Gioberti, Vincenzo

(1801–1852)
   The radical political ideas of the Catholic philosopher Vincenzo Gioberti constrained him to live the life of an exile for much of his adult life. In the early 1830s, the young priest joined the clandestine organization Giovine Italia (Young Italy) and after a period of imprisonment was forced to move to Brussels in 1833, where he wrote and published several works of theology and philosophy. In 1843, he published his most famous work, Del primato morale e civile degli italiani (The Moral and Civil Primacy of the Italians), a book that gave birth to so-called neoguelphism. In retrospect, it might seem incredible that this somewhat obscure book, which argued that Catholicism, symbolized by the papacy, was the heart of the primacy of Italian culture, should have aroused such passionate interest and debate. But Gioberti added a political dimension to his work by suggesting that it followed from his thesis that the most natural political form for Italy was a federation of sovereign principalities presided over by the pope. This proposal was intellectually problematic since it in effect nationalized and politicized the supposedly universal and spiritual Church; at the same time, it presented political problems because its nationalist tone challenged Austrian rule. The huge success of his book launched Gioberti on a political career. Gioberti returned to Turin(his place of birth) after Charles Albertconceded a constitution to liberal opinion in March 1848. Gioberti rapidly became one of the principal political figures in the Piedmontese capital. He was elected to Parliament and after the Piedmontese defeat at Custoza in July 1848 became first a cabinet member and then prime minister. Consistent with his ideas, Gioberti strove to improve relations with the papacy, but the plan was overtaken by the revolution in Romein November 1848 and the defection of the pope to Naples. After the defeat of the Piedmontese army at Novara, Gioberti took refuge once more in exile, fleeing to Paris, where he remained until his death in 1852.

Historical Dictionary of Modern Italy. . 2007.

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