Bologna, 1858: A police posse, acting on the orders of a Catholic inquisitor, invades the home of a Jewish merchant, Momolo Mortara, wrenches his crying six-year-old son from his arms, and rushes him off in a carriage bound for Rome. His mother is so distraught that she collapses and has to be taken to a neighbor's house, but her weeping can be heard across the city. With this terrifying scene--one that would haunt this family forever--David I. Kertzer begins his fascinating investigation of the dramatic kidnapping, and shows how the deep-rooted antisemitism of the Catholic Church would eventually contribute to the collapse of its temporal power in Italy. As Edgardo's parents desperately search for a way to get their son back, they learn why he--out of all their eight children--was taken. Years earlier, the family's Catholic serving girl, fearful that the infant might die of an illness, had secretly baptized him (or so she claimed). Edgardo recovered, but when the story reached the Bologna Inquisitor, the result was his order for Edgardo to be seized and sent to a special monastery where Jews were converted into good Catholics. His justification in Church teachings: No Christian child could be raised by Jewish parents. The case of Edgardo Mortara became an international cause célèbre. Although such kidnappings were not uncommon in Jewish communities across Europe, this time the political climate had changed. As news of the family's plight spread to Britain, where the Rothschilds got involved, to France, where it mobilized Napoleon III, and even to America, public opinion turned against the Vatican. The fate of this one boy came to symbolize the entire revolutionary campaign of Mazzini and Garibaldi to end the dominance of the Catholic Church and establish a modern, secular Italian state. A riveting story which has been remarkably ignored by modern historians--The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara will prompt intense interest and discussion as it lays bare attitudes of the Catholic Church that would have such enormous consequences in the twentieth century.
"A thrilling history... Kertzer's careful scholarship and fine narrative skill make a great drama." --Boston GlobeFrom the Trade Paperback edition.
"A lucidly drawn, dramatic narrative. Kertzer's account reads like a courtroom drama. As shapely and surprising as fiction." --Newsday
"Brilliant... a book that has all the merits of a historical thriller." --Daily News
"Fascinating... full of rich material.... Kertzer has unearthed an evocative and unjustly forgotten episode of history." --The Washington Post Book World
"A gripping, vivid and well-documented rendering. A highly readable work that is dramatic, moving and informative, as interesting to general readers as it will no doubt prove to historians." --San Francisco Chronicle
"David Kertzer tells a riveting take, with great mastery of the sources." --The New York Review of Books
"David Kertzer's account of this extraordinary but largely forgotten moment in history is told with verve. Sounding much like a conventuonal thriller writer, Kertzer combines a gripping yarn with a details historical reconstruction." --Financial Times
"A spellbinding and intelligent book. The story itself isutterly compelling, but is entirely Kertser's skill as a historian and a writer that allows him to maintain the suspense.... Deftly constructed." --Toronto Globe and Mail
"I read the book, all of it, cover to cover, nonstop, gasping, amazed. What an important and spectacular work! (With the narrative pace of a gripping novel.) One of the most impressive reