In the late nineteen-nineties I was privileged to be a recipient of a Leverhulme award allowing me to pursue a huge subject – that of examining the resources mustered to finance major early modern charitable and social initiatives, including education. I intended to search both for donors and for those who sought to generate money for such ends. In the nineties, considerable historiographical attention had been given to the motives priming ‘the gift’– historiography was in its cultural/anthropological phase. Mary Douglas and Clifford Geerz, in landmark studies of primitive societies, for example, denied altruism as the motor of giving and urged the interpretation of the gift as an exchange of as much interest or profit to the donor as to the recipient. Economic determinists embraced Foucault and read philanthropy as another word for policing, promoting ‘social control’ as a blanket interpretation of the dubious motives of the powerful donor anxious to buy support from those who might challenge his authority or swayed by the imperative of keeping the poor subservient and industrious in the interests of public order. Or ‘social control’ was applied in particular to religious reforms – the perceived concern of Catholic hierarchies to control the behaviour of their flock and make philanthropy the means to buy eternal remission from purgatory by a strategic eleventh-hour gift to address an identifiable public need.1
While not denying the relevance of such approaches, I suspected them to be an oversimplification of ‘the exchange’. They did not explain the phenomenon of donor choice of beneficiary nor generally of gifts made in vivo,2 nor were the possibilities of individuals who might have several reasons for their choice of gift-recipient explored. Personal predilection, family tradition, gender preferences or what we might call a social vision (personal or collective) might surely impinge upon the process of choice for placing money? I was to a degree endorsed in my dissatisfaction with simple, all-embracing explanations by the work of recent Renaissance architectural historians who, over the past decade, have emphasized the late Renaissance moment when the great male donor came out of the closet, rejected the anonymity promoted by the friars as theologically incumbent upon the builder of churches and public edifices –‘let not thy right hand know what thy left hand doeth’– and, in the spirit of Aristotle, Ethics Book IV, sought to establish a reputation of magnificence and generosity through personal palace building but also by splashing one's name over churches and hospitals. Thus, their work demonstrates that emulation of others and the desire to impress one's peers on an acknowledged scale of largesse were plausible exchanges, stimulants to the noble art of giving in the here and now, particularly within a context of civic humanism.3
One of my concerns was a phenomenon new to early modern society, that of fundraising for education, which received a considerable impetus from the activities of the Jesuits who were followed, if not on the same scale, by other new religious orders. In what follows, I hope to bring out something of the diversity marking the intentions of donors to the Jesuit enterprise and their motives for backing a world first, the greatest (arguably unique) trans-national educational system ever created. Given free to the consumer, Jesuit schools in Europe by 1700 numbered between 500 and 600 and ranged considerably in size – perhaps the range was 300–2,000 pupils4. At the beginning, fledgling colleges could be much smaller. Increasingly, in particular court centres and notably in Germany and the Empire, though based on the Roman model, large foundations acquired university status, as at Ingolstadt and Vilnius. Already in the sixteenth century they were developing in parts of Latin America and Asia.5
The principles of a structured curriculum applicable throughout the system, though with some local arrangements, are to a degree upheld today in the common developmental curriculum structures of the secular French lycée and the German gymnasium. The educational fare incorporated the classical component promoted by Renaissance civic humanism. As institutions grew, the curriculum included languages, philosophy, theology, rhetoric, mathematics and later science, developed in a reasoned programme of studies (the ratio studiorum). It imparted skills such as memory development, use of evidence and the weighing of opposing views as evinced in classical texts and thus the promotion of high-level verbal reasoning. Such skills clearly transcended the purely religious and the model produced the stars of the European Enlightenment from Descartes to Voltaire.6 Inevitably such schooling did not come cheap but drew upon the investments of diverse generations to support teachers in edifices worthy of civic humanism and, in selective centres, of courtly cultures. By the mid seventeenth century, give or take destruction in war, such schools and a few universities transformed the topography of continental cities and larger towns.
Who then were the donors and how were they drawn into the Jesuit enterprise? I had not got very far in the extraordinary documentation of the best archive keepers of the early modern period and the huge bibliography produced by the protagonists and enemies of the order when I found, to my astonishment, intruding upon my perception of the evidence a body of personal experience. In 1987 I left Britain for a chair in the history department at Harvard. In that context one did not need to be especially culturally alert to be conscious of the achievements and importance of private funding. I seemed to be so placed that I was continually exposed to what was for me a new experience from my British, state-based university past. I was a senior fellow of the Center for European Studies, perhaps the most exciting institution to which I have ever belonged but located in a shabby house on the fringes of Cambridge (Massachusetts). Within two years a move had occurred to the restored, reconstructed Busch Reisinger building – now re-baptized the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies – which had been given a several million dollar tasteful, as well as functional, refurbishment, with marble floors, conference rooms and glitz. Grants from German business sources promptly followed.
My Harvard life, however, was not to be confined to enjoying this splendour and the vibrant intellectual environment it fostered. Across the road was the multidisciplinary Women's Studies Program of which I was the first director. Our premises were small though comfortable: we had a budget, but we had none of the financial extras – bursaries, travel awards, prizes etc. – associated with the big departments. The year began with the head tutor and I writing round to development funds, largely targeted towards ethnic minority issues unaddressed by existing resources. The development office itself suggested setting me up with opportunities to talk to alumni groups of relative novices, who would include those prepared to give a little, rather than to individual mega donors – and they were prepared to offer advice as to how to present my case. Their words were reinforced before I left for my first modest try by the dean of Harvard College, an economist whom I sat next to at a dinner party. Essentially, the collective advice was to start by peddling a quality design or potential product. Deal in visions. Always talk about success and never mention failure or any problems impeding a given end – the vision itself. The audience does not want to know. Get through the extended success that you could have if you had the money to do it. Begin to court donors with a modest project (in any case beginners should not be let loose on the mega wealthy) wherein success is assured. Build up confidence with a particular group of people as a result of this particular success, to which reference can be made. In short, demonstrate that you can use small sums well before you go for anything bigger. Always use gifts rigorously for the intention of the donor. Nothing alienates other donors, as well as the family or individual concerned, more than the diversion of funds. Get to know as many donors or potential donors as possible by name. Keep them informed and excited through a newsletter packed with the successes of the students and the acknowledged part played in this by particular gifts. People are dazzled by successful youth and there is plenty of that at Harvard. Invite donors to events even if you know they cannot come. The personal and the particular are at the heart of the politics of fundraising. Indeed, a later dean told me that he found it profitable to excite competition, with a view to emulation, among the alumni of a particular year following the gift of one of their number.
