(Taken from the journal “La voce del popolo”, No. 3400, March 10, 2012.)
“In the secret archives of the Vatican we have found documents that testify to the Croatian origin of Pope Sixtus V.” This declaration, made the day before yesterday evening by the theologian, writer and researcher Ivan Golub at the round table of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts (HAZU) on “The Dome of St. Peter's in Rome”, has spread throughout all the Croatian media. “His father” – says Golub – “was from the Croatian coast and moved to Italy. Here he married an Italian woman with whom he had a son, Felice Peretti.” Echoed by other Croatian academics: the “Croatian spirit” of Sixtus V – they claim – “is perceptible even in the foundation of the Institute of St. Jerome [of the Illyrians or of the Slavs in Rome, editor's note], of which only one who knew the Illyrian language and was of Croatian descent could become a member.”
Laurana and Giorgio da Sebenico
The meeting at the HAZU was one long “hymn” to “Croatian” genius and ingenuity (real or imagined). Regarding the participants in the construction of St. Peter's Basilica, Andrija Mutnjaković claimed that “in addition to the Croatian Pope Sixtus V, there was also the Croatian architect Lucijan Vranjanin [Luciano Laurana or, in Latin, Lutiano Dellaurana, born in Aurana, near Zara, in 1420 and died in Pesaro in 1479, editor's note] and his brother [Francesco, Aurana, 1430 - Avignon, 1502, sculptor and architect who played a leading role in spreading the Renaissance aesthetic in Naples, Sicily and France, ed], who were inspired by the school of Juraj Dalmatinac [Giorgio Orsini, or Giorgio da Sebenico, Zara, early 15th century - Sebenico, 1473/75, ed], the builder of the Cathedral of Sebenico.”
The Inevitable Boscovich
And of course, as Croatian academics always do, Žarko Dadić added to this list the “Croatian” scientist Ruggiero Giuseppe Boscovich, whose influence was decisive in the reconstruction of the monumental dome of Michelangelo, which was consolidated and finished by Giacomo della Porta. “At that time there arose disputes among the builders who relied on experience and those who took as a starting point knowledge of mathematics and statics,” said Dadić. Eventually the latter prevailed and therefore the “evaluations of the Croatian scientist Ruđer Bošković”.
From the Antemurale to the Heart of the Roman Church
The Croats, therefore, having already claimed to be the Antemurale Christianitatis, now even claim they “saved” the dome of St. Peter's Basilica, one of the symbols of the Church of Rome. Regarding Pope Sixtus V, the Tough Pope, we know that for some time they have speculated on the origins of the pontiff, attempting to demonstrate his Croatian ancestry. But so far in the official history of the Papacy there has never been any pope of “Croatian nationality.” If anything, according to numerous documented investigations, it is only proven that Pope Sixtus V, born Felice Peretti (Grottammare, 13 December 1520/1521 - Rome, 27 August 1590), had a friendly relationship with Dalmatian Croats.
From Krušćica or Kruševica to Peretti
The ancestors of Sixtus V are claimed (by Croatian academics) to have originated in Kruševica, Krušćica or Kruševo. According to some texts of the University of Cambridge and the research of Croatian historians as Božidar Vidov, Bazilije Pandžić, Stjepan Krasić, Ivica Mlivončić, in the papal coat of arms of Sixtus V we can “read” important references about his origins: it shows, in fact, a lion, three pears, a castel and a star. It is argued that the three golden pears at the top, under the strip depicting a six-pointed star and a stylized castle, are an allusion to his place of origin (from “Kruška”, in Italian “pear” and hence the name “Peretti”).
The archbishop Andrija Zmajević, born in Perasto, wrote in his “Chronicle” that the father of Sixtus V, known by the Italian name of “Piergentile”, was born in the village of Bjelske Kruševice, near Cattaro, as a member of the Šišić family. The nickname of this Piergentile was “Peretto”, and from here therefore, according to Zmajević, would be born the last name “Peretti”, adopted by the future pope only at the age of 31 years, in 1551. Up to that time he was called “Felice di Montalto”, from the name of the town in the Marche (Montalto, in the province of Ascoli Piceno) – a region where today there also lives a Croatian community – in which he grew up as a kid and where his ancestors, Zmajević claimed, had settled after fleeing from the Turkish invasions, like many other Dalmatians. From Montalto, the family then moved to Grottamare to escape the oppression of the Duke of Urbino, and here was born the future pope.
Felice as a child entered the Franciscan Order, was noticed by Cardinal Rodolfo Pio da Carpi, protector of his order, by Ghislieri (later Pope Pius V) and by Caraffa (later Pope Paul IV) and finally he ascended the papal throne on 24 April 1585.
The Tough Pope
Sixtus adjusted finances, promoted public works – including the completion of the dome of St. Peter's – but in his larger political relations showed himself to be a visionary and vacillating. He entertained fantastic ambitions, such as the annihilation of the Turks, the conquest of Egypt, transporting the Holy Sepulchre to Italy, and the ascension of his nephew to the throne of France. He died August 27, 1590, and posterity recognizes him as one of the greatest popes: although impulsive, obstinate, severe and autocratic, he was open-minded and devoted himself to his business with energy and determination which often led him to success.
Golub did not say much, at least not on this occasion, regarding the alleged sources found in the Vatican archives. It also remains to be seen whether the adjective “Croatian” is merely a reference to him coming from a region which today is part of Croatia (remember the case of the Bronze Statue from Lussino, called the Athlete of Croatia, which is actually a Greek statue) or if it indicates descent from a “race”, and therefore a question of blood. In any case we expect “Enlightenment”.