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Authors: Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

Communion Blood

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A Novel of Saint-Germain

Chelsea Quinn Yarbro







This is a work of fiction, although some of the characters are based upon or are composites of actual historical persons; they, and all locations and institutions used fictitiously, do not and are not intended to represent persons living or dead, or existing places and institutions past and present.


Philip Quasi

if only you were

Authors Notes

For most of its long history, the Roman Catholic Church and its Vatican have been as much political institutions as religious ones; this was never more the case than in the latter part of the seventeenth century when the combined forces of on-going war with the Ottoman Empire and colonialization of the New World, Africa, and Asia, made the Church a crucial center for diplomatic negotiations on the expanded world scale that was the fruit of exploration and conquest of the previous two centuries, as well as an arbiter among various European factions where hostilities often gave rise to war. This position of power was central to the authority the Church exercised, and complicated the stand-off between Catholics and Protestants from Scandinavia to Croatia, and from the New World to the borders of Russia, where Orthodox Christianity prevailed.

Long disputes between the Church and the Holy Roman Emperor (who was German, and therefore at the center of the Protestant movement) had left the German States in disorder and the Papacy a nest of political machinations that was as much or more embroiled in diplomatic intrigue as in any spiritual agenda, although within the Church various Orders struggled to establish superior spiritual claims. The long rivalry between the Franciscans (founded in Italy by Saint

Francis of Assisi, a man of middle-class background, in 1209) and the Dominicans (founded in Spain by Saint Dominic, a nobleman, in 1215, the same year the Magna Carta was signed) had been mitigated by the rise of Protestantism but was by no means at an end. Significantly, the Dominican influence in Spain—and hence the New World—continued almost without challenge until the founding of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) by Ignatius Loyola in 1534, the same year that Henry VIII of England broke with the Roman Church to establish the Church of England.

At the time of the novel, the Papal States were controlled, religiously and politically, by the Pope, whose authority was absolute. The Vatican and Saint Peter’s were the center of the Roman See, but the Pope at that time resided at the Lateran Palace, for the Vatican was not then the separate city-state that it is today. Therefore the business of the Church was centered in the Vatican and the business of the Pope was centered in the Lateran; references to both places occur in this story in accord with the usage of the time. The Guardia Laterana was more an honorary organization than an actual military force by the time of this story, but it continued to serve as the personal courier service for the Pope and the Curia. Some of the Church organizations had not lost any of their ancient power; the Roman headquarters of the Inquisition were in the Via Sacra and were called The Pope’s Little House; agents for the Inquisition were known as familiars. The Inquisition had extra-legal jurisdiction and operated outside the rules governing the criminal and civil courts of law. This had far-reaching implications for the people of Roma, for there were no appeals possible to the Inquisition except through the direct intervention and order of the Pope which was a rare event.

There was a significant shift taking place in the power-structure of Europe at the time: the economics were no longer based entirely on protectionist policies and force of arms driven by the central or regional rulers, but by money as the great trading city-states began to dominate the flow of goods through the West and to sponsor trade with the East, which made many of the heads of state at least partially dependent on the success of the country’s merchants instead of the other way around. Those nations which centralized their power, such as France and, until Cromwell, England, achieved absolutist rulers based as much or more on monetary success as military prowess, in which the Church could be put on equal footing with the State instead of superior, and in which the cooperation of subjects was more desirable—and profitable—than their capitulation, either to the monarch or to God. The rise of commercial centers supported centralized and uniform governments, and had the wherewithal to make an impact in the nature of government. France was especially canny in using material might; until the expenses of war demanded they be melted down for the wealth they represented, there were tables and desks of solid silver at Versailles and other royal residences, for it was understood by then that financial strength was the source of military potency, the first modem example of a military-industrial complex.

This change in economic balances had far-reaching implications that at the time of this story were just beginning to be felt throughout the Church; those countries committed to maintaining the old structure, such as Spain, declined, while those at the forefront of the change, such as the mercantile cities of Amsterdam and Venice, still an independent republic, flourished. The elevation of diplomats on merit rather than on family position was part of the shifts in government, as was a social eclecticism not seen since the height of the Roman Empire. Appropriately enough, Rome’s solution to these adjustments at the end of the seventeenth century was as pragmatic as it was spiritual—Rome as a city became a center for tolerance and began to welcome tourists as well as pilgrims while Rome as the center of Catholicism became more entrenched in a structure based on Medieval monarchies, shoring up the Church with an expansion of dogma and an enhanced role in international politics. Challenged by the French, the Church and the Papacy were compelled to respond authoritatively.

Many of the figures around the Papal court are composites and inventions of my own; I have made every effort to make them representative of those men who were in the court of Popes Innocent XI (Italian, reigned 1676-1689), Alexander VIII (Venetian, reigned 1689-1691), and Innocent XII (Italian, reigned 1691-1700). Those who are actual historical figures are depicted from sources of the period, and in the light in which they were seen at the time of the story, including the occasional juggling of alliances and positions that the swift changes of Pope necessitated in those working through or at the Vatican. The shifts in Papal rulers brought about a scramble for influence and position that shook the complicated structure around the Papacy and sent ripples out through the Church that were felt for more than two decades after the hectic and unstable three- year period was over.

