Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

Diocese of Mantua (Mantuana), in Lombardy.

The city is situated on the Mincio River, which surrounds it entirely, and forms the swampy lowlands that help to make Mantua the strongest fortress in Italy, but infect its atmosphere. Mantua is of Etruscan origin, and preserved its Etruscan character as late as the time of Pliny; even now some ruins of that period are found. The possession of Mantua was contested for a long time by the Byzantines and the Lombards; in 601 the latter, having obtained definite success in that struggle, established the capital of one of their counties at Mantua. From the ninth century, as elsewhere in Northern Italy, the authority of the bishop eclipsed that of the count, and the emperors gave to the bishops many sovereign rights, especially that of coining money. In the eleventh century Mantua was under the Counts of Canossa, and became involved in the wars between the popes and the empire; in 1091 Henry IV took possession of the city, after a siege of seven months. At the death of Countess Matilda (1115), Mantua became a commune, "salva imperiali justitia". In the wars of the Lombard cities against Frederick Barbarossa , Mantua was at first on the side of the empire, led by Bishop Garsendonio, who in consequence was driven from the city and deposed by Alexander III, after which (1161) Mantua formed part of the Lombard League. After the peace of Venice, Garsendonio was allowed to return, and then began a period of economical progress, manifested more especially in the changing of the course of the Mincio, the building of the Palazzo della Ragione (1198), and the construction of the covered bridge (1188). Mantua took part in the second Lombard League against Frederick II , was besieged by him in 1236, and surrendered in the following year. Ezzelino da Romano also besieged the city in 1256, and the Mantuans had a considerable part in the war that overthrew that tyrant in 1259. There followed a period of internal struggle for predominance among the families of Casaloldi, Arlotti, Bonaccorsi, and Zanecalli. In 1275, two captains of the people were created for the administration of justice, but one of them, Pinamonte Bonaccolsi, put to death his colleague, Ottonello Zanecalli, and thereby remained sole master of the city, the government of which he left to his son; the latter, however, was obliged to resign in favour of his cousin Guido, thenceforth known as Signore (lord). Guido was succeeded by his brother Rinaldo, who conquered Modena, but he made himself odious, and was murdered, while the lordship passed to Lodovico Luigi Gonzaga (1328), in whose family it remained until 1708. Luigi became imperial vicar in 1329; he was a protector of letters, especially of Petrarch ; like his successors, Luigi II (1360-82), and Gianfrancesco I (1382-1407), he had to contend with the Visconti of Milan. Gianfrancesco II (1407-44), on the other hand, after having commanded the Venetian troops against the Visconti, entered the service of the latter, thereby becoming arbiter of the situation, and assuring great tranquillity to his state, which consequently began to flourish. He was also a friend of letters. In 1423 Vittorino da Feltre established at Mantua the famous school known as "Casa Giocosa". In 1432, Gianfrancesco received the title of marquess from Emperor Sigismund. His son Ludovico III, "il Turco", who reigned from 1444 to 1478, divided the marquessate between his two sons, leaving Mantua to Federigo I (1478-84), and creating the marquessate of Sabbioneta, which became a duchy, and the Principality of Borzolo for Gianfrancesco, whose line became extinct in 1591. The third son Rodolfo was made Prince of Castiglione. Under Ludovico III, in 1459, was held the famous "congress of princes", to consider a common action against the Turks, proposed by Pius II. Francesco Gonzaga (1484-1519) was a captain of the league against Charles VIII (1495), and commanded at the battle of Fornovo. Federigo II (1519-1540) was made Duke of Mantua by Charles V, and received the Marquessate of Casale Monferrato. He was succeeded by his two sons Francesco III (1540-50), and Guglielmo (1550-87); the second sheltered Torquato Tasso. Vincenzo I (1587-1612), in his turn also left the duchy divided between two sons, Francesco III (1612) and Ferdinando (1612-1626), the latter of whom resigned the cardinalate, and was succeeded by his brother Vincenzo II (1626-27), who also was a cardinal, and by whose death the direct line of the Gonzaga of Mantua became extinct; its rights were inherited by Carlo Gonzaga (1627-1637), who was a son of Luigi the brother of Francesco III, and who, having married the heiress of the Duchy of Nevers, was acceptable to the French; but Carlo Emanuele of Savoy was a pretendant to the Marquessate of Casale, while Cesare Gonzaga, Duke of Guastalla, wished to possess the entire duchy; and this situation gave rise to the war of the succession of Monferrato, in which Savoy received the support of Spain and of Austria, and Carlo Gonzaga that of France. The Austrians sacked Mantua in 1629, but the treaty of Cherasco (1630) put an end to the war, and secured the possession of Mantua and of Casale to Carlo of Nevers. The latter was succeeded by his nephew Carlo III (1637-65), who was a son of Carlo II, deceased in 1631; Carlo III sold the Duchy of Nevers to Cardinal Mazarin. Carlo IV (1665-1708) was a libertine; he united the Lordship of Guastalla to Mantua, but sold the marquessate of Casale to France (1681); on account of this transaction, and because Carlo had given assistance to France in the War of the Spanish Succession, Joseph I in 1708 took the Duchy of Mantua and annexed it, together with Milan, to the Austrian states, while Monferrato was given to Piedmont. In 1735, Carlo Emanuele of Savoy besieged Mantua unsuccessfully. Empress Maria Theresa did much for its prosperity. Napoleon took the city on 2 February, 1796, after a siege of eight months, but it was retaken by Kray for Austria in 1799; at the Peace of Lunéville, however, it was annexed to the Italian Republic (1801). From 1814 to 1866, it belonged to Austria, and was besieged in 1848 by the Piedmontese.

