The Florence Cathedral Chapter
A Brief History of the Chapter
Local tradition, supported by liturgical texts relative to the Florentine bishop Saint Zanobius (5th century), speaks of a group of cathedral clergy who assisted Zanobius. The earliest documentary mention of a Cathedral Chapter – then called ‘Chapter of Saint Reparata’ – goes back to the first half of the eighth century, a period which saw the spread of community life among secular priests throughout all of Western Christendom. Later, during the Gregorian reform of the eleventh century, in Florence as elsewhere the ‘college of canons’ defined its tasks and institutional structure with still greater clarity. From that time until the fourteenth century, the Chapter had, among other responsibilities, that of electing the bishop, who was usually chosen from its own ranks.
Renato Piattoli’s 1938 publication of early parchments belonging to the valuable collection of official documents of the Florence Chapter has made it possible to reconstruct the early stages of the Chapter’s history and its role in the context both of episcopal authority and of the city’s public life. The growing influence of city government in the ecclesiastical life of Florence and its Diocese led, at the end of the thirteenth century, to the ambitious project of a new cathedral church, Santa Maria del Fiore, the construction of which would be completed 170 years later, in the fifteenth century. Indeed, the active involvement of city government and of the artisan guilds went well beyond merely architectural objectives, touching delicate questions of church benefices and public worship, with the institution of numerous new canonical appointments subsidized by the Wool Guild. The importance of the Cathedral Chapter in Florentine political and social life is in any case evident in the continual presence of members of the city’s ruling class among the Chapter’s leaders.
The hegemony exercised by the Florentine upper classes on canonical appointments is moreover clear in the frequent recurrence of noble family names such as Minerbetti, Gianfigliazzi, Medici, Strozzi, Corsini and Albizi. Giovanni de’Medici (later Pope Leo X), was a member of the Cathedral Chapter. Similarly there were men of culture, such as Marsilio Ficino, and of holy life, such as the Venerable Lorenzo M. Gianni, a Florentine nobleman.
Among Florentine bishops attentive to the needs of the Chapter, several in particular should be mentioned: Saint Podius (10th century), Atto (11th century), Ardingo (1231-1249), Antonio d’Orso, himself formerly a canon and Archpriest of Santa Reparata, then bishop of Florence from 1309-1321: it is to him that the Chapter owes its first known Capitular Constitution, conserved in manuscript in the Chapter Archive. In the fifteenth century, the Archbishop Saint Antoninus Pierozzi carried out the plan outlined by Pope Nicholas V in a series of papal bulls, to found a public library under the authority of the cathedral canons in the ancient church of San Pier Cield’oro, from time immemorial property of the Chapter and still today its official seat. Precious codices and other volumes remained visible there until the eighteenth century when, at the behest of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, they were transferred to the Laurentian and Riccardiana libraries.
We should also recall the close relationship that existed in the Middle Ages, throughout the Renaissance and until relatively recent times between the Cathedral and the ‘Studio Fiorentino’, the original nucleus of Florence University. The Studio was located in what today is still called ‘Via dello Studio’, in a building that still belongs to the Opera del Duomo. Indeed the emblem of Florence University, the heir of the old ‘Studio’, still has the image of a seraphim which constitutes the arms of the canons of the Cathedral Chapter.
The first printed Constitutions of the Florence Cathedral Chapter date from 1483, during the episcopate of Rinaldo Orsini (1474-1508), who through his Vicar General confirmed a later edition of the Constitutions in 1504. New Constitutions were approved in 1510, while Cosimo de’Pazzi was archbishop; in 1545, under Cardinal Niccolò Ridoi; in 1559, approved by Archbishop Antonio Altoviti; in 1906, confirmed by Cardinal Alfonso Mistrangelo; in 1976, during the episcopal mandate of Cardinal Ermenegildo Florit. Today’s Constitutions are those approved in 1999 by then archbishop Cardinal Silvano Piovanelli.
Up to 15 August, 1867, there were thirty-eight canonical appointments and more than sixty chaplaincies in the Florence Chapter. Today the college of cathedral priests is composed of eighteen canons with voting rights, twelve of whom are ‘residential’ (with the right to an apartment in the so-called ‘canonry’ in Cathedral Square), and six are ‘non-residential’. There are in addition six appointed assistant priests, called ‘chaplains’. Among the voting canons there is a ‘dignitary’, the archpriest, and four ‘officers’: the provost, the ‘pentitentiary’, and two chamberlains.
The title of arcpriest is purely honorific. Until 1984, when the Chapter ceased to function as a parish entity (these duties being transferred to other churches in the city center), the archpriest was in charge of the Parish of Santa Maria del Fiore.
The provost (‘proposto’ or ‘preposito’) is responsible, on behalf of the Chapter, for running the cathedral and for its liturgical and pastoral activities.
The penitentiary exercises the functions assigned to him in the Code of Canon Law.
The two chamberlains (‘camerlenghi’ or, in Tuscan, ‘camarlinghi’) are responsible for the administration of the Chapter and are its legal representatives “pro tempore”. The provost and the chamberlains are elected by the Chapter and confirmed by the Archbishop: the provost for a three year mandate, the chamberlains for one year, on a staggered pattern (one of the two each year, that is).
The Florence Cathedral Chapter is a juridical entity fully recognized by the civil authorities.
With the papal brief “In supremo militantis Ecclesiae”, dated 8 January, 1516, Leo X declared the Florentine Chapter canons to be ‘Notaries of the Apostolic See’. This privilege was then confirmed by Clement XII with the brief “Apostolatus officium” of June 2, 1731. And after Paul VI’s Motu proprio of 28 March 1968, our Chapter members, “durante munere”, still have the title of Supernumerary Proto Notaries of the Apostolic See, and the right to wear the robes and insignia of that office.
The armorial bearings of the Chapter have a red seraph on a white field, beneath the ‘galero’ or ceremonial hat of a Proto Notary of the Apostolic See.
Card. GIUSEPPE BETORI
AND BY THE GRACE OF GOD AND DESIGNATION
OF THE APOSTOLIC SEE
METROPOLITAN ARCHBISHOP OF FLORENCE
Born at Foligno (PG) on February 25, 1947; Ordained priest in Foligno September 26, 1970; Ordained bishop in the Cathedral of Foligno May 6, 2001; Archbishop of the Church in Florence Since September 8, 2008. Created Cardinal at the Consistory of 18 February 2012 and assigned Titular Church of San Marcello al Corso
Clero della Cattedrale
Ristori Paolo – Arciprete
Corti Giancarlo – Proposto
Drigani Andrea – Penitenziere
Innocenti Luigi – Camerlengo
Jafrancesco Stefano – Camerlengo
Portella Mario Alexis