Cardinal Caesar Baronius

Cesare Baronius
Caesar Baronius
Born (1538-08-30)August 30, 1538
Sora, Duchy of Sora
Died June 30, 1607(1607-06-30) (aged 68)
Rome, Papal States
Honored in Roman Catholic Church
Major shrine Santa Maria in Vallicella, Rome, Italy
Feast January 12
Attributes Cardinal's Hat

Cesare Baronio (also known as Caesar Baronius; August 30, 1538 – June 30, 1607) was an Italian Cardinal and ecclesiastical historian. His best known work are his Annales Ecclesiastici ("Ecclesiastical Annals"), which appears in twelve folio volumes (1588–1607).


Baronio was born at Sora, Italy, and was educated at Veroli and Naples. At Rome he joined the Congregation of the Oratory in 1557 under Philip Neri, and was ordained priest in 1564.[1] He succeeded Neri as superior in 1593.

Pope Clement VIII, whose confessor he was, made him cardinal in 1596 and librarian of the Vatican. Baronius restored his titular Church of Sts Nereus and Achilleus, and a procession in 1597 celebrated a transfer to it of relics.[2] He also had work done on the Church of St Gregory's on the Caelian.

At subsequent conclaves Baronius was twice papabile. On each occasion he was opposed by Spain on account of his work on the "Monarchy of Sicily," in which he supported the Papal claims against those of the Spanish government.


Baronius is best known for his Annales Ecclesiastici, undertaken at the request of Philip Neri as an answer to the anti-Catholic history, the Magdeburg Centuries. He began writing this account of the Church after nearly thirty years of lecturing at Santa Maria in Vallicella. In the Annales he treats history in strict chronological order and keeps theology in the background. Lord Acton called it "the greatest history of the Church ever written".[3] It was in the Annales that Baronius coined the term "Dark Age" in the Latin form saeculum obscurum,[4] to refer to the period between the end of the Carolingian Empire in 888 and the first inklings of the Gregorian Reform under Clement II in 1046.

With its errors, especially in Greek history on which he had to depend upon secondhand information, the work of Baronius stands as an honest attempt to write history. Sarpi, in urging Casaubon to write a refutation of the Annales, warned him never to accuse or suspect Baronius of bad faith.

He also undertook a new edition of the Roman martyrology (1586), in which he removed some entries implausible for historical reasons. He is also known for saying, in the context of the controversies about the work of Copernicus and Galileo, "The Bible teaches us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go."[5] This remark, which Baronius probably made in conversation with Galileo, was cited by the latter in his Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina (1615).

At the time of the Venetian Interdict, Baronius published a pamphlet Paraenesis ad rempublicam Venetam (1606). It took a stringent papalist line on the crisis.[6] It was answered by the Antiparaenesis ad Caesarem Baronium of Niccolò Crasso in the same year.[7]


A Latin biography of Baronius by the Oratorian Hieronymus Barnabeus (Girolamo Barnabeo or Barnabò) appeared in 1651 as Vita Caesaris Baronii.[8] Another Oratorian, Raymundus Albericus (Raimondo Alberici), edited three volumes of his correspondence from 1759.[9] There are other biographies by Amabel Kerr (1898),[10] and by Generoso Calenzio (La vita e gli scritti del cardinale Cesare Baronio, Rome 1907).[11]

Cause for canonization

Baronius left a reputation for sanctity which led Pope Benedict XIV to proclaim him "Venerable" (January 12, 1745). In 2007, on the 400th anniversary of his death, the cause for his canonization, which had been stalled since 1745, was reopened by the Procurator General of the Oratory of St Philip Neri.[12]


Sources and external links

  • Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli. "Il cardinale Cesare Baronio. Nel terzo centenario della sua morte," in La Scuola Cattolica (Monza), XXXVI, 1908, no. 12, pp. 1–29. (Reprinted with preface and notes by Giuseppe De Luca, Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, Roma, 1961) Roncalli's episcopal motto 'Obedientia et Pax' was taken from Baronius. [Peter Hebblethwaite JOHN XXIII: POPE OF THE CENTURY 2005 edition, p.57.]
  • Salvador Miranda. "The Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church - Biographical Dictionary - Consistory of June 5, 1596"

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