• Mystical theology, ecumenism and church-state relations: Francesco Bellisomi (1663–1741) at the limits of confessionalism in early eighteenth-century Europe

    Nicholas Mithen (see profile)
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    This article reconstructs the biography of a little-known Italian priest, Francesco Bellisomi (1663–1741), in order to trace the intellectual and political dimensions of religious reformism in early eighteenth-century Europe. Its primary objective is to demonstrate the causal relationships between three trends: firstly, pietistic spiritual reform influenced by mystical theology; secondly, ecumenical dialogue among Protestants and between Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox Christians; and thirdly, the political articulation of the non-confessional state. By following a persecuted Bellisomi from Pavia to Rome, and then on to Venice, Vienna, Halle, Berlin and London, it depicts the strands connecting the political, intellectual and religious environment on the Italian Peninsula, within the Holy Roman Empire and in the British Isles. From the latter seventeenth century, the equation of confessionalism – the alliance of a confessionalising church and a centralising state – was being undermined across Europe. One factor in this process was enthusiasm for a supra-confessional ecclesia universalis, the nature of which was highly contested. Bellisomi’s life offers a unique window onto this networked and inter-confessional intellectual culture.
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