Passionei, Dominick

, an Italian cardinal, famous rather as a patron of letters, than as a writer, and employed by the see of Rome in many important negociations, was born at Fossombrone in the dutchy of Urbino, in 1682. He studied in the Clementine college at Rome, where he afterwards formed that vast library and curious collection of manuscripts, from which the learned world has derived so much advantage. In 1706 he attended the nuncio Gualterio, his relation, to Paris, where he formed an intimacy with the most learned men of the time, and examined every thing that deserved attention. He was particularly intimate with Mabillon, and Montfaucon. In 1708 ha went into Holland, at first for the sake of literary inquiries, but afterwards as a kind of secret agent for the pope at the Hague, where he resided four years, and attended the congress at Utrecht in 1712. On his return to Rome., he passed through Paris, where he was most graciously and honourably received by Louis XIV. who gave him his portrait set with diamonds. He then proceeded to Turin to accommodate some differences between the pope and the duke of Savoy; and upon his return to Rome was declared president of the apostolic chamber. In the two | congresses at Bale in 1714, and at Soleure in 1715, he was again employed, and strongly evinced his zeal, talents, activity, prudence, and other qualities of a great negotiator. His account of this embassy was published in 1738, in folio, under the title of “Acta Legationis Helvetica,” which may be considered as a model of conduct for persons employed in such services. Upon the accession of Clement XII. he was sent as nuncio to the court of Vienna, where he pronounced the funeral oration of prince Eugene. In the pontificate of Innocent XIII. which lasted from 1721 to 1724, Passionei had been made archbishop of Ephesus; ie continued in favour with the successors of that pope, Benedict XIII. and Clement XII. the latter of whom, in 1738, raised him to the dignity of cardinal, having at the same time made him secretary of the briefs. Benedict XIV. in 1755 made him librarian of the Vatican, which he enriched by many important accessions; and in the same year he was admitted into the French academy, under the peculiar title of associ6 etranger. He died on the 15th of July, 1761, at the age of seventy-nine.

Cardinal Passionei did not write much besides the articles that have been already mentioned. He worked, indeed, with Fontanini, in revising the “Liber diurnus Romanorum Pontificum,” and produced a paraphrase on the nineteenth psalm, with a few more small pieces: but he was most illustrious for his enlightened knowledge of letters, and his judicious and liberal patronage of learned men and useful works; an example but too little followed in the present age. He had one of the most valuable libraries in Rome, composed of the best, the scarcest, and most remarkable books in all sciences, and in all languages, ancient and modern. He himself was the librarian, and did the honours of it in a manner the more satisfactory to the learned, as no one was more able to second and extend their views on the subjects of their researches. “In this,” says a Swedish traveller, “he was very different from the cardinals Davia, Gualterio, and Imperiali, all three also very rich in books. The first was always reading, and never wrote; the second was always writing, and never read; and the third neither read nor wrote.” Cardinal Passionei’s temper, however, was not equable, and Benedict XIV. delighted to put him in a rage, sometimes by taking away one of his books, and making him think it was lost, but more frequently, which was the greatest | provocation our cardinal could receive, by introducing a work written by a Jesuit. On one occasion when the pope did this, the cardinal opened the window, and threw the book with all his force into the square of Monte Cavallo. At this instant the pope appeared, and vouchsafed him his grand benediction. It is said, that by way of answer to this benediction, a certain gesture of the cardinal’s put a stop to the pleasantry that the pope had promised himself from this scene. He most cordially hated the Jesuits; and had it depended on him, their society would have been soon dissolved. On this subject and every other on which he entered with the pope Benedict, he spoke with the firmest independence, and the pope generally found it necessary in all disputes to yield to him. Let us not forget, however, that it was this cardinal who opened the treasures of the Vatican to Dr. Kennicott, in a very handsome order signed by his name. This was at the time justly said to be an honour which no work relating to the Bible could boast of since the reformation.

His nephew, Benedict Passionei, rendered an important service to the learned world by publishing at Lucca, in 1763, “Inscrizioni antiche, con annotaz.” a folio volume, containing all the Greek and Latin inscriptions collected by the cardinal. His valuable collection of antique urns, bas-reliefs, and other works of art, was dispersed after his death. 1


Dict. Hist.Anecdotes of Rome, &c. by a Swedish Traveller,1768., in pnt. Mag. vol. XXXVIII.