But already, by then, I was at the European University Institute, one of three female faculty members. Exhorted to raise the profile of women's issues at the institution, two of us – my colleague was a Greek lawyer – undertook a year long multidisciplinary project with visiting fellows on ‘Gender and the use of time’. When the Institute bursar was not helpful in raising funds, my colleague, who had worked for the European Commission, said that we should go to Brussels and work her Greek connections within the bureaux. It proved a successful technique, demonstrating the basic principle that in a multi-national context one should begin to solicit funds from one's own national or ethnic group. Taken together, and to my surprise, I found my professional experience intruding upon the problematic that I was constructing for my historical study.
The first ten Jesuits, the group recognized in 1540 by Pope Paul II for a probationary period, with considerable opposition from the earlier mendicant orders, formed themselves as a uniquely mobile, active group, unbound by the obligation to keep choir so that they could address discernible needs in the service of the papacy.7 Defining, indeed redefining, those needs was a priority. Fresh from several years of study at the Sorbonne (over-educated in the opinion of their critics and dubiously so in the opinion of the Spanish, who at an earlier stage put Loyola under enquiry by the Inquisition), their first intended defined mission was to go to the Holy Land and convert the infidel through reasoned argument, a plan aborted by the presence of the Turks in the Mediterranean, which promoted a rethink. Broadly speaking, their debate on how they should replace this mission eventually produced three paths forward: the first was to preach, teach and extend profound confessional practice to produce quality Catholics with informed and regulated consciences – this demanded an educated priesthood; the second was to organize a lay social base to fulfil an explicit mission of help to the ‘needy’ in mind and body; the third was to educate youth and to do so taking no money from the parents. This youth would include the children of the wealthy and the influential who would one day be courtiers, statesmen, generals and decision makers, but it would reach down through the middle classes and the poor were also not precluded by cost (though in practice, unless perhaps the children of solid artisans, they obviously were so debarred through parental income foregone).
As well as providing secular citizens in influential posts there was also at stake the replication of Jesuits, men educated to the same high standards as the original group who had had to cross national boundaries to find a suitably exigent system. Without this, a nursery of first-class ministers, the rest could not exist. The founding fathers developed a logic whereby the feed-in institution or generator of men, either as future Jesuits or as supporters (that is, as informed lay persons capable of responsibility in civic leadership or court office), was the school/college. In this social vision an entire society is the product of its educational system and education the only motor of change for the better, and therefore of success. Ignatius was fully explicit in a letter to Father Pelletier in 1555 when the latter was struggling to initiate a college:
There are three objectives you should keep in mind. One is the preservation and increase of the Society in spirit, learning and numbers. The second is that we should look to the edification of the city and seek spiritual fruit in it. The third is to consolidate and increase the temporalities of the new college so that Our Lord will be better served in the first or second objectives.8
In other words, the better endowed we are, the greater the resources available for the goals of the Society of Jesus and thus the entire business of social ‘edification’– the word used over and again by the Jesuits to convey measures leading to spiritual and intellectual enrichment and enhanced social responsibility.
Highly trained themselves over a long period, the Jesuits soon realized that a proportion of new recruits were not of the same calibre and formation, and that considerable financial resources were required to provide the training necessary to remedy this situation. Although the first ten (allegedly 1,000 by Loyola's death) were joined by some stars, twenty-eight to forty per cent of initial new recruits fell or were pushed away, deemed gente inutil – useless people – intellectually and psychologically unfitted for the rigorous life of the Jesuit.9 A college/university education could remedy that deficiency and, from the mid fifteen-forties, providing this became for Loyola the sovereign imperative. We are engaged in the replication of ‘us’. Success equals efficacy or the numbers needed to function – and we need supporters (qualified in the discourse as ‘friends’).
It needs to be said immediately that among their defining choices of action, the endowment of colleges so as to provide the institutions with an annual income was the only business for which the Jesuits were allowed to depart from their mendicant status and to own and manage regular endowment resources, the result of accumulated gifts or concessions. (This principle, recognized by the papacy in the bull Exposcit debitum of 1550, authorized the group to have colleges ‘there where someone is pushed out of devotion to build and endow them’.10) Churches and novitiate houses could be given gifts, including buildings, by the pious but the upkeep of Jesuit novices in training was in theory dependent upon entrate (the sum given on entry in the way of the nun's dowry), gifts for immediate use from friends or overt begging – highly contested by other mendicant orders. There was to be no regular income for the Jesuits independent of that attached to particular colleges/universities and these, in 1540, did not yet exist. At that stage they were penniless without gifts. By 1650 (the date representing the high watermark of both recruitment and building in Europe) fifty per cent of Jesuit novices would have been educated in their colleges and universities/seminaries and resources found, if perhaps never sufficient, to cover costs.
The number of institutions grew from thirty-five at the death of Ignatius in 1556 (of which five were closed because of totally inadequate funding by his successor Lainez) to 144 by 1579, rising to some 440 by 1626. Some of the figures are somewhat deceptive given the propensity of the early order to present numbers in a very positive way and to hide problems. It would, however, seem that the turning point in Europe for more rapid development was indeed in the fifteen-seventies.11
Business historians in recent times have pinpointed the Jesuits as forerunners of the corporate organization.12 Certainly, Loyola was in Rome en permanence– because he saw it as nexus, heart, prime site of action and the potential source of resources and expansion, since the city had the highest number of foreign ambassadors in Europe – drawn to the papal court – and the most important churchmen as well as the most important bankers. His central organization, and the structures of dividing Europe up into assistances and provinces with constant reporting to central control, have been interpreted as the genesis of the corporate structure. Mobility – one foot in the air – was the lot of the rest, though there was much coming and going and policy was actively debated. Arguably the finest organizational mind joining the original group was that of Jerome Nadal who left his mark on every procedural structure – a piece of paper in the drawer for every eventuality and a real organizational man. But Loyola also knew that finding money was a specialist activity and that the passage from theory to practice had to be worked at. He therefore looked to advice from ‘certain Roman gentlemen’, who could inform about investments, and from bankers.13
The first priority for the initial group in their shoddy linen cassocks, lodging, when in Rome, in a house provided by the generosity of a widow who had lost her son, was to identify and build up powerful secular ‘friends’ who collectively incarnated influence and resources. At least fifty per cent of the initial group were Spanish and there was in Rome an existing triumphalist Spanish community. The national group (our own) acted as the natural support. Close networking was of the essence.
