing number of cases. New negotiations, undertaken in 1710 at Rome by Count de Gubernatis, produced no results. The only agreement reached was in regard to the administrator of vacant benefices, who was also appointed the Apostolic administrator for this purpose. In this form the office of the Apostolic-royal steward continued to exist.
When the Island of Sardinia was granted to Piedmont in 1720 a new conflict arose, as the pope claimed to be the sovereign of the island. The basis of this was that Boniface VIII had invested the King of Aragon with the island under the condition that it should never be separated from the crown of Aragon. Consequently the demand was made upon the new King of Sardinia that he should seek papal investiture. As Victor Amadeus refused to do this, the pope rejected the arrangements for filling the episcopal sees and ecclesiastical benefices made by the king, who also claimed all the rights of patronage exercised by the Spanish sovereign. As a consequence most of the sees on the islands were without incumbents, which increased the difficulties. Benedict XIII (1724-30) sought to bring about a reconciliation in order to put an end to the injury inflicted on religious life. In Turin the necessity of an accommodation was also realized, and the king sent the adroit and skillful Marquese d'Ormea to Rome to prepare the way for the negotiations. The peace-loving pope made large concessions, although the king made still further encroachments upon the rights of the Church. The negotiations were carried on by a congegation composed of four cardinals and the prelate Merlini. Several points were adjusted, especially the king's right of presentation to the bishoprics and abbacies, while others were discussed, particularly the immunity of the Church, the right of the pope to claim the spolia, also the right to charge ecclesiastical revenues with pensions. Most of the difficulties were finally adjusted, and an agreement was signed in 1727, so that the vacant sees could now be filled and ecclesiastical administration resumed. King Charles Emmanuel III (1730-73) made new conventions with Benedict XIV (1740-59), who had formerly supported the Marquess d'Ormea in his negotiations, and had always maintained friendly relations with him. By two conventions made in 1741 the King of Sardinia was granted the Apostolic vicariate for the papal fiefs on condition of paying a quit-rent, and the questions of the ecclesiastical benefices, the revenues of benefices during vacancy, and the administration of these vacant benefices were adjusted. Notwithstanding his friendliness, the papal commissioner had a very difficult position to maintain in his relations with the president of the senate, Caissotti. Finally on 6 Jan., 1742, the pope issued instructions to the bishops, in which both sides had concurred; in these it was made the duty of foreign bishops to appoint vicars for the parts of their dioceses in the territory of Piedmont, ecclesiastical jurisdiction was curtailed, and the landed property of the Church that had been obtained after 1620 was made subject to the ordinary civil taxes. In 1750 the pope resigned various revenues that the Apostolic See derived from Piedmont in return for a very small indemnity. Charles Emmanuel III now remained on the best of terms with Rome notwithstanding isolated difficulties and disputes which still arose. Merlini was once more received at Turin as nuncio, and the piously- inclined king sought to promote the interests of religion, to protect Christian discipline, and to support the rights of the Church in other countries.
The last period of the history of the Kingdom of Sardinia began after the Napoleonic era. In 1814- 15 Victor Emmanuel I regained Piedmont with the territories of Genoa (Liguria) and Grenoble. The Government again sought to base the administration on the old political principles of the period before the French Revolution, while a large part of the citizens of the country were filled with ideas of political independence and Liberalism, and the revolutionary secret society, the Carbonari, was at work. When in 1821 a military insurrection broke out, the king abdicated in favour of his brother Charles Felix (1821-31). Before Charles Felix arrived the country was administered by Charles Albert, the heir- presumptive to the throne, who was a member of the Savoy-Carignan branch of the family. Charles at once established the Spanish constitution of 1812 and summoned a Liberal ministry. However, Charles Felix crushed the Liberal opposition with the aid of Austrian troops and reestablished former administrative conditions. At his death the direct line of the dynasty of Savoy was extinct, and he was succeeded by Charles Albert of Savoy- Carignan (1821-49). The king gave the country a constitution in 1848, summoned a Liberal ministry, and assumed the leadership of the movement for the national unity of Italy. This led to a war with Austria in which he was defeated at Novara, and consequently was obliged to abdicate on 4 Nov., 1849, in favour of his son Victor Emmanuel II (1849-78). Count Camillo de Cavour (d. 6 June, 1861) was soon made the head of the administration. Journeys in France and England had imbued Cavour with ideas of political and parliamentary freedom; from 1848 he had sought to spread his opinions by publishing with the aid of Balbo, Santa Rosa, and others the journal "Il Risorgimento". On 4 Nov., 1852, he was made president of the ministry; he now sought by the economic development of the country and by diplomatic relations, especially on the occasion of the Crimean War, and at the Congress of Paris in 1856, where the "Italian" question was raised, to prepare for war with Austria.
