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Rinuccini, Giovanni Battista

Rinuccini, Giovanni Battista

Archbishop of Fermo and papal nuncio to the Confederate Catholics of Ireland, Giovanni Battista Rinuccini (1592–1653) was born in Rome on 15 September 1592 (new style). After a glittering scholastic career he received a doctorate of Utrumque Ius from the University of Pisa and was employed as a referendary in the Roman Curia before being promoted to the archbishopric of Fermo in Italy on 17 November (ns) 1625. In March 1645, with considerable fanfare he was appointed nuncio to the Confederate Catholics of Ireland and began his journey to the island. After a stay of several months in Paris in an unsuccessful attempt to thaw diplomatic relations between France and the Holy See, he eventually landed in Kenmare Bay, Co. Kerry, in October and entered the de facto Confederate capital in Kilkenny on 12 November (old style).

For most of his first year in Ireland, Rinuccini attempted to prevent the conclusion of the first Ormond Peace between the Confederate Catholics and Charles I's lord lieutenant, the marquis of Ormond, because it failed to guarantee rights to property and jurisdiction to the Catholic clergy. Military successes in June and July of that year, partially owing to the 50,000 scudi that the pope had provided for the Irish mission, confirmed his belief that a more militant policy would enjoy both practical success and divine favor. When the peace was finally published in Confederate quarters in early August 1646, Rinuccini led the Irish clergy in the synod of Waterford, which repudiated the peace and overthrew the government that the treaty had established. The nuncio became president of a new Confederate Supreme Council, which launched an unsuccessful assault on Ormond in Dublin. From this point on, his influence began to wane. He resigned his presidency in early 1647, confident that his supporters still dominated Confederate government, but a succession of military disasters, partially attributable to the alienation of the Confederate faction that had supported the peace, severely eroded his influence. He was tempted to leave Ireland in March 1648 but elected to remain and resist the Inchiquin truce, which he considered a device to prepare the way for the reintroduction of the Ormond Peace. His excommunication of the supporters of the truce in May 1648 triggered a Confederate civil war that his partisans eventually lost. This paved the way to the negotiation of the second Ormond Peace of January 1649. Bitterly disappointed and resentful, the nuncio left Ireland in the following month.

During his career in Ireland Rinuccini was animated by a distrust of the Confederate peace party, which he believed ready to abandon the interests of the clergy for private gain, and by a belief that genuine commitment to war in the Catholic interest offered real possibilities of success, not least because it would attract large-scale papal assistance. In the event he was able neither to unify the Confederates around a militant strategy nor to attract substantial investment from the pope. Instead, he served merely to delay the completion of peace between the Royalist and Confederate parties and to ensure that the forces that opposed invasion from England in 1649 not only lacked possession of Dublin but were weaker and less united than they would have been without his mission.

SEE ALSO Confederation of Kilkenny; Darcy, Patrick; English Political and Religious Policies, Responses to (1534–1690); O'Mahony, Conor, S. J.; Rebellion of 1641


Aiazzi, Giuseppe. Nunziatura in Irlanda di Monsignor Gio. Baptista Rinuccini arcivescovo di Fermo negli anni 1645 à 1649 [The nunciature in Ireland of Monsignor G. B. Rinuccini, archbishop of Fermo, in the years 1645–1649]. 1844.

Corish, Patrick. "The Crisis in Ireland in 1648: The Nuncio and the Supreme Council: Conclusions." Irish Theological Quarterly 22 (1955): 231–257.

Kavanagh, Stanislaus, ed. Commentarius Rinuccianus, de sedis apostolicae legatione ad foederatos Hiberniae Catholicos per annos 1645–1649 [The Rinuccini memoirs concerning the mission from the Apostolic See to the Confederate Catholics of Ireland during the years 1645–1649], 6 vols. 1932–1949.

Ó hAnnracháin, Tadhg. Catholic Reformation in Ireland: The Mission of Rinuccini, 1645–1649. 2002.

Tadhg Ó hAnnracháin

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