The most significant site of Spanish and indeed Portuguese elite sociability in Rome was the Palazzo Madama, home of Margaret of Austria, unfortunate illegitimate child of Charles V and victim of the elite marriage market, married first to the black dwarf, Alessandro di Medici, at Florence and subsequently to the unpalatable adolescent, Ottavio Farnese, grandson of the pope. The relationship was described by ambassadors as one between cat and dog. Asked – indeed virtually beseeched – by the pope to provide Margaret with confessors to promote reconciliation, Loyola produced a series of such men and Margaret, while never succeeding in even marginally liking Ottavio, accepted her situation. The birth of twins to the couple, with Loyola on his knees in the next room – a cameo of the personal is political – gained him the gratitude of the pope and some, if temporary, standing in the eyes of Charles V.14
More generally, among the ambassadors and agents and their wives and the Spanish/Italian marriages which linked old aristocracies with new money, Jesuit preachers and confessors found at the Palazzo Madama a congregation avid for sermons and confessions in the Spanish language (a reminder of home and an affirmation of their Spanishness as well as their own class), and the initial group of dominantly Spanish noblemen and indeed some Portuguese gave important support to Jesuit developments, if not immediately, in 1540, much money.
Loyola actively fostered networks. He lived in a world of linkages, meaning favours by association and letters of commendation. He thus used court contacts in his Spanish past to link him to his Roman context. He already had a fervent supporter at the court of Madrid in the person of Leonor de Mascareñas, Portuguese governess to the children of Charles V and kinswoman to Pedro de Mascareñas, then Portuguese ambassador in Rome. Informed by Leonor of the virtues of the fledgling order, and after checking Loyola out personally, Pedro wrote in 1540 to the king of Portugal to suggest that he offer two passages and support to the Jesuits to join the missions in Goa. The king agreed. This was a hugely significant moment. The chance could not be missed, even though it meant the loss of experienced members of the initial ten – indeed twenty per cent of that first group. Given the demands on manpower, a sacrifice to this end had to be made of Francis Xavier, to whom Loyola was particularly devoted.15 The invitation was interpreted by Loyola as a recognition of the fledgling order which put the Jesuits on a par with the Dominicans and the Franciscans. It generated possibilities for propaganda purposes and opened up a base for Jesuit novices to study at the University of Coimbra.
It is from this early experience that one can study Loyola's developing and increasingly shrewd notions of propagandist information – what our men are doing in exotic climes to rescue the infidel – intended to impress friends. A further similar early development (1540) was an invitation, generated by Doctor Pedro Ortíz, to Father Pierre Favre to accompany him to the religious colloquies under imperial sanction currently underway at Worms and Regensburg. Favre impressed elites and learned something of the religious chaos in Germany but he found the German situation overwhelmingly depressing and bewildering and travelled to Louvain perhaps with a view to bolstering Jesuit numbers from among the graduates. There he secured at least nine immediate recruits (eight went to Coimbra and one to Cologne) but he also encountered the young Dutchman, Peter Canisius, admitted to the Society in 1543 and ordained priest in 1546. Canisius was moved to Messina to help with the establishment of the college there but his triumphs were in the north to which he returned and emerged as a star. He had the linguistic skills in German lacking among the initial group and indeed among succeeding cohorts emanating from southern Europe. His work in Germany eventuated in an invitation in 1549 from the Bavarian duke to reform the University of Ingolstadt.16 Canisius was arguably the first Jesuit actively to confront the Protestant schism. In that sense, it is from this moment that the Jesuits confront and work – depending on the financial help of Catholic rulers and elites – to stem the growth of Protestantism. Such had not been their initial declared intent.
The work of these Jesuits on mission could be used to impress the friends of the order. Loyola demanded that all missionaries in the field develop a two letter technique with different versions of the same events. The first would be for his eyes alone, with a full account of what was happening: the second, which would be copied, was just to be full of the good news and was for the eyes of the friends. The intent was to keep the friends ‘edified’ (a very important Ignation construct meaning uplifted, impressed and excited) according to the principle ‘speak only of success and never hint at failure’. Both Canisius in Germany and Xavier in Goa objected. Canisius, who had begun a small school and who would subsequently go on to secure the foundation of eighteen German colleges, thought that the best method to impress supporters was by the children's rhetorical performances or disputatio (debates positing arguments for and against issues using designated classical texts as referents) opened to the public, which he found a hugely successful technique. Even Protestant parents wanted the expertise and sent their children, and the Jews moved into emulation. Above all, he thought that the edited letter was a waste of his time.17 Xavier was more concerned that such a letter hid the truth from subsequent missionaries. But Loyola believed that the edifying letter from pressure points in north Europe and exotic places across the seas, replete with Jesuit performance (suitably edited) and diverting details of flora and fauna and picturesque native customs, generated excitement and awe and captured the imaginations of sophisticated audiences. It constructed a self-image transcending the purely local. Within a matter of decades the Jesuits developed the printed lettres curieuses which wakened awareness of the east in the west and, along with individual vies édifiantes of our brave boys, created the paradigm of the seamless Jesuit who knew no fear. This was a process of image formation on which one could linger long.18‘We are not ordinary men’ was the message. By 1550 recruitment was proceeding fast and emphasizing the numbers was an important part of the information aimed at the edification of friends. Falling away (attrition) and failures were reserved for the eyes of the general alone.