The cathedral of Mantua is the ancient church of SS. Peter and Paul transformed, and was begun by Pietro Romano in 1544 by order of Cardinal Ercole Gonzaga, it remained unfinished, but its stucco work by Primaticcio is famous, as are also a statue of Moses and one of Aaron by Bernero and several beautiful pictures, among them a Madonna by Mantegna, whose art is abundantly represented in the other churches and in the palaces of the city. The chapel of the Incoronata is by Leon Battista Alberti; its belfry is Romanesque. The church of Sant' Andrea is by the same architect; it has a single nave over 300 feet in length, while its cupola, by Juvara, is about 250 feet high. The tomb of Mantegna is in this church. Outside the city is the sanctuary of the Madonna delle Grazie, founded by Francesco Gonzaga in 1399. Other fine churches are that of Ognissanti, that of San Barnaba, which contains the tomb of Giulio Romano, the church of San Maurizio, where there are paintings by Ludovico and Annibale Caracci ; lastly, the church of San Sebastian.

The secular buildings are the Palazzo della Ragione, which houses the communal government (1198 and 1250); the Ducal Palace, begun in 1302 by the Bonaccolsi, and enlarged at different times by the Gonzaga (ducal apartments, the tapestries of Paradise, of Troy; paintings by Mantegna, Giulio Romano, and others); the Castello, built for the defence of the Ducal Palace, containing archives that date from 1014; the Accademia delle Scienze ed Arti, founded by Maria Theresa ; the Palazzo degli Studi, formerly a Jesuit college ; the "T" palace, a villeggiatura of the dukes, the work of Giulio Romano ; the episcopal palace, and several private ones; the ancient synagogue in the ghetto, etc.

Among the famous men of Mantua are: the poets Virgil, Sordello (thirteenth century), G. Pietro Arrivabene, author of the "Gonzagis", Vittorio Vettori (d. 1763), and Folengo, the first of the so-called macaronic writers; the jurist Piacentino (twelfth century), Baldassare Castiglione (il Cortigiano) ; the philosopher Pomponazzi, the Jesuits Antonio Possevino and Ognibene, the physician Matteo Selvatico (thirteenth century), etc. Among women of letters are Camilla Valenti, Ippolita, Giulia, and Lucrezia Gonzaga.

The Gospel is said to have been brought to Mantua by St. Longinus, the soldier who pierced the side of Our Lord ; tradition also says that he brought with him the relic of the Precious Blood, preserved in a beautiful reliquary in the crypt of the church of Sant' Andrea. Originally Mantua formed part of the Diocese of Milan ; later it belonged to that of Ravenna (about 585), and in 729 it was attached to the Diocese of Aquileia . In 804 Leo III made Mantua a diocese, of which a certain Gregory was the first known bishop. The relic of the Precious Blood, which had been lost, was found in 1048, and was recognized as authentic by Leo IX in 1053. The Bishops Garsendonio (1165) and Enrico (1193-1225) had the title of imperial vicar in Italy ; Guidotto da Corregio (1231) was assassinated by the Avvocati faction in 1235; other bishops of this diocese were Cardinal Martino de Puzolerio (1252); the Blessed Jacopo de' Benfatti, O.P. (1304); Guido d'Arezzo (1366), who died of the plague, which he contracted through his care of the sick. From 1466 to 1584, the See of Mantua was occupied by bishops of the House of Gonzaga: Cardinals Francesco, Ludovico, Sigismondo, Ercole, Federigo, Francesco II, Marco Fedele; only in 1566 was this series interrupted, by the Dominican Gregorio Boldrino. After Alessandro Andreasi (1584-87), who founded a house for Jewish converts and a hospital for sick pilgrims, the diocese was once more governed by a Gonzaga, Cardinal Franceso III (1587-1620), a Franciscan whose secular name was Annibale. Mention should be made also of Mgr Pietro Rota (1871-79), who was the object of much persecution at the hands of the government, and of Giuseppe Sarto (1884-95), now Pius X.

A synod was held at Mantua in 827, to settle a controversy between the metropolitan bishops of Aquileia and of Grado, one in 1053 for disciplinary reform, another in 1064, in relation to the controversy between Alexander II and the antipope Honorius II. At first (1537) it was proposed to hold the Council of Trent at Mantua.

The diocese was once suffragan of Aquileia, but in 1452 it became immediately dependent on the Holy See ; in 1803, however, it was made a suffragan of Ferrara, and in 1819 of Milan. It has 153 parishes, and 257,500 inhabitants; there are 3 religious houses of men, and 21 of women ; 4 educational establishments for boys, and 10 for girls, and one Catholic daily paper.


More Encyclopedia

The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed in fifteen hardcopy volumes.

Catholic Encyclopedia

Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.

No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.

Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912

Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17
11 "For the Lord Yahweh says this: Look, I myself ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 23:1-2, 2-3, 5, 6
1 [Psalm Of David] Yahweh is my shepherd, I lack ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 25:31-46
31 'When the Son of man comes in his glory, escorted ... Read More

Reading 2, First Corinthians 15:20-26, 28
20 In fact, however, Christ has been raised from the ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for November 23rd, 2014 Image

Bl. Miguel Pro
November 23: Born on January 13, 1891 in Guadalupe, Mexico, Miguel Agustin ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter