Caesar Baronius

His Eminence Servant of God
Caesar Baronius
Cardinal-Priest of Santi Nereo ed Achilleo
Church Roman Catholic Church
Appointed 21 June 1596
Term ended 30 June 1607
Predecessor Gianfrancesco Morosini
Successor Innocenzo Del Bufalo-Cancellieri
Other posts Librarian of the Vatican Library (1597 – 1607)
Ordination 27 May 1564
Created Cardinal 5 June 1596
by Pope Clement VIII
Rank Cardinal-Priest
Personal details
Birth name Cesare Baronio
Born (1538-08-30)30 August 1538
Sora, Duchy of Sora
Died 30 June 1607(1607-06-30) (aged 68)
Rome, Papal States
Buried Santa Maria in Vallicella
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Title as Saint Venerable
  • Cardinal's attire
  • Book
Styles of
Caesar Baronius
Reference style His Eminence
Spoken style Your Eminence
Informal style Cardinal

Cesare Baronio (also known as Caesar Baronius; 30 August 1538 30 June 1607) was an Italian cardinal and ecclesiastical historian of the Roman Catholic Church. His best-known works are his Annales Ecclesiastici ("Ecclesiastical Annals") which appear in twelve folio volumes (15881607). Baronius' cause of canonization has commenced and he has the title of Servant of God. Pope Benedict XIV conferred upon him the title of Venerable but it was found that the late cardinal did not fill the requirements for the advancement in the cause so the title was dropped.


Cesare Baronio was born at Sora in Italy in 1538 as the single child of Camillo Baronio and Porzia Febonia.

He was educated at Veroli and Naples where he commenced his law studies in October 1556. At Rome he obtained his doctorate in canon law and civil law. After this he became a member of the Congregation of the Oratory in 1557 under Philip Neri - future saint - and was ordained to the subdiaconate on 21 December 1560 and later to the diaconate on 20 May 1561. He was then ordained to the priesthood in 1564.[1] He succeeded Neri as superior in 1593.

Pope Clement VIII - whose confessor he was from 1594 - elevated him into the cardinalate on 5 June 1596 and also appointed him as the Librarian of the Vatican. Baronio was given the red hat on 8 June and received status as Cardinal-Priest of Santi Nereo e Achilleo on 21 June.

Baronius restored his titular church of Church of Sts Nereus and Achilleus and a procession in 1597 celebrated a transfer to it of relics.[2] He also had work done on the Church of San Gregorio Magno al Celio.

At subsequent conclaves Baronio was twice considered to be papabile - the conclaves saw the elections of Pope Leo XI and Pope Paul V. On each occasion he was opposed by Spain on account of his work "On the Monarchy of Sicily", in which he supported the papal claims against those of the Spanish government.

Baronio died in Santa Maria in Vallicella in Rome on 30 June 1607 and was buried in that same church.


Baronius is best known for his Annales Ecclesiastici undertaken at the request of Philip Neri as an answer to the anti-Catholic history, the Magdeburg Centuries. He began writing this account of the Church after almost three decades of lecturing at Santa Maria in Vallicella.

In the Annales he treats history in strict chronological order and keeps theology in the background. Lord Acton called it "the greatest history of the Church ever written".[3] It was in the Annales that Baronius coined the term "Dark Age" in the Latin form saeculum obscurum,[4] to refer to the period between the end of the Carolingian Empire in 888 and the first inklings of the Gregorian Reform under Pope Clement II in 1046.

Notwithstanding its errors, especially in Greek history in which he had to depend upon secondhand information, the work of Baronius stands as an honest attempt to write history. Sarpi, in urging Casaubon to write a refutation of the Annales, warned him never to accuse or suspect Baronius of bad faith.

He also undertook a new edition of the Roman martyrology (1586), in which he removed some entries implausible for historical reasons. He is also known for saying, in the context of the controversies about the work of Copernicus and Galileo, "The Bible teaches us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go."[5] This remark, which Baronius probably made in conversation with Galileo, was cited by the latter in his Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina (1615).

At the time of the Venetian Interdict, Baronius published a pamphlet "Paraenesis ad rempublicam Venetam" (1606). It took a stringent papalist line on the crisis.[6] It was answered by the Antiparaenesis ad Caesarem Baronium of Niccolò Crasso in the same year.[7]


A Latin biography of Baronius by the oratorian Hieronymus Barnabeus (Girolamo Barnabeo or Barnabò) appeared in 1651 as Vita Caesaris Baronii.[8] Another Oratorian, Raymundus Albericus (Raimondo Alberici), edited three volumes of his correspondence from 1759.[9] There are other biographies by Amabel Kerr (1898),[10] and by Generoso Calenzio (La vita e gli scritti del cardinale Cesare Baronio, Rome 1907).[11]


Baronio left a reputation for sanctity which led Pope Benedict XIV to proclaim him "Venerable" (12 January 1745). However, the late cardinal did not fill the requirements needed to attain the title and so that was dropped and he continues to retain the title of Servant of God.

In 2007, on the 400th anniversary of his death, the cause for his canonization, which had been stalled since 1745, was reopened by the Procurator General of the Oratory of St Philip Neri.[12]


  1.  Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Ven. Cesare Baronius". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  2. Cyriac K. Pullapilly, Caesar Baronius: Counter-Reformation Historian (1975), University of Notre Dame Press, p. 77.
  3. Lord Acton (1906). Lectures on Modern History, "The Counter-Reformation", p. 121.
  4. Baronius, Caesar. Annales Ecclesiastici, Vol. X. Roma, 1602, p. 647.
  5. Cerrato, Edoardo Aldo. "How to go to Heaven, and not how the heavens go"
  6. William J. Bouwsma (29 August 1984). Venice and the Defense of Republican Liberty: Renaissance Values in the Age of the Counter Reformation. University of California Press. p. 379. ISBN 978-0-520-05221-5. Retrieved 12 September 2012.
  7. Niccolò Crasso (1606). Antiparaenesis ad Caesarem Baronium Cardinalem pro S. Venetia republica. Retrieved 12 September 2012.
  8. Hieronymus Barnabeus (1651). Vita Caesaris Baronii ex congregatione Oratorii S.R.E. Presbyteri cardinalis et Apostolicae Sedis bibliothecarii. Casoni. Retrieved 12 September 2012.
  9. Gaetano Moroni (1846). Dizionario di erudizione storico-ecclesiastica da S. Pietro sino ai nostri giorni ... (in Italian). Tipografia Emiliana. p. 141. Retrieved 12 September 2012.
  10. Lady Amabel Kerr. The Life of Cesare Cardinal Baronius of the Roman Oratory, London, 1898
  11. (Italian), Calenzio, Generoso.
  12. Zev, Elizabeth. "A Saintly Chef: Cardinal Baronio's Canonization Cause Revived"

Sources and external links

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