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Archdiocese immediately subject to the Holy See. The city, which is the capital of the similarly named province, stands on the banks of the Po di Volano, where it branches off to form the Po di Primaro, in the heart of a rich agricultural district. The origin of Ferrara is doubtful. No mention is made of it before the eighth century. Until the tenth century it followed the fortunes of Ravenna. In 986 it was given as a papal fief to Tedaldo, Count of Canossa, the grandfather of Countess Matilda against whom it rebelled in 1101. From 1115 it was directly under the pope, though often claimed by the emperors. During this period arose the commune of Ferrara. Gradually the Salinguerra family became all-powerful in the city. They were expelled in 1208 for their fidelity to the emperor, whereupon the citizens offered the governorship to Azzo VI d'Este, whose successors kept it, as lieges of the pope, until 1598, with the exception of the brief period from 1313 to 1317, when it was leased to the King of Sicily for an annual tribute. Alfonso I d'Este, hoping to cast off the overlordship of the pope, kept up relations with Louis XII of France long after the League of Cambrai (1508) had been dissolved. In 1510 Julius II attempted in person to bring him back to a sense of duty, but was not successful. In 1519 Leo X tried to capture the town by surprise, but he too failed; in 1522, however, Alfonso of his own accord made his peace with Adrian VI. In 1597 Alfonso II died without issue and named his cousin Cesare as his heir. Clement VIII refused to recognize him and sent to Ferrara his own nephew, Cardinal Pietro Aldobrandini, who in 1598 brought the town directly under papal rule. In 1796 it was occupied by the French, and became the chief town of the Bas-Po. In 1815 it was given back to the Holy See, which governed it by a legate with the aid of an Austrian garrison. In 1831 it proclaimed a provisional government, but the Austrian troops restored the previous civil conditions, which lasted until 1859, when the territory was annexed to the Kingdom of Italy.

The dukes of Ferrara, especially Alfonso I (1505-1534) and Alfonso II (1559-1597), were generous patrons of literature and the arts. At their court lived Tasso, Ariosto, Boiardo, V. Strozzi, G. B. Guarini, the historian Guido Bentivoglio, and others. It counted many artists of renown, whose works adorn even yet the churches and palaces of the city, e.g. the ducal palace, the Schifanoia, Diamanti, Rovella, Scrofa-Calcagnini, and other palaces. The more famous among the painters were Benvenuto Tisi (Garofalo), Ercole Grandi, Ippolito Scarsello, the brothers Dossi, and Girolamo da Carpi. Alfonso Cittadella, the sculptor, left immortal works in the duomo, or cathedral (Christ and the Apostles), and in San Giovanni (Madonna). Churches of note are the cathedral, SS. Benedetto and Francesco, San Domenico (with its beautiful carved choir stalls of the fourteenth century). The most famous work of ecclesiastical architecture is the magnificent Certosa. The university was founded in 1391 by Boniface IX. Ferrara was the birthplace of Savonarola and of the great theologian, Silvestro di Ferrara, both Dominicans.

The earliest bishop of certain date is Constantine, present at Rome in 861; St. Maurelius (patron of the city) must have lived before this time. Some think that the bishops of Ferrara are the successors to those of Vigonza (the ancient Vicuhabentia). Other bishops of note are Filippo Fontana (1243), to whom Innocent IV entrusted the task of inducing the German princes to depose Frederick II; Blessed Alberto Pandoni (1261) and Blessed Giovanni di Tossignano (1431); the two Ippolito d'Este (1520 and 1550) and Luigi d'Este (1553), all three munificent patrons of learning and the arts; Alfonso Rossetti (1563), Paolo Leoni (1579), Giovanni Fontana (1590), and Lorenzo Magalotti (1628), all four of whom eagerly supported the reforms of the Council of Trent; finally, the saintly Cardinal Carlo Odescalchi (1823). Up to 1717 the Archbishop of Ravenna claimed metropolitan rights over Ferrara; in 1735 Clement XII raised the see to archiepiscopal rank, without suffragans. It has 89 parishes and numbers 130,752 souls; there are two educational institutions for boys and six for girls, nine religious houses of men and nineteen of women.

