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Domenico Capranica

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Cardinal, theologian, canonist, and statesman, b. at Capranica near Palestrina, Italy, in 1400; d. at Rome, 14 July, 1458. After brilliant studies in canon and civil law at Padua and Bologna, under such teachers as the later Cardinals Giuliano Cesarini and Nicholas of Cusa, he received the title of Doctor of Both Laws at the age of twenty-one. Soon he became secretary to Martin V, and Apostolic prothonotary, and in 1423 or 1426 was made cardinal in petto by this pope, though his nomination was not published in secret consistory until 1430. He had earned this rapid promotion by various political and military services, notable by his administration of Imola and Forli and by his successful reduction of rebellious Bologna. In the meantime he had become Bishop of Fermo, but for some reason did not go to Rome for the public ceremonies of the cardinalate. Despite his protest, and their previous agreement with Martin V, the cardinals of the conclave that followed the latter's death (1431) refused to recognize Capranica's nomination, and the new pope, Eugene IV, sustained their decision on the ground that the delivery of the hat and assignment of the title were necessary for the validity of a cardinalitial nomination. Capranica, having already suffered severe losses at Rome through the enmity of the Orsini, took refuge first with the Visconti of Milan and later appealed (1432) to the Council of Basle for recognition of his title. This was granted, but to punish him for adhering to the Council Eugene IV deprived him of all honours and dignities, also of all his possessions. Capranica, then served by Æneas Sylvius as secretary, bore himself with moderation and caution, and soon sought a reconciliation with the pope at Florence (30 April, 1434), who restored to him his offices and goods, gave him the cardinalitial Title of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, and sent him to the Council at Ferrara, with special commission to treat with the Greek bishops and theologians concerning the reunion of the Churches. He frequently administered important departments of the States of the Church, always with justice, prudence, and integrity. He executed twelve responsible embassies for the Apostolic See, and was named (1449) Grand Penitentiary and Archpriest of the Lateran. Capranica was one of the most earnest reformers in the Roman Church, inaugurated the restoration of primitive fervour among the Cistercians of Tuscany, and drew up for Nicholas V, in 1449, a model plan of a general religious reformation (Pastor, Gesch. d. Päpste, 4th ed. I, 394-96). He was extremely stern and severe in character, and in the duties of his office open and free of speech, also quite fearless. He insisted on a personal examination of the votes cast for Nicholas V, whose election greatly surprised him, and remonstrated vigorously with Callistus III for his nepotism, especially in the nomination of Don Pedro Luis Borgia as Vicar (governor) of Spoleto (Pastor, op. cit., tr. II, 461). While very liberal to the poor, on the other hand he was austere and rigid towards the worldly prelates of the city and was wont to freely reproach them. His household was a model for correctness and simplicity of life. Capranica was eminent as a peacemaker, notable at Genoa, where he healed grievous municipal dissensions, and again between the Apostolic See and King Alfonso of Naples and the princes of Germany. During the plague of 1456 he remained at Rome when many others fled. He took a very prominent part in all the negotiations for a crusade against the Turks in the hope of restoring Constantinople to the Palæologi. To posterity he is best known as the founder of the Collegio Capranica (see ROMAN COLLEGES), which he opened in his own palace (the oldest Roman monument of the early Renaissance) for thirty-one poor scholars, sixteen in theology and the liberal arts, and fifteen in canon law. Its constitutions, drawn up by himself (Rome, 1705, 1879), are praised as a model of their kind; the college itself is the oldest of the Roman colleges and therefore rejoices in the peculiar title of "Almo Collegio". In 1460 his brother Cardinal Angelo Capranica erected nearby a special building for the college (Denifle, Die Universitäten, I, 317 sqq.). He left all his property to ecclestiastical uses, saying: "The Church gave it to me; I give it back, for I am not its master, but its steward. I should indeed have reaped but little profit from the nights spent in studying ecclesiastical discipline if I were to leave to my relatives the goods of the Church which belong to the poor" (Pastor, op. cit. II, 492) At his death the Milanese ambassador wrote home that "the wisest, the most perfect, the most learned, and the holiest prelate whom the Church has in our days possessed is gone from us". He added that he was universally considered as the next pope (op. cit. II, 494). Pastor himself says that of all the cardinals of the Renaissance Age none but Albergati, Cesarini, and Carvajal can be compared with him (ibid., 495). He lies buried in Santa Maria sopra Minerva, near St. Catherine of Siena. He wrote an excellent opusculum known as "The Art of Dying Well" printed in 1487. In his life by Catalanus (see below) are some notes on the Council of Basle, and he is said by Mansi (in Moroni) to have written a history of that council, never printed. He also drew up for the instruction of his nephew certain "Rules of Life" that Pastor says reflect his beautiful character.

About this page

APA citation. Shahan, T. (1908). Domenico Capranica. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Shahan, Thomas. "Domenico Capranica." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 3. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Gerald M. Knight.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. November 1, 1908. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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