Along with the establishment of the newsletter and its construction of the Jesuit bella e brava figura, one can define a process whereby Loyola and members of the group, as well as friends, discussed (perhaps groped towards is the nearest description) a funding strategy for educational foundations and sought to discover where accessible money might lie in the system. Pending a donor/builder the building of a college was not a first imperative, though there must be temporary premises, use of a church and enough money to keep the teachers. What was referred to as a college could be no more than a large house (three rooms for 100 boys or simply a hall where Jesuits in training could lodge). Building and endowment could be conceived as somewhat separate. Who might be a builder was actively debated. As children of Renaissance humanism their first thought was ‘the great man who wished to commemorate his line’, in the mode of Aristotle's Ethics Book IV, who builds in vivo for the renown of himself and his house. He could be enticed by an annual commemorative ceremony, one with founder's candle and prayers, which would continue post-mortem so that his house was perpetually associated with him and his memory honoured.19
However, as the dean of Harvard College knew well, the great man does not rush to put money behind an unknown, unproven group – money only follows visible, perceived success. Second, the socio-political context of the mid sixteenth century was marked by crises in government funding, war expenditures and the dramatic failure of crown bonds which in good times had enriched many families. Third, the assets of a head of house, however large, could be very inflexible. One must put oneself in his shoes. Such a person cannot alienate his inherited patrimony (only encumber it with a certain amount of debt) but is a mere human vehicle through whom wealth passes en route to his heir, and if he has abundant children then he himself is locked in a remorseless struggle to finance dowries and search for offices in church and state to maintain the sufficiency of the house. The big men from whom the Jesuits eventually got money (let us say after the fifteen-seventies) responded to predictable types. They were usually childless and had new sources of wealth independent of family patrimony. This wealth might come from government office or military success – the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries saw military fortunes made by those who led successful campaigns and who could become very wealthy and might seek to immortalize themselves in a magnificent building. The prince de Condé, as a Protestant convert donor at Bourges, is a good example of such a person. Or colonial office could make new fortunes through extortion of the natives and would build colleges in Asia. Loyola was challenged in Spain as to the reputation of some of his donors, on the grounds that they were adulterers (to twenty-first-century eyes the least of their failings) anxious perhaps to re-establish social respectability. His reply was the unforgettable phrase –‘be patient with your donors’ (in other words, do not look too closely at their past actions or even at where the money comes from).20
In Loyola's lifetime important secular men did not rush to construct colleges, nor did the bishops. This was not for want of trying on the part of the Jesuits. One hopeful window of opportunity was the decision of the duke of Gandia, Francesco Borgia, after his wife's death in 1547 to join the order and thus to renounce his dukedom and patrimony to his eldest son. He asked for anonymity but he had little hope of this. As Roman observers said, ‘they [the Jesuits] parade him like a trophy’.21 His name was very important to their image. The duke sought to give money from what remained after patrimonial commitments were deducted from his assets. It was hoped to get this money out of Spain to fund a Roman college, an endeavour that was at the heart of Ignatian aspirations. Some covert intrigue followed. Philip II became apoplectic about the idea of Spanish money being siphoned off to Rome. A decade or so elapsed before a certain amount of connivance from mercantile communities operating between Spain and Italy, using letters of exchange (from the point of view of the Spanish monarchy dirty dealing), contrived to get some of the capital out to fund an institution housed in temporary accommodation.22 Resources were inadequate but this was never publicly admitted and numbers grew, straining existing funds still further against a background of underfed teachers suffering fatigue and illness. Nevertheless the vision of a solid and impressive Roman college, which did indeed prove transformational to the image of the order, was not abandoned. Holding on was the name of the game.23
I have presented the head of the male line or head of house as a vehicle through whom inherited wealth passed to the next generation. But what about the women? The context of any noble family was a financial system arising from the purchase of a supportive kin group through marriage. This was a costly process and the size of the dowries in the trade-off for alliance meant that usually no more than two daughters per generation married and frequently only one. Dotal funds and their disposal constitute a complex subject. A dowry could equal up to about a fifth of the wealth of the bride's family and was ideally in liquid wealth rather than land. Clothes and jewels befitting a match were bought for the new bride. In marriage she received a usufruct on her dotal contribution to cover her expenses but the capital passed into the hands of the groom's family, who were often waiting for it to purchase the marriage of a daughter. If the groom should die, the sum should be returned to the bride's family if the marriage was childless and the bride was still marriageable. If she was past childbearing, however, she was entitled in her own name to re-appropriate her dowry, provided that she did not remain in the marital home. If she did, and her husband also left her with management of his affairs as mother of their children, we are looking at women with access to quite a lot of money. Legal provision, if women died intestate, sent the dotal money back to their family of origin if childless but, and the capacity varied from state to state, there was scope for particular women to determine where the money went and resources could be directed away from her birth family.
We must ask why she might do this? The arranged aristocratic marriage could produce good working relationships, as in the case of Dona Leonor Orsorio de Vega, but, in a culture of violence and sexual promiscuity between the condottiere and the courtesan and one where conspicuous consumption ruled, the arbitrary character of elite marriage could produce disaster. Briefly and somewhat generally, as far as aristocratic women are concerned, we are looking at three types of money. First, perhaps, at fairly modest amounts – spare cash from the usufruct or gifts acquired after marriage, like houses from a deceased relative – permitting the sort of sums which could provide or pay the interest on borrowings to constitute what I shall call seed corn money for the Jesuits to hire premises and start a pilot-scheme school. Second, there was the sale of the bride's jewellery which could, as one sees if one looks, for example, at the income of the college at Mantua, constitute a working endowment sum at least in the short run.24 Finally, there could be the entire dotal sum re-appropriated in widowhood, which could be very considerable.
What drew women even in the early days to the Jesuit enterprise? Did they embrace the idea of a social mission aimed at spiritual renewal? Or, could it be the involvement in reform that the Jesuits could offer them? Were they deliberately courted by the fathers, who gave special attention to their problems and gave spiritual affirmation to their responses? Can one generalize about the complexities and varieties in individual relationships, as between women and particular Jesuit fathers? There are no absolutely blanket answers to these questions and a great deal pivoted on individual response.
