Rankes 'Päpste' auf dem Index

© Ferdinand Schöningh

"The Roman Popes, their Church and State in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries" is the most famous work of the Protestant historian Leopold von Ranke and can still be found on many bookcases. Published for the first time between 1834 and 1836, it was a great success. It appeared in numerous editions and was translated into several languages. However, it was not met with undivided approval. Gregory XVI ordered the "Popes" to be placed on the Index of Forbidden Books in 1841 and, from then on, Catholics were not permitted to read this "standard work" on papal history.
Hubert Wolf and Dominik Burkard here reconstruct the background and events leading to the ban on Ranke’s text with forensic instinct. They reveal how the work initially escaped an explicit papal ban in 1839, despite a scathing censor's report, because "liberal" forces within the Roman Congregation of the Index stood up for Ranke. They also show why the "Popes" nevertheless ended up on the Index three years later. This strictly historical perspective on the papacy seemed incompatible with the "detemporalised" or "temporally detached" image of the Church propagated by the Papacy. In an additional contribution, Ulrich Muhlack explores the significance of the case in terms of the history of the humanities. Even if the ban on the "Popes" manifestly represented the Catholic rejection of "German historical scholarship", it also became clear that Ranke's opponents could not simply ignore him, this icon of modern historiography, nor the ideals of history and academic rigour that modern historiography espouses. An edition of the previously unpublished Roman secret censorship reports on Ranke's "Popes" completes the volume.


Hubert WOLF, Dominik BURKARD and Ulrich MUHLACK, Rankes "Päpste" auf dem Index. Dogma und Historie im Widerstreit (Römische Inquisition und Indexkongregation 3), Paderborn et alibi 2002, 218 pages, hardcover, ISBN: 978-3506776747.