One of the exciting aspects of being a modern Italian historian is that you must deal with the peculiar relations between the papacy and the state, between the Vatican (that is the Roman Catholic Church's institutional bureaucracy) and the state, and between the Italian Catholic Church and the state. This peculiarity is owing to the way in which Italy was created between 1859 and 1870. This process of what the Italians call "unification" meant the undoing of all but one of the different kingdoms, principalities and dukedoms that existed on the Italian peninsula prior to 1859. The one that remained, the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia, served as the political root stock on which which the new Kingdom of Italy was grafted. Only one of the losers remained: the pope-king of the Papal States -- a kingdom in the center of the Italian peninsula whose leader was also the head of the Roman Catholic Church. However, although the Pope remained, he no longer had a kingdom, and his position in Italy remained an unresolved issue. In the diplomatic terms of the time this issue was referred to as "the Roman Question." The question was, in effect, what should be done with the pope's claim to his lost kingdom that had been patched back together after the French Revolution of 1789 and Napoleon had suppressed it?
By the 1920s the relations between church and state and decades of precedents allowed for a tenuous relationship between the papacy and the Italian state. There was now a desire on both sides to resolve the issue once and for all. Federzoni, a fervent Catholic from 1924 onwards, was in a position to work towards some sort of reconciliation. I have found evidence to suggest that, as Interior Minister, Federzoni worked hard to resolve the Roman Question but ultimately failed. This is nothing new. But, the details are lacking.
Yesterday, before the Archive of the Foreign Ministry opened, I struck up a conversation with a person whom I had seen in the archive on a weekly basis since I started working there. It turns out he is an archivist from the Vatican Archives. We talked about our research, and he began to offer me suggestions about where to look for archival material in the Vatican Archives on Federzoni in the newly opened holding of Pius XI. He has also explained to me that he may be able to help me gain access to the Silesian archive. The Silesians are an order of Catholic priests who worked and still work in the education of boys and young men. I am anxious to gain access to the Silesian archive because one of Federzoni's cousins was an important person in the religious order who eventually became bishop of the city of Volterra. It was through this cousin that Federzoni became a devout Catholic. And, I hypothesize, that the two men had close relations during their lifetime.
So, while I thought that this summer might be the last for me to work intensively in Roman archives, I see that I must plan to come back next year. The Vatican Archive will close next week, and there is no time to even begin any research there. Moreover, I will just have enough time to complete the work I set out to do this summer. I cannot miss a day in my two archives if I am to get my work done this year.
All this brings me back to what I wrote in my last post. Another piece of my work depends on the help of an archivist. Sometimes, we see archivists and historians as two separate professions, and in one sense that is true. However, I would argue that archivists and historians are two sides of the same coin.
Finally, one last note on archivists. One of our alumna, Mary Gasper works at the Army Museum and Archive in Carlyle, PA. An Italian historian I met here needed to go the Army Archive to consult Goerring's diary which is conserved there. I was able to put him in touch with Mary, who helped him out. Thanks Mary! Professor Giorgio Fabre told me how he is so very thankful for all you did for him.