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Franciscus Quaresmius

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A writer and Orientalist of the seventeenth century, born at Lodi (Lombardy), 4 April, 1583; died at Milan, 25 Oct., 1650. His father was the noble Alberto Quaresmi and his mother Laura Papa. At an early age he was enrolled among the Franciscan Observantines at Mantua. For many years he held the chairs of philosophy, theology, and canon law, and became successively guardian, custos , and minister of his province. Later (1645-8) he occupied the two highest posts in the order, that of definitor and procurator general. The memoirs of the order extol his consummate virtue, particularly his piety, prudence, and extraordinary meekness. His long apostolate in the East and the magnificent works he has left us have secured for Quaresmius world-wide fame, especially among earlier historians, Biblical scholars, and Orientalists. On 3 March, 1616, he went to Jerusalem, where he became Guardian and Vice-Commissary Apostolic of Aleppo in Syria (1616-8), and Superior and Commissary Apostolic of the East (1618-9). During this period he was twice imprisoned by the Turks. In 1620 he returned to Europe, but in 1625 was back in Jerusalem, whence the following year he addressed from the Holy Sepulchre an appeal to Philip IV of Spain, inviting him to reconquer the Holy Land, and at the same time dedicating to him his work, "Hierosolymæ afflictæ". Between 1616 and 1626 he wrote his classical work, "Elucidatio terræ Sanctæ", adjudged by the learned a monumental contribution to history, geography, archæology, Biblical and moral science. During 1627-9 he was at Aleppo as papal commissary and as vicar-patriarch for the Chaldeans and Maronites of Syria and Mesopotamia. In 1629 he went to Italy to render an account to the Holy See of the state of the Eastern Churches ; he then returned to the East, but how long he remained is not known. Meanwhile he journeyed through Egypt and Sinai, the Holy Land, Syria, Mesopotamia, Cyprus, Rodi, Constantinople, and a large part of Asia Minor ; he also visited Germany, France, Belgium, and Holland. In 1637 he was guardian of S. Angelo (Milan), where in 1643 he completed his other great work on the Passion of Christ.

No bibliographer has yet given us a complete list of his works. His published works are:

  • "Historica, theologica et moralis terræ sanctæ elucidatio: in qua pleraque ad veterem et præsentem ejusdem terræ statum spectantia accurate explicantur" (2 fol. vols., pp. xxx-924-98 and 1014-120, Antwerp, 1639); second edition edited by P. Cypriano da Treviso (4 pts. in 2 fol. vols., Venice, 1880-1);
  • "De sacratissimis D. N. J. Christi quinque vulneribus, varia, pia et luculenta tractatlo . . ." [5, not 3, fol. vols.; I, 202; II, 258; III, 368; IV, 400; V, 271, besides an index of pp. 200 (Venice, 1652)], approved by the examining theologians in 1643, but unknown to bibliographers; only three copies are extant -- one in the library of Brera, the Ambrosiana of Milan, and the National Library (Florence);
  • "Jerosolymæ afflictæ et humiliatæ deprecatio ad suum Philippum IV Hispaniarum et Novi Orbis potentissimum ac Catholicum Regem" (1 quarto vol., pp. 74, Milan, 1631), very rare; there is a copy in the Ambrosiana of Milan ;
  • "Ad SS. DD. N. Alexandrum VII Pont. Opt. Max. Fr. Francisci Quaresmii Laud. Ord. Min. Pia Vota pro anniversaria Passionis Christi solemnitate" (1 quarto vol., pp. xx-58, Milan, 1656), of which there is one copy in the Ambrosiana;
  • "Pro confraternitate SS. Stellarii B. Virginis Mariæ tractatus" (1 quarto vol., Palermo, 1648);
  • "Itinerario di Caldea del Rev. P. Francesco Quaresmio e di Fr. Tomaso da Milano suo compagno. Min. Oss. e Giov. Batt. Eliano. Maronita, ed Elia Patriarca e con li Nestoriani etc. l'anno 1629", edited by Marcellino da Civezza in "Storia delle Missioni Francescane", XI, 595-608.
Still in manuscript are:
  • "Apparatus pro reductione Chaldæorum ad catholicam fidem" ("six manuscript volumes", says Fr. Cyprian), which Quaresmius wrote when among the Chaldeans, and to which he refers in "Elucidatio terræ sanctæ", I, li;
  • "Adversus errores Armenorum" ("three volumes in folio", says Sbaralea), preserved in the Convent of Lodi ;
  • "Deipara in Sanguine Agni dealbata", left incomplete by the author;
  • "Epistolæ ex oriente", in the archives of the Propaganda Fide.
  • These and other manuscript works are said to be preserved, some in the municipal library of Pavia and Lodi and some at Jerusalem.

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