Out of seemingly small events are sometimes born great historical moments. The case of young Edgardo Mortara is one. In 1858 the 6-year-old Jewish boy was taken from his parents' home in Bologna, Italy, by agents of the Papal inquisition. The year before, seriously ill, Edgardo had been secretly baptized, by the Mortaras' Catholic servant (or so she claimed); it was against the law for baptized Christians to be raised by Jews, and so, in the eyes of the Church, the kidnapping was only just. Secular Italians did not agree, and thus was set in motion a series of reforms that ended the Church's temporal power in Italy and forged the creation of a liberal, near-democratic state. For his part, young Edgardo became a priest and lived in a Belgian abbey until 1940--just before the invading Germans began to deport and execute all those tainted with Jewish blood. David Kertzer has shaped a remarkable narrative from almost forgotten events.
From Library Journal
Kertzer (Sacrificed for Honor, Beacon, 1993) has uncovered fascinating new information about the unification of Italy. He recounts here the kidnapping of a six-year-old Jewish boy from Bologna who was then raised as a Catholic under the supervision of Pius IX. The incident altered both Italian and church history. What Cavour, Garibaldi, and Victor Emmanuel II could not accomplish in the halls of Versailles and London, and even on the battlefield, the kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara did by arousing antichurch feeling in the cause of national unification. This case is an example of the Catholic Church's institutionalized suppression of the Jews. Kertzer weaves the story into a vivid tapestry that will be appreciated by historians and Italian specialists. Recommended for academic and public libraries with 19th-century revolutionary European or Jewish studies collections.?Harry V. Willems, Southeast Kansas Lib. System, Iola
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