Council of Ferrara

When Saloniki (Thessalonica) fell into the hands of the Turks (1429) the Emperor John Palæologus approached Martin V, Eugene IV, and the Council of Basle to secure help against the Turks and to convoke a council for the reunion of the two Churches, as the only means of efficaciously resisting Islam. At first it was proposed to hold the council in some seaport town of Italy; then Constantinople was suggested. The members of the Council of Basle held out for Basle or Avignon. Finally (18 September, 1437), Eugene IV decided that the council would be held at Ferrara, that city being acceptable to the Greeks. The council was opened 8 January, 1438, by Cardinal Nicolò Albergati, and the pope attended on 27 January. The synodal officers were divided into three classes: (1) the cardinals, archbishops, and bishops; (2) the abbots and prelates; (3) doctors of theology and canon law. Before the arrival of the Greeks, proclamation was made that all further action by the Council of Basle as such would be null and void. The Greeks, i.e. the emperor with a train of archbishops, bishops, and learned men (700 in all), landed at Venice 8 February and were cordially received and welcomed in the pope's name by Ambrogio Traversari, the General of the Camaldolese. On 4 March the emperor entered Ferrara. The Greek bishops came a little later. Questions of precedence and ceremonial caused no small difficulty. For preparatory discussions on all controverted points a committee of ten from either side was appointed. Among them were Marcus Eugenicus, Archbishop of Ephesus; Bessarion, Archbishop of Nicæa; Balsamon; Siropolos and others, for the Greeks; while Cardinals Giuliano Cesarini and Nicolò Albergati, Giovanni Turrecremata, and others represented the Latins. The Greek Emperor prevented a discussion on the Procession of the Holy Spirit and on the use of leavened bread. For months the only thing discussed or written about was the ecclesiastic teaching on purgatory. The uncertainty of the Greeks on this head was the cause of the delay. The emperor's object was to bring about a general union without any concessions on the part of the Greeks in matters of doctrine. Everybody deplored the delay, and a few of the Greeks, among them Marcus Eugenicus, attempted to depart secretly, but they were obliged to return.

The sessions began 8 October, and from the opening of the third session the question of the Procession of the Holy Spirit was constantly before the council. Marcus Eugenicus blamed the Latins for having added the "Filioque" to the Nicene Creed despite the prohibition of the Council of Ephesus (431). The chief speakers on behalf of the Latins were Andrew, Bishop of Rhodes, and Cardinal Giuliano Cesarini, who pointed out that the addition was dogmatically correct and not at all contrary to the prohibition of the Council of Ephesus, nor to the teaching of the Greek Fathers. Bessarion admitted the orthodoxy of the "Filioque" teaching, but maintained it ought not to have been added to the Creed. Twelve sessions were (III-XV) taken up with this controversy. On both sides many saw no hope of an agreement, and once more many Greeks were eager to return home. Finally the emperor permitted his followers to proceed to the discussion of the orthodoxy of the "Filioque". In the meantime the people of Florence had invited the pope to accept for himself and the council the hospitality of their city. They hoped in this way to reap great financial profit. The offer was accompanied by a large gift of money. Eugene IV, already at a loss for funds and obliged to furnish hospitality and money to the Greeks (who had come to Italy in the pope's own fleet), gladly accepted the offer of the Florentines. The Greeks on their part agreed to the change. The council thus quitted Ferrara without having accomplished anything, principally because the emperor and Marcus Eugenicus did not wish to reach an agreement in matters of doctrine. (See COUNCIL OF FLORENCE.)


ARCHDIOCESE.--CAPPELLETTI, Le Chiese d'Italia (Venice, 1846), IV, 9-11, 24-226; FRIZZI, Memorie per la Storia di Ferrara (Ferrara, 1791); AGNELLI, Ferrara in Italia Artistica (Bergamo, 1902). COUNCIL.--MANSI, Coll. Conc., XXIX; HARDOUIN, Coll. Conc., IX; HEFELE, Konziliengeschichte (2nd ed.), VII; CECCONI, Studi storici sul concilio di Firenze (Florence, 1869).

About this page

APA citation. Benigni, U. (1909). Ferrara. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Benigni, Umberto. "Ferrara." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 6. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Richard Hemphill.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. September 1, 1909. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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