First encounters as between women and the Jesuits often occurred by hearing preaching. In addition, the Jesuits were very active promoters of frequent communion in a private communion box, a development which has had a lot of historiographical attention from some important religious historians such as Le Châtelier and Delumeau.25 What is known about this is that the practice was much more actively embraced by women than by men. Explaining why, given the secrecy of the proceedings, has been speculatively, if plausibly, most effectively addressed by Italian women historians, some of whom stress that the experience generated a new self-consciousness (talking about the ‘me’). Another approach is that in the confessional we are looking at the first site of serious marriage guidance counselling. In this women received an endorsement of the difficult role of the abused wife. (In support of this interpretation is a graphic frontispiece to a Bolognese confessional manual in which a well-dressed lady toils up Calvary with a cross (her marriage?) on her shoulders.26)
A third approach to explanation is that the Jesuits offered women an opportunity for social action: on the one hand, they offered involvement in their redemptive charity schemes for the rescue of fallen women and girls at risk; on the other, they offered, in competitive mode, the title of Mother of the Church to the woman who raised the most towards the foundation of a particular college and who could have the title on a certificate if she was prepared to buy it. The funding for the introduction of the Jesuits to Bologna was provided by a consortium of women spurred on to raise money for a college – the event was made competitive.27 She who raised the most, and gained the certificate and title of Mother of the Church, was one Margherita del Giglio, a widow and also the sister of the bishop of Sora who himself had aspirations to fund a college in Rome but who wanted the naming opportunity of founder without coming up with the means to build on any scale. She mobilized several elite women initially to clear out the church of Santa Lucia and to provide a house for the handful of Jesuit fathers, and then to purchase an adjacent house to serve as a school. The women would appear to have been drawn by a vision of a socially transformational educational programme which might convert the unruly male into something more acceptable. In women's letters about their involvement in giving towards the establishment of a particular college, the goal identified is always the potential of changing society through the promotion of piety and bonnes moeurs,28 and they were prepared to invest in a vision of an entire societal upgrade.
Sometimes, of course, the personal may have intruded upon the vision. At Ferrara, Maria Frassoni del Gesso, the widow of the fattore (business manager) of the d’Este encountered the Jesuits in the early fifteen-forties and was persuaded of the value of their initiatives. She parted with about 70,000 scudi – in instalments – not only to start a Jesuit college but also to help the Jesuits in Rome service loans for their pilot college there. She was not made official founder of the college at Ferrara, that title went to the Duke Ercole who put in 1,000 scudi, but, and the fact is recorded on the wall of the Gesú in Ferrara to this day, she was ‘foundress by merit’. She was expected to understand, and may have concurred in, the wisdom of the choice since she had no progeny of her own. Her family of origin watched despairingly and were overtly critical – though succeeding generations changed their tone when Loyola was canonized in 1622 – as they saw their aunt's money disappear. Her exchange with the Jesuits was intense daily confessional attention and she became attached to one young priest, Pelletier, in particular. Rumours abounded. Loyola insisted that she could not have a daily one-to-one session at home and that Pelletier should be replaced. But the lady took to her sick bed and the death of a loyal and conspicuous benefactor was feared. So she won – Pelletier's visits continued. He has a left a recorded opinion of her as ‘strange’ (could this be read as dotty?). She was certainly lonely and she did need attention from someone whom she felt understood her, but she did not lack purpose and Loyola recognized debts. One should always treat a donor well.29
Of the women who immersed themselves in the promotion of a proportion of the thirty-five colleges existing at the time of Loyola's death in 1556, most provided the seed corn money for a pilot scheme which was indubitably precarious. This was because the pilot groups of three or four Jesuits were funded by sums sometimes derived from loans whose interest was paid by gifts or the collateral of a usufruct pending the decision of a would-be donor to offer more permanent arrangements. Astraín, the Spanish historian of the Jesuits, describes the plight of teachers involved in short-term initiatives funded this way. The promises of nobles produced in a culture which thought big were not guaranteed and often men who had made rash promises did not deliver.30 In default of delivery the pilot team could be left in a very difficult face-losing situation. Or, they could persist on very inadequate terms and even get so far as to be classified as a college with regular classes. This was the case at Modena, where four or five teachers were housed in a ramshackle building on the marshy lowlands side of the town (it was known as the ‘wild beast's den’), paid for by Donna Costanza Pallavicino Cortesi – the college was subsequently closed.31
However, another, in the long term the most successful, model was emergent in the late fifteen-forties, gaining momentum over the next two decades. Among the Spanish elite women in Rome was the formidable Leonor Orsorio de Vega, wife of the Spanish ambassador, soon (1546) to be made viceroy of Sicily, who came to enjoy a very particular relationship with the saint. His equal in energy, she was also a woman born to command and to be obeyed. She became the executive of Loyola's plans to retrieve prostitutes from a life of vice in Rome. From Sicily, she ran a close correspondence with him. When she left Rome she described to Loyola how much satisfaction the women had when she left them with the keys to these refuges and the work of raising funds to support them. These were women with time on their hands for whom responsibility and activity filled a vacuum. Indeed, and in direct contrast to male givers, women demanded involvement with the institution that they helped.32 In the case of the houses of retrieval, we are dealing with modest funds and small numbers. An association with a small project however can open up the possibilities of a wider involvement.
When Dona Leonor Osorio de Vega went to Sicily with her husband an important development occurred: for the first time, a civic government in 1547 offered the Society of Jesus a specific contract to begin a school.
