Since the 16th century, a right claimed by the kings of Sicily to exercise supreme ecclesiastical authority in their kingdoms as representatives of the Holy See. This claim was based on a privilege conceded by Urban II to Count Roger I of Sicily and Calabria (July 5, 1098) in reward for his warfare against the Saracens. In his bull Urban assured the Count and his successors that no legate would be sent to Sicily against their wishes. For the execution of papal commands the kings of Sicily would act as vice legates of the pope. It was a question not of a jurisdiction by the princes of Sicily independent of the Holy See, but only of the privilege of the secular rulers to execute the precepts of the supreme Church authorities; the sovereign of Sicily was privileged, but also bound to carry out papal regulations in his land. Paschal II sought to restrict the privilege by a bull to Count Roger II (Oct. 1, 1117). Adrian IV reluctantly recognized it (1136), but Innocent III (1198–1216) repudiated it.
During the period of Absolutism, Spanish legalists rediscovered the document and asserted immense ecclesiastical privileges for their kings, who were the rightful successors of the Normans and Hohenstaufens of Sicily. In practice the acts of the Holy See had no strength without an executory letter of the viceroy. Ferdinand I (d.1516) had claimed for himself jurisdiction in ecclesiastical matters, and Philip II sought in vain (1578) to have the Holy See confirm the Monarchia Sicula. Later Philip instituted a permanent tribunal named Index Monarchiae Siculae and forbade appeals from this tribunal to the Holy See. Rome could not overlook the danger to the independence of Sicilian bishops. The conflict was particularly violent during the reigns of Pius V (1566–72), Gregory XIII (1572–85), and Clement VIII (1592–1605). Philip condemned the 11th volume of the Annales Ecclesiastici
in which Cardinal Caesar baronius questioned both the genuineness of the bull of Urban II and the legal right of the Monarchia Sicula.
The contest became intense under Urban VIII (1623–44). The Sicilian bishops had protested so bitterly about the lack of independence due them by the Tridentine decrees that the pope adopted extreme measures proposed by a commission of cardinals. Accordingly, in 1687 Bl. Innocent XI instructed the nuncio of Spain to excommunicate the Neapolitan functionaries. The government of Madrid succeeded in having the sentence revoked. A heated battle broke out in 1717 when King Victor Amadeus II of Savoy ascended the throne of Sicily and the privilege of Monarchia Sicula was conceded to him. In a question of ecclesiastical immunity Clement XI suppressed the tribunal of that monarchy with the constitution Romanus Pontifex (Feb. 20, 1715). After he became King of Sicily and Holy Roman Emperor, Charles VI strove to obtain from Benedict XIII the revocation of the Clementine constitution; but in face of the resolute stand taken by the pope he settled for a bull that systematized ecclesiastical affairs on the island. The laborious treaties in which Cardinal Prospero Lambertini had an important role as papal adviser were concluded with the bull Fideli (Aug. 30, 1728), in which Benedict XIII, after withdrawing the decree of Clement XI, reserved to the Holy See the more important ecclesiastical affairs in Sicily but conceded to the sovereign for decisions of the last instance in certain ecclesiastical cases the institution of a supreme judge as a delegate of the Apostolic See. It was called "Tribunal of the Royal Monarchy and Apostolic Legation." Abuses again grew and in 1860 Garibaldi claimed the rights of papal legates and the privileges of Monarchia Sicula. Shortly after, Pius IX suppressed the apostolic legation by the bull Suprema, dated Jan. 28, 1864, but not published until Oct. 10, 1867. This bull was a complete and final revocation of the Monarchia Sicula. The Italian government quickly protested, but with the Law of Guarantees (art. 15) it renounced the privilege.
Bibliography: f. de stefano, Storia della Sicilia dal secolo XI al XIX (Bari 1948), bibliog. e. pontieri, Ricerche sulla crisi della monarchia siciliana nel secolo XIII (Naples 1958). m. brunetti, Il dissidio diplomatico cesareo-papale alla vigilia della successione di Spagna (Milan 1938). a. posch, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche (Freiburg 1957–65) 7:534–535, bibliog.
[i. j. calicchio]