Papal States. Congregazione del censo

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From the early fourteenth century the Apostolic Camera was both the financial and juridical bureau for the Papal States as well as for the church itself. Moreover, its financial policy and that of the Papal States were always closely related. During the second half of the fifteenth century, however, a great change occurred in ecclesiastical finance. Income from total ecclesiastical sources of revenue amounted to only a third of what it had been in the fourteenth century, but that from the Papal States was increasing dramatically. There are records of taxes imposed by Paul III (1543), Paul V (1605), and Innocent XI (1676). Clement XI (1708) also attempted to make his authority more effective in the provinces in this way.

Throughout these pontificates legislation in this area was exercised by the Congregazione del Buon Governo (ID VATV615-A). Taxes were based on fixed income or declaration of proprietorship confirmed by oath. A general tax could not be imposed for the entire Papal States because each community had the faculty of imposing its own tax independently of one another.

The need then to bring some sort of order out of this confusion induced Pius VI (1775-1799) to design an economic/financial reform movement. Pius VI had been minister of finance under Clement XIII (1758-1769). By an edict dated December 15, 1777, he ordered through Antonio Cardinal Casali, prefect of the Congregazione degli Sgravi e del Buon Governo, a general tax of the entire territory of the Papal States. The implementation of this so-called Catasto Piano was entrusted to the prefect of the Annona. With successive compilations, norms for the appraisal of lands were stabilized. These were based for a second time on the old and hurried method of the assegne (fixed income or allowance) but fully controlled by the Papal States. In spite of the best intentions of the pope, however, this plan also failed.

Pius VII (1800-1823) assumed a territory reduced in size and economically less viable than before. He appointed four commissions to reorganize the government and administration of the Papal States and to draw up a new plan (Post diuturnas, 10 Oct 1800). On 19 Mar 1801 he issued an edict abolishing the manner and kinds of taxes then in effect. From 1809 to 1813 the Italian Governor included the Papal States, occupied by the French for the second time, in the general measurements of land and making of maps. Pius VII utilized this work when he reentered Rome in 1814 and again took up the plan initiated by Pius VI.

The new pontifical tax, ordered by the motu proprio Quando per ammirabile (6 Jul 1816), applied to the entire Papal States including Benevento and Pontocorvo formerly seized by Naples. The motu proprio also established an appropriate department called the Congregazione dei Catasti with the competency of establishing taxes that were lacking and adding to and perfecting those already in existence. The precarious system of assegnè (allowance) was completely abandoned and replaced by a general tax based on proportion and analytic evaluation of capital in the various parts of the Papal States.

For the execution of the work of this congregation a technical office was set up which functioned as a coordinating center for taxes. This office was suppressed after the death in 1838 of Luigi Marini, its first director.

With the Regolamento of 22 Feb 1817 the Congregazione dei Catasti stabilized detailed norms for appraisal and for the measurement of land and preparation of maps. In the motu proprio Manifestammo gia (3 Mar 1819), Pius VII stated that the new tax had been ordered "to correct the innumerable errors in the earlier appraisals for tax purposes."

In the first years the president of the Congregazione dei Catasti was Cesare Guerrieri Gonzaga, the treasurer general of the Apostolic Camera; then from 1819, when Guerrieri Gonzaga was elevated to the cardinalate, the president of the congregation was a cardinal and assumed the title of presidente del censo. The director general of the catasti was named the direttore generale del censo; this general directorship continued until 1845.

Both the Congregazione dei Catasti and the presidency of the censo continued to exist, united at first under the same president. In 1822 several cardinals were added to the seven prelates who composed the congregation, the congregational treasurer and the general soliciter of finance being included among the latter. Under this structure the congregation, which had been reorganized and given more power, assumed the new title of Congregazione Generale del Censo. On 11 Aug 1823 an instruction was issued for the inspectors and periti (experts) who would be compiling the new estimates for the rural farms of the ecclesiastical state.

Gregory XVI (1831-1846) carried on the plan of Pius VII and supported the work of distributive justice in the new tax arrangement, but first gave time for the complaints of property owners of each province to be placed before a commission for examination and study. To obtain common satisfaction the Congregazione del Censo ordered that all such claims were to be submitted by 1833. In 1835, claims of property owners having been dealt with, it was possible to proceed to the publication of the new papal tax which was known as the Catasto Piano-Gregoriano. It became effective on 1 Nov 1835.

After the restoration of Pius IX in 1849 the Congregazione del Censo was composed of nine cardinals and the presidency was held by a cardinal who was not even a member of the congregation. At the time of the dissolution of the Papal States, the congregation was composed of ten cardinals, a secretary, the treasurer-general of the Camera, the minister of the interior, the financial general advocate, and the commissioner of the Apostolic Camera. The general direction of the censo was headed by a cardinal member of the congregation assisted by a secretary general and various officials attached to the topographical section and to the Chancery. After the dissolution of the Papal States in 1870 the Congregazione del Censo ceased to exist.

To see a general agency history for the Papal States, enter "FIN ID VATV879-A"

From the description of Agency history record. (University of Michigan). WorldCat record id: 145571332

Relation Name
associatedWith Catholic Church. Secretariatus Status. corporateBody
associatedWith Catholic Church. Secretariatus Status. corporateBody
associatedWith Catholic Church. Secretariatus Status. corporateBody
associatedWith Catholic Church. Secretariatus Status. corporateBody
associatedWith Catholic Church. Secretariatus Status. corporateBody
associatedWith Catholic Church. Secretariatus Status. corporateBody
associatedWith Papal States. Congregazione del buon governo. corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
Italy--Papal States
Italy--Papal States
Tax assessment

Corporate Body

Active 1660

Active 1910



Ark ID: w6q87c3n

SNAC ID: 68845135