The arrangement of the fond archivio Boncompagni-Ludovisi

with the contribution of the «Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Vignola»

The Archivio Boncompagni-Ludovisi was gradually formed by joining together the archives of the respective families, which became related 1681 with the marriage of the Duke Gregorio I Boncompagni with the princess of Piombino, Olimpia Ippolita Ludovisi.

Ever since the 14th century, long before their unification, the two families held a prominent position in the city courts of Bologna, their common town of origin.

They moved to Rome in the first half of the 16th century, and the Boncompagni family soon became part of the dynamic life of the city, establishing strong links with the Papal Curia, so that in 1540 Ugo became ‘Collateral’ of the Campidoglio and few years later in 1546, ‘Abbreviator’ at the Council of Trent and then Pope Gregorio XIII. The fortune of the family came along with the years of the Gregorian Papacy (1572 - 1585), when thanks to the discerning patrimonial policy of Giacomo Boncompagni - an illegitimate son Gregorio had when he was still in minoribus constitutus - in rapid sequence, the family acquired the Marquisate of Vignola (1577) and the Duchies of Sora (1580) and Arce (1583).

Also the Ludovisi family, although they had arrived in Rome only towards the end of the 17th century, managed to introduce themselves between the folds of the papal power, especially with Alessandro who returned to his own town, Bologna, as archbishop in 1612, but only a few years later, in 1621, he ascended to the papal throne as Gregorio XV. Worthy of note are surely Ludovico, a very powerful cardinal-nephew, and the Duke of Fiano, Niccolò who through marriage, acquired firstly the Principality of Piombino (1622) and then the Principality of Venosa (1656), holding high-ranking political positions, such as Viceroy of Aragon (since 1660) and of Sardinia (since 1662). It was precisely his last child, Olimpia Ippolita who in November 1681, by marrying the Duke of Sora Gregorio Boncompagni - grandnephew of Pope Gregorio XIII - who united into one immense patrimony the possessions of the two families, consolidating and maintaining it until the French Revolution.

The first nucleus of the Archive was set up during the papacy of Gregory XIII, and it is currently still substantially intact, preserved by the heirs of the powerful family, who live in the Palazzo Boncompagni in via della Scrofa in Rome. Baron Ludwig von Pastor, as well as others, had the possibility to go through it to draw a considerable amount of information for his Storia dei papi (History of the Popes).

Letter patent by Giovanni Domenico de Cupis,
Cardinal Bishop of Ostia, 1544 January 11
ASV, Arch. Boncompagni-Ludovisi, prot. 587, f. 67r

«Fiat»-approved petition by Gregory XIII,
1572 September 20
ASV, Arch. Boncompagni-Ludovisi, prot. 595, f. 59r

In the month of August 1947, Prince Francesco Boncompagni Ludovisi, at the end of several negotiations, donated the archives and the rich library of his family to the Holy See. The Boncompagni-Ludovisi archives thus arrived at the Archivio Segreto Vaticano after several transportations, of which the last one took place in September 1952. The Boncompagni Library, instead, initially transferred into the Vatican together with its Archive, was then separated from it and stored in the Vatican Apostolic Library (Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana), without any clear archival or bibliographic criterion.

The Archive, which currently consists of about 2.200 pieces, includes boxes, files and bundles, roughly covering a period of time that goes from the 15th to the 20th century. However, it also include documents dating back to the 11th or 13th century, such as the privilege of the Prince of Salerno, Guaimario, or of Frederick II. With regard to the contents, the documents dealing with the administration of the patrimony of the family are pre-eminent, as well as documents of enormous interest for the history of the Church, the Italian Renaissance and before Italy’s Unity in general.

With the funds of «Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Vignola», in 2001 began the long work of card indexing and arrangement of this large Archive, involving the full time work of three archivists for almost five years. The outcome of this work was the five-volume Inventario published in Collectanea Archivi Vaticani.