The city of Messina to Father Ignatius Loyola
Being well informed that in the congregation of religious of the name of Jesus, which is under the direction of Your Reverence, there are persons of learning and virtue, who by doctrine and apostolic ministry make themselves of great use in the Christian state, this city wishes very much to have some of your subjects to preach, teach and produce the same fruit which has resulted from their labours wherever they have resided. As it were to actuate the desire of the citizens, Our Lord has condescended to place over them as Prince and viceroy, Juan de Vega, who, with that piety, prudence and virtue conspicuous in him, has approved our supplication to your Reverence. Our request is that you send us five masters to teach theology, the arts, rhetoric and grammar and another five to pursue their studies and give assistance in works of Christian zeal. The city will furnish them with food, clothing, and a residence suitably furnished: and in order to execute our will in proper form, the citizens have considered it in council and have given it their unanimous sanction, to which is added that of his excellency, the Viceroy.33
The initiative here comes formally from the civic government – if prompted by the secular power, the new viceroy – and the text contains an assurance of regular income (paid from indirect taxation in the control of the city) and living quarters for a specific number of teachers, novices and missionaries, as well as classroom space. This temporary accommodation can in the medium run be replaced and extended by buildings, school, novitiate, residence etc., constructed with gifts from those who wished to endorse the Jesuit model and secure for themselves a place on the landscape. What happened in Messina was the subsequent building of a college with the money of de Vega and his wife. A college at Palermo was constructed in the same way but to this institution the intrepid Dona Leonor assigned in addition her large personal fortune in dowry and inheritance to furnish the endowment.
The civic pattern was replicated to some degree in the main cities and even in some relatively modest towns of Sicily. Generally the town councillors did not provide the funds for new buildings, which would later come out of private resources of varying adequacy given by the Spanish colonizing nobility who were newly wealthy from the occupation of land and from rewards for military success. This twinning of civic with personal investment was the most widely successful foundation model as Jesuit expansion opened up in the rest of Europe.
How can we explain this process? Sicily was a land of rich pickings. It was a massive producer of hard grain, of wine and salt and the Spanish colonizing power was taking over from a historical sequence of colonizers and builders: first the Greek temples, then incredible Roman pleasure villas, in time the Norman cathedrals and here we have the Jesuit colleges and churches in the new, instantly recognizable, baroque architectural mode. Thus, the Spanish Herrenvolk, the conquerors, soldiers, admirals, civil servants and their women, were making a group statement: ‘we are here shaping the urban landscapes and we are using the proceeds of conquest to the greater glory of God and to our own renown on the way’. If one walks round Catania, Siracusa, Palermo, Noto, Trapani, Bivona and many other towns today, however many pieces earthquakes have knocked off the buildings, Sicily cannot be properly read or experienced without this recognition. The Jesuit baroque proclaims the Spanish ascendancy (who largely paid for the buildings from their rents and extortions) just as train stations proclaim the fascists.
Sicily was a special case, a precocious baby, spawned because the viceroy and his wife, personal friends of Loyola, set the ball rolling. It did, however, have important implications for the wider picture. The Jesuit made responsible for seeing that the college finances were regulated was Father Jerome Nadal, the visitor perpetually on foot roaming the island to instruct and ensure that financial accounts were standardized according to certain set rules and confirmed by a hierarchical structure ending in Rome. Nadal pioneered a single model which became standard throughout the order. He was an extraordinary figure, embodying the belief that the only ship is a tight ship, and he left his mark upon almost every aspect of Jesuit administration.34 Of all Jesuits he commands the most attention from historians of organizations and business procedures, and with good reason.
In fact, if the Medici pioneered doubly entry bookkeeping, it was the Jesuits who made it accessible to a wider constituency and hence confirmed the members of the order as those who knew what to do with their assets, subject to annual endorsement and a three-yearly inspection for each college. The publication of the extremely important Trattato del modo de tenere il libro del doppio domestico (1636), the work of a Sicilian Jesuit, Ludovico Flori, sought to popularize the art of bookkeeping. It enjoyed a considerable circulation in wider society and left an image of the Jesuit as business manager presently of some interest to business historians.35 Protection of their assets – read interests – lay in part behind the establishment of an archive and an increasing concern to have trained lawyers within the order to defend their interests. But although such developments pointed to professionalization they did not pass unnoticed or without criticism. Moreover, families could resist.
Sicily was, of course, an offshore island but its promotion of the civic model of foundation (public funding) would be the dominant one for the future, one where towns in effect purchased, through indirect urban taxation, teaching services (enough to feed the teachers) for an agreed number of classes and offered some useable buildings pending the efforts of the fathers to raise money both for a better building and/or more classes and services. If such developments did not happen overnight, there were signs of change in the last quarter of the sixteenth century. Three considerations collectively operated in those years to enhance the solidity and status of the Society of Jesus and to carry it into phase two.
First, a genial Bolognese canon lawyer pope (Gregory XIII, 1572–85) put himself behind the construction of the Roman college and not only built big but endowed the institution with the income of the abbey of Chiaravalle. Although this was never adequate, the influence and size of the Roman college had exactly the effects which Loyola had conceptualized. In his terms, it was a ‘universal good’, facilitating the training of priests at the highest level and drawing in those who came from regions without colleges and universities of the highest status, so that it was a veritable seminary for the nations.36 It was also on view.
Second, at the second Council of Trent the imperative of education for priests and laity alike was underscored and there was an effective Jesuit presence which served to impress reformers. Borromeo, archbishop of Milan and key reformer, became a supporter and his influence and endorsement, which included the transfer of the Brera as a Jesuit college/university, firmly planted the order in north Italy.37 He was not alone. Bishop Guillaume du Prat of the diocese of Clermont died in 1576 and bequeathed his palace in Paris for a Jesuit college. He had been a long-term supporter of the Jesuits. The relationship had begun in 1549 and in 1556 in his own diocese he had put resources behind the opening of a college in the central location of Billom. It is held that in 1562 it had 1,200 students, all classified as day pupils but some probably boarding in the town. The desire to combat heresy is posited as the reason for its success. However, it had very little in the way of financial resources, though held to be much esteemed, and it was not Paris.38 The shift of possibilities of development to the capital itself was critical for the future of Jesuit influence in France.
Capturing a part of the episcopate co-existed with a third critical development. It is in the closing decades of the sixteenth century that one gets the effective establishment of the Jesuit order within particular court cultures. Again, this process reflects other factors such as the developing competences of newly trained priests and the emergence of ‘star’ confessors within court cultures. Ugo Baldini identifies in the Italian courts not only the growing competition for particular confessors, and the development of a court sociability which included a presence at sermons delivered by star performers, but also individual attachment to confessors known to produce printed necrologies, for which some individual Jesuits gained renown.39 These often served as published memento mori, again promoting family reputation. But the attitude of the ruler was obviously critical in determining choice of schooling for the noble elites. His support was a sine qua non for Jesuit success in particular national contexts and thus the moment when Henri IV of France, the most populous country in Europe, came out on their side, was a decided turning point.