Thanks in large part to Pope Urban VIII (reigned 1623-1644) Rome had a fine new architectural face on it, although sections of the city still had expanses of ruins left from the glory days of Imperial Rome; these new buildings changed the appearance of the city and brought a grandeur Rome had lacked for centuries. The long period of general decay was at an end, and the city blossomed once more, and in a style grand enough to stand up to the ancient monuments of the Caesars. The outward expression of prosperity in turn spurred the middle- and upper-classes to restore or create private buildings of their own so that in the space of thirty years Rome was virtually transformed. The increased flow of pilgrims and tourists made the city prosperous. But all was not as well as the outward appearances would have seemed to suggest. The cultural and artistic climate of Rome was not what it had been a century before; the great flowering of the Renaissance had restored Rome to some of its former magnificence, but over time many of the artists, musicians, architects, and men of letters had been wooed away from the complicated, religio- diplomatic world of Rome, to the more congenial and affluent courts of France and Naples; Rome had become a place to make a reputation, not to maintain it.

In this sense, although the great composer Alessandro Scarlatti and his family had, by the time of this novel, left Rome and become part of the Neopolitan and then the Tuscan court, I have taken the liberty of extending his occasional month-long return visits to Rome to a two-year sojourn in the city. The other musicians are either composites of men and women of the period or, as in the case of Giorgianna Ferrugia, wholly fictional but drawn on contemporary Baroque artists. Composers and performers mentioned in passing are historical and

are included for verisimilitude to complete the picture of the times.

The family of Martin Maria Valentin Esteban, Cardinal Calaveria y Vacamonte, is fictional, but is drawn from four illustrious Spanish families who over a period of three centuries, sent influential, high- ranking Churchmen to Rome. Spanish stakes were particularly high at this time, for the continuing support of the Church insured their hegemony in Latin America as well as a large portion of North America; with fewer colonies up for grabs after the vigorous expansion of the previous century, competition for what remained was hard- fought. Spain was determined to preserve its position in the world, and relied on the Church to maintain its endorsement of Spanish claims.

In the turbulent regions of the Balkans and Carpathians, where the Ottoman Empire had made such striking advances, Austro- Hungarian forces had established a presence that was precariously maintained, and that maintenance often took strange forms. Men of historical rank in these disputed regions often resorted to positions within the Church in order to continue to oversee those areas to which they had traditional claim. Many of them preferred the somewhat ambiguous position of Abbe, since it did not include the stringent vows that went with ordination, allowing them a flexibility they would not have had otherwise. It also meant that their lands could be passed to family heirs instead of becoming the property of the Church, a significant loop-hole for the aristocracy. This last proviso eased the strained relationship that existed between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, which had been pressed to the breaking point by the Ottoman expansion and the fall of the tattered Byzantine Empire in 1453, by putting men of hereditarily legitimate power into the positions of protecting Christian claims—all Christian claims— against the Ottoman usurpers. The Turkish campaign into eastern Europe had brought about an uneasy tolerance among the two Chris- tian Churches, but neither Catholic nor Orthodox forces were willing to make many concessions to the other in such fiercely disputed regions as what are now Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, Romania, and Hun- gaiy.

The lavish, ornamented style known as the Baroque was originally

a term used to describe irregular pearls, an application that survives to this day. In architecture, fashion, and art, the Baroque period is distinguished by elaborate accessories and embellishments, from Corinthian capitols on pillars to ribbons and laces on clothing to the grand display of tromp d’oeil murals to the grand statues of Bernini. Social forms were equally extravagant: lapses of taste brought serious consequences, and anyone failing to observe the complicated rituals of class would quickly become ostracized for such negligence. In the Baroque period, style
substance: clothing was as much political as social, revealing more than status and fortune, and those who observed the various strictures associated with all aspects of fashion had more than taste motivating their display. Competition in dress, housing, and entertainment was an accepted means of social advancement, and many families were forced into financial ruin in the pursuit of presenting a grander appearance than social peers. Formal to the point of artificiality, the proper conduct of middle- and upper-class persons of the Baroque period looks stilted and a bit absurd to late- twentieth-century eyes, but at the time these minutiae of manners and dress were significant and important, conveying status and affiliation as well as displaying wealth, which was, in itself, significant. The plays of the English Restoration—a court far less constrained than the one in Rome—the works of the brilliant French satirist Mo- lie re, and the operas of Jean-Baptiste Lully (bom Gianbaptista Lulli in Florence, but resident in France, with royal patronage) are among the fruits of this period, revealing the complexities of a society that expressed itself through nuances of opulence. In contrast there were strict moralists, some Catholic, some Protestant, who railed at the excesses of the mainstream of middle- and upper-class society, and made as much a cult of austerity as the mainstream of society did with nimiety.

The Artei, or Guilds, were fairly powerful organizations at the time, being essential to the ongoing reconstruction of the city. Their ability to demand substantial deposits on contracted work is a clear demonstration of their strength. And for the record, the amounts demanded of Saint-Germain are roughly double what was required of Romans. A scudo of the period had an equivalent buying power— as compared to actual value—of about fifty dollars in modern terms. Silver Emperors had a modem buying power of about sixty cents. Gold Apostles had the equivalent buying power of seventy-five to eighty dollars.

BOOK: Communion Blood
2.71Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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