"Cleansing Counter-Reformation Rome"

Katherine Rinne

Abstract of an invited paper presented at:

Pollution and Propriety

Dirt, Disease and Hygiene in Rome from Antiquity to Modernity

An international, interdisciplinary conference at the British School at Rome

June 21-22, 2007

Scholars of Early Modern Rome have long been aware of the zealous efforts made by Popes Pius IV and Pius V to reform the Roman Curia by implementing the decrees of the Council of Trent and to morally cleanse Rome by controlling prostitution. What is less well known, are their efforts to physically cleanse Rome by restoring and expanding its water infrastructure as part of an overall strategy of renovatio Romae. Pius IV’s goal was to make the Vatican self-sufficient during siege. For him, water management, urban beautification, defensive projects and the development of pilgrimage amenities were seamlessly integrated into a plan to cleanse the Vatican of moral vice and filthy streets, while protecting it from attack. For Pius V, public health was an urgent concern, and he too, saw water infrastructure as part of a larger initiative that linked aqueduct restoration to new efforts to build sewers, drains, and pave streets in the Campo Marzio area. Both popes understood that a healthful physical environment was essential to the restoration of Rome’s Imperial temporal power, its primacy as the center of Christendom, and the moral cleansing of both the city and Church of vice and corruption.


Pollution and Propriety Conference Site