To the above factors one can add the diminishing Spanish profile of the order which enhanced its acceptability to the French, Germans and many north Italians. From 1573, the generalship of the order moved out of the hands of the original fathers, first to a Belgian, Mercurian (1573–81), and then to a Neapolitan Italian, Aquaviva (1581–1615). Both were from areas of Spanish domination but not themselves Spanish. The natural legatee of the generalship should have been Polanco, Ignatius's right-hand man, but he came from a New Christian family which rendered him unacceptable to the Spanish limpieza de sangue mentality. The two generals were tougher than their predecessors in several ways and were operating in a different context. Both sought to reduce tension with the Spanish by promising that no more New Christians would be accepted into the order. Aquaviva also implicitly discouraged in Spain any overt signs that the Jesuits existed por favor mujeres. (The reference may be to the rising Collegio Imperial financed, if not very well, by the two sisters of Philip II whose governess was the same Leonor de Mascareñas whose kinsman had engineered the invitation to Goa).
Critically for the order, both these new generals, Aquaviva in particular, adopted a harsher line on the formation of new colleges, either as civic enterprises or through individual donors, unless building and endowment costs were provided up front and commitments to class numbers clearly understood. Aquaviva spelt out explicitly that initial contracts must provide endowment costs adequate for a contracted number of classes and students and support of a stipulated number of teachers. Interestingly, though the stipulation could not affect existing colleges, Aquaviva also laid down that the endowment must not be in rentes or juros – government bonds which had in the context of the sixteenth century proved disastrous – and that no contract for fewer than three classes would even be considered. Though it seems that in both France and the embattled Spanish Netherlands, the cockpit of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century wars, these criteria were not met, it would nonetheless appear that the balance of power was clearly shifting towards the Jesuits as the belief in education for tomorrow's world gained support.40
But what made Henri IV of France support the Jesuits? What made him create a royal college foundation at La Flèche where, according to testamentary instruction, his heart and that of his wife, Marie de Medici, were to repose – as for the rest of his body it had to join the vestiges of other kings of France. In some ways the action puzzles. The Jesuits were agents of the pope and the commitment acknowledges the conformity of the French church to Roman authority, which did not go down well in parlementaire circles. The essay to establish the Jesuits in 1576 had been hampered by the dominantly Spanish constituency of the fathers, which had an alienating effect on the French nobility. An attempt was made on the life of the king by an assassin with a background of Jesuit education. None of this held Henri IV back. In some interpretations, the influence of the king's confessor, Père Coton, who established the tradition of a Jesuit in that role until the suppression, explains the change. More recently, Henri IV's promotion of the Jesuits has been attributed to his wish to tame the French nobility through education.41 It should in this context be asked if he was under the influence of his wife, Marie de Medici, as she was familiar with the Italian examples? She certainly not only joined with him in the foundation of La Flèche, where both their hearts were consigned post-mortem, but, particularly during the regency of her son, she was instrumental in endorsing requests from municipalities for colleges and helping with subsidies towards the running costs borne by the towns from tax sources. Was Henri persuaded that a talking nobility, one schooled in the techniques of the disputatio, held out more prospects of reducing the propensity of the nobility to generate civil conflict? This is one current interpretation. The French nobility certainly used the aristocratic schools – La Flèche, Paris, Bourges – for at least a part of the education (eight to fourteen years) of their sons. During that time they learned the arts of rhetoric, languages, philosophy and debating techniques and had a religious formation before passing on to academies where military skills, physical expertise (sauter, nager, lutter) and arts d’agrément such as music and painting might be developed. More generally, the Jesuit colleges integrated the teaching of dancing and the production of complex plays and operas, enhancing presentational skills. Sometimes such productions were very secular in tone.42 This educational fare is argued to be the significant bridge leading the French, and indeed the European Catholic nobility, from the sword and the saddle to the salon. What, after all, was the secular model of Enlightenment discourse built on if not the principle of the disputatio applied to a very different range of critical, secular texts?
To fund La Flèche the king put in income from privileged concessions and profits from state taxes, and gave privileged exemptions. It was a flagship institution, associated with the king, which Louis XIV would emulate when he put money into the refurbishment and extension of the Paris college – now rebaptized Louis le Grand. But what about the other Jesuit schools enjoying a more middle-class social recruitment? Here we are looking at much more modest enterprises. The history of each one can perhaps be read as conforming to a basic theme but with individual interventions. Let us take, for example, what happened at Alençon, a town deeply torn by the Wars of Religion, where the town council petitioned the king in 1592 for the interest on a loan that they had been forced to give, which they estimated at 600 livres per year and which was needed for educational purposes. Deadlock ensued until, in 1619 (after the death of Henri IV), one Marthe Durand, wife of a local judge, formed a pressure group and petitioned Marie de Medici, the regent, for a Jesuit college to educate the local youth in piété et bonnes moeurs. Permission was given to use the 600 livres to this end but this was insufficient endowment for a school. Long negotiations with the Jesuits followed in which the town authorities came up with 1,400 livres annual income in addition to this 600, as well as a house that they claimed to be worth 6,000 livres and 2,000 livres worth of furniture, against four classes for bonnes moeurs et lettres humaines. The Jesuits contested the value of the house and furniture but moved in, and in 1637, after a number of petitions, King Louis XIII gave them a portion of the petit parc of the château of Alençon. This gift was initially contested by the parlement of Normandy, claiming the site to be inalienable royal property, but their opposition was dropped in 1643. The Jesuits now had a site but only inadequate teaching space. The next break came from the legacy of Archbishop Fouquet of Narbonne, exiled to the town, who became an enthusiastic backer of the Jesuits’ educational project and made them heir to his property in 1674. This was followed by a gift on the marriage of Isabelle d’Orléans, who received the duchy of Alençon in her dowry and who gave the Jesuits some financial help in addition to stones from several ruined chapels to build a church. Another gift of 6,000 livres came from the comte de Maure and, as the church rose, parents and alumni started to weigh in to build a small college (300 boy range) and to claim association with the initiative.
Never more than a modest enterprise, but with its share of public events such as pupil disputatio and little plays and self-advertisements like public prize-givings, usually funded by the local lady bountiful or by a retired cleric who wanted his coat of arms stamped on the cover, the college accounts always revealed some debt. With differences in detail and personalities, Alençon is typical of the construction and funding of the generality of the small colleges.43 These could be presented as acts of collusion between civic authorities, with royal or ducal endorsement procuring rights to older private legacies or foundations, plus perhaps a bishop's bequest or a lady's marital largesse, some of the spoils of office or military service, or a childless widow's or parental input. In the case of these small colleges – and indeed some quite large ones like Lyons – there was the unmistakeable feeling that they belonged to the community itself.
Certainly, early modern donors were drawn into investment in education because they were persuaded (and this lay at the root of Jesuit success) that a society is the product of its education. That the boy not the man is the genesis of the citizen constitutes a principle to which many subsequent regimes, revolutionary, fascist or communist/socialist – even New Labour – have also subscribed but it was born as a defining construct in Jesuit hands. Jesuits donors were targeted to back the schools through promises of piété, bonnes moeurs – good moral standards – and belles lettres (litterae humanae), talking not fighting or proving one's manhood in the brothel, and the Jesuits used their techniques of persuasion through the newsletter which relayed success and captured imaginations. More generally, putting the children on view in debates, plays and musical performances was of huge appeal to parents. Processions and canonizations were intrinsic to early modern sociability. Awareness of Jesuit involvement in far-away lands was known to schoolboys and therefore to parents. Jesuit production of literature about exotic places and their scientific findings, as well as their translations of works in remote languages and, in the case of Latin America and Asia, dictionaries which gave access to those languages, helped to sustain excitement by a visual and literary engagement of consequence to the growth of Enlightenment sensibilities.
On the way, the Jesuits angered families whose assets were stripped through deflection. In 1614 an unstable, aggrieved Pole who had left the novice house at Krakow wrote the Monita Segreta Societatis Iesu (published anonymously) as a warning about the tricks of the Jesuits inside and outside the confessional.44 The first chapters attack the influence that the confessor can have on the politically powerful. Monito Quinto deals exclusively with the targeting of frail and gullible widows and rich impressionable youth to strip ancient houses of their wealth. It was a body of purported evidence for which both the lay Catholic and the Protestant world had been waiting. The English loved it, if the numbers of translations made over the ages and reposing in the Bodleian are anything to go on. Platoons of mindless, gullible widows priming the dubious Jesuit enterprise was an idea much to their taste.
The Jesuits sought strenuously to deny all allegations which threatened the basis of their funding or questioned their probity. By the sixteen-twenties most college funding was contingent upon civic governments. In the political configurations of the Thirty Years’ War, the Swedes destroyed east European colleges wherever they invaded, as a token of revenge for the conversion of Queen Christina. Gloomy Jansenism in the second half of the century would disturb the picture of the unquestioned hegemony of Jesuit spiritual authority.
In short, red warning lights were flashing. It is noteworthy that during the second half of the seventeenth century there seem to be far fewer of the important female backers of the earliest times. There was also a decided trend in French confessional tracts, distributed to their priests by the order and other theologians, in which red lights were flashed to contrive distance between priest and penitent.45 It is also possible that the women were (covertly) investing in annuities with the Jesuits or, and this is the argument informing Ruth Manning's recent work, women's money was going to back the new, unenclosed women's orders dedicated to a social mission which the Jesuits themselves promoted. By the late seventeenth century the forward movement of Jesuit colleges was diminished and new foundations were relatively few though, on the whole, numbers in the schools were holding. However, there was more competition from other teaching orders operating on a more modest scale and the collegiate model was perhaps less popular with elites than had once been the case.
At the suppression (1773–4), variously attributable to political moves to sever throne and altar or, in the case of Spain and Portugal, to lay hands on colonial and perceived over-wieldy Jesuit wealth, change, if not an inevitable closure of all schools and universities, occurred. Many smaller colleges were either put in the hands of other religious orders that ran schools, such as the Piarists. Or, if they were civic institutions or universities, they were often secularized. The relationship between Jesuit assets and the existence of colleges performing educational and civic services was not clearly appreciated by the destroyers, nor the degree to which they had mobilized resources for the service of education. Jesuit wealth, in short, fell far short of expectation for the asset strippers. Some colleges lay empty if the town councils could not afford to pay teachers’ wages, which were in excess of what the Jesuits had accepted as their keep. Eventually many of the buildings housed the overtly secular lycées. Other confiscated Jesuit schools, residences and novitiates became in due course repositories of state archives or public libraries and are still largely to be found as such since no one builds as well these days. Stones remain where founders and fundraisers are obfuscated.
My aim has been to explore how the Jesuits convinced donors and authorities to create a new educational system and worked to construct a fundraising base from shared visionary ideals using the right presentation, sometimes with a little cosmetic tinkering here and there using techniques which even a dean of Harvard College would recognize as the way forward. In summoning promises of a society made better through the intellectual development of unruly youth, henceforth to be schooled in verbal reasoning which aimed to replace the violence and disorder of civil war and faction fighting, they made a cogent case for their work. For the aristocratic women who invested early in the Jesuit enterprise the vision for future generations might include better husbands, informed by the ‘thou shalt nots’ of Scripture. Involvement in fundraising could lend structure and purpose to the lives of those with socially constrained roles. The end product, a big school, offered, besides its pleasing appearance and solid presence, a visible, tangible achievement. Thus, the personal and the general could inform the motives of any given individual donor. By any reckoning, together the Jesuits and their donors produced an educational system informed by a didactic programme which shaped a questioning mind, gave verbal expertise and pressed moral principles upon pupils. In short, even to a very secular researcher such as myself, it is easy to perceive why the creation of such a system could generate enthusiasm, and such enthusiasm, as every modern fundraiser knows, is what generates results.