Guarnerio d’Artegna, patriarchal vicar and bibliophile

Invention and achievement of this not particularly brilliant man of church was the realization of an extraordinary library with exclusively humanistic features, which is named after him and is still almost integrally kept in the same place where he wanted to leave it, in San Daniele del Friuli.

Guarnerio d’Artegna’s coat of arms in a bottom frieze in Augustine’s De civitate Dei codex copied in 1450 by Michele Selvatico for Guarnerio (San Daniele, Biblioteca Guarneriana, 8, f. 19r).

Guarnerio d’Artegna’s coat of arms in a bottom frieze in Augustine’s De civitate Dei codex copied in 1450 by Michele Selvatico for Guarnerio (San Daniele, Biblioteca Guarneriana, 8, f. 19r).

The son to Pietro quondam Guarnerio of ser Doffo, or Dotto, d’Artegna was born in Portogruaro or Zoppola in 1410 ca. The title of nobility ‘d’Artegna’ derives its name from the fief his family had obtained in the past from the patriarchs of Aquileia. The first scarce biographical witnesses have adolescent Guarnerio getting in touch with the cardinal Antonio Pancera’s family in Portogruaro or Zoppola. In 1420 the cardinal himself had set his residence in Rome, at Trastevere, near the convent of St. Biagio della Pagnotta. It is here, in 1428, that we met Guarnerio for the first time, who had probably reached his full age in these years, the last ones of the cardinal’s life, who died in Rome on 3 July 1431. After the cardinal’s death, Guarnerio stayed in Rome for some other years, where he started to be at the service of Biagio del Molin, patriarch of Grado and regent chancellor of the Apostolic Chancellery. Guarnerio’s homecoming to Friuli towards the end of 1434 has to be framed within a series of rather dramatic events for the Church, such as the pope’s headlong flight from Rome (June 1434) and the split between the pope and the council assembly summoned in Basilea. Being appointed ‘litterarum apostolicarum abbreviator’, Guarnerio was present in the sessions of the council the pontifex had called in Ferrara in 1438 and the subsequent year in Florence. After becoming a canon of Aquileia and, later, of Udine, he certainly had a direct role in the negotiations between the patriarch and the Republic of Venice that led in June 1445 to the agreement which once for all established the pending questions after the Venetian conquest in 1420. With his appointment to general vicar of the patriarch, which occurred towards the end of 1445 and lasted to the first months of 1454, Guarnerio reached the climax of his ecclesiastic career. He spent the last decade of his life as parish priest of San Daniele del Friuli, but never broke his relations with Udine, which had become the capital of the ‘Patria’ and the headquarters of the Venetian general governor (‘luogotenente’). In his last will, which he dictated on 7 October 1466, he left to the community of San Daniele «all his books that he found himself owning upon binding condition for the church to have a decent place built, suitable for a library, and there to keep the books opportunely chained… And whereas someone wanted to read or study on said books, and the Council and Community pleased that, then he can read on said books and in the same library, and not elsewhere, under licence of the Council and Community of San Daniele». He died a few days later, on 10 October 1466.
Even though it is not a big library as to the number of kept volumes (the inventory of the year 1461 listed 165 items), yet it is a particularly coherent fund as to the choice of antique authors (Greek classics are included only in the Latin translation) and contemporary ones (yet authors in vernacular languages are completely lacking) and it can be therefore full-rightly considered a reference point for the modern humanistic culture in Friuli. Starting from a number of elements, among which the identification of some copyists, the punctual dating of several manuscripts, the comparison between the two inventories respectively written in 1456 and 1461, the study of watermarks and, not least, the archival sources, it has been possible to reconstruct the collecting stages of this library that date from the years of his Aquileian vicariate to the last decades of Guarnerio’s retirement in San Daniele del Friuli.

For further information see the entry Guarnerio dArtegna, vicario patriarcale e bibliofilo written by Cesare Scalon in Nuovo Liruti. Dizionario biografico dei Friulani, 2, LEtà Veneta, edited by C. Scalon, C. Griggio, U. Rozzo, Udine, Forum, 2009, 1388-1399.

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