Neo Guelphism in Ferrara

Written by  Amerigo Baruffaldi
Catholic-liberal attitudes in the life and work of Camillo Laderchi (1800-1867).
In Ferrara too the Italian Risorgimento went through a neoguelph period about half way through the Nineteenth century. The leading figures of this movement were the Archbishop of Ferrara, Cardinal Ignazio Giovanni Cadolini, the lawyer Luigi Borsari and the lecturer Camillo Laderchi. These three men were in favour of a gradual concord between religion and liberty, religious and patriotic sentiments, Church doctrine and free institutions.

Laderchi, born in Faenza, was a member of an aristocratic family with a liberal tradition and became a member of the Carboneria in youth. During the trial held in Milan in 1821, his inexperience and fear led him to make serious and compromising statements that eventually cost one of his teachers at the University of Pavia, Adeodato Ressi, his life. Having obtained his teacher's pardon, and after taking his law degree, Laderchi moved to Ferrara where he began lecturing in Roman law and the Philosophy of Law at the local university.

His various cultural interests, which ranged from history to philosophy, from politics to religion and art, put him in touch with eminent personalities from the world of European Catholic liberal culture: Manzoni, Silvio Pellico, Massimo d'Azeglio, Montalembert and Overbeck.
Laderchi was a professed liberal and considered freedom «modern society's greatest need»; but he saw that democracy in his time was hampered by the «aristocracy of money, of skills, and of birth» and expressed the hope that these limitations might be overcome through an ever more complete form of popular participation in government.
But for Laderchi, as it was for his contemporary Manzoni, values such as liberty, justice and democracy acquire their fullest significance when interpreted in the light of the Gospels. Civil law could become fruitful and positive only if it took its lead from the Catholic religion, the sole source from which «true good» could spring. The climate, as is evident, was very much influenced by romantic, neo Guelph influences.

The "separatist" solution yearned for by our ideologue with regard to the relationships between the State and the Church was summed up and qualified in Cavour's renowned formula «a Free Church in a Free State", i.e., IN a state that bases its legislation ON the freedom AND equality OF ALL forms OF worship.
IN the literary AND artistic field, two NAMES won his admiration AND respect: that OF Manzoni AND OF the German painter Friedrich Overbeck, whom he maintained had shown that civilization cannot but rest ON the «sovranity OF the religious idea», AND had confirmed that their epoch had NOT lost, AS Montalembert put it, «the marvellous intelligence OF matters divine».

Laderchi's extreme competence in the figurative arts is attested by a work called Descrizione della Quadreria Costabili, widely recognized as a brilliant study. Camillo Laderchi's life was one wholly informed by Christian principles that, however, were NOT interpreted IN a nostalgic OR backward looking light, but IN the FULL awareness that they could AND should be wedded TO the most vital currents OF Italian AND European liberalism. Which was after ALL, if we think about it, the great lesson TO be learned FROM Manzoni's Christian romanticism, which Laderchi himself saw as a peerless model of morality and civility.

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