In a second agreement with Napoleon III made at Plombières on 20 July, 1858, he gained the support of the French emperor by promising to cede Savoy and Nice to France. In this way Victor Emmanuel II was able in 1859 to begin war against Austria with the aid of Napoleon, and the two allies defeated the Austrian army at Magenta (4 June) and at Solferino (24 June). At the same time a revolution broke out in central Italy that had been planned by the followers of Mazzini, and the national union founded by him in Piedmont. Tuscany, the duchies, and the districts ruled by delegation received Piedmontese administrators. In his choice of means the only principle followed by Cavour was to use whatever might prove advantageous to him. His connexion with men like Mazzini, Garibaldi, and others shows the lack of principle in his conduct. Piedmont adopted the cause of the revolution. In the Peace of Zurich, 10 Nov., 1859, it was stipulated that Lombardy would be given to Piedmont. In 1860 the people of Savoy and Nice voted for union with France, so that these territories now became a part of France, and the royal dynasty of Piedmont resigned its native land of Savoy. As compensation for this loss Piedmont received Tuscany and Emilia. On 2 April, 1860, the "National Parliament" was opened at Turin; the parliament, asserting the principle of nationality, demanded "Italy for the Italians". Soon other Italian domains were absorbed, and on 17 March, 1861, Victor Emmanuel II assumed the title of King of Italy (see ITALY), whereby Piedmont and the Kingdom of Italy were merged into the united Kingdom of Italy. On 29 March, 1861, Cavour announced that Rome was the future capital of united Italy.
After the readjustment of ecclesiastical conditions in 1817 there were seven Church provinces in the Kingdom of Sardinia that had been formed and enlarged in the period following the Napoleonic era. These archdioceses were: in Piedmont, Turin with 10 suffragans, to which in 1860 an eleventh, Aosta (which had belonged to Chambéry), was added; Vercelli with 5 suffragans; in Luguria, Genoa with 6 suffragans; in Savoy, Chambéry with 4 suffragans (after the withdrawal of Aosta only 3); on the Island of Sardinia the three Archdioceses of Cagliari, Oristano, and Sassari, with 8 suffragans. Both the Liberal movement and the intrigues of the revolutionary party in Piedmont were in every way inimical to the Church. In March, 1848, the expulsion of the Jesuits was begun in the harshest manner. In October a law regarding instruction was issued that was adverse to the Church. In the next year began the hostilities directed against Archbishop Luigi Franconi of Turin and other bishops. The Archbishops of Turin and Sassari were even imprisoned. In 1850 the ecclesiastical immunities were suppressed and ecclesiastical jurisdiction was limited. In 1851 the Government regulated theological instruction without the concurrence of the Church; in 1852 civil marriage was introduced; in 1853 the office of the Apostolic royal-steward was completely secularized; in 1854 laws were issued directed against the monasteries; in 1855 the ecclesiastical academy of Superga was suppressed; in 1856 and the following years oppressive measures were issued against parish priests and parish administration, such as confiscation of the greater part of the lands of the Church. Using the party cry of a "free Church in a free state", Cavour and his confederates robbed the Church in many directions of its essential rights and freedom, as well as of its rightful possessions. The same spirit of hostility to the Church was shown towards the papacy; the nunciature at Turin was suppressed. Thus the union of Italy was carried on, even by Piedmont, that had allied itself to revolutionary elements hostile to the Church, in a manner inimical throughout to the Church and religion. This hostility continued to control the official measures as well as the entire course of the Italian Government.
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APA citation. (1911). Piedmont. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12076b.htm
MLA citation. "Piedmont." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 12. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12076b.htm>.
Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by WGKofron. With thanks to St. Mary's Church, Akron, Ohio.
Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. June 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.