Now filmed by Steven Spielberg, starring Mark Rylance as the Pope.
The extraordinary story of how the Vatican’s imprisonment of a six-year-old Jewish boy helped to bring about the collapse of the popes’ worldly power in Italy.
Bologna: nightfall, June 1858. A knock sounds at the door of the Jewish merchant Momolo Mortara. Two officers of the Inquisition burst inside and seize Mortara’s six-year-old son, Edgardo. As the boy is wrenched from his father’s arms, his mother collapses. The reason for his abduction: the boy had been secretly ‘baptized’ by a family servant. According to papal law, the child is therefore a Catholic who can be taken from his family and delivered to a special monastery where his conversion will be completed.
With this terrifying scene, prize-winning historian David I. Kertzer begins the true story of how one boy’s kidnapping became a pivotal event in the collapse of the Vatican as a secular power. The book evokes the anguish of a modest merchant’s family, the rhythms of daily life in a Jewish ghetto, and also explores, through the revolutionary campaigns of Mazzini and Garibaldi and outside leaders like Napoleon III, the emergence of Italy as a modern national state. Moving and informative, The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara reads as both a thriller and an authoritative account of a moment that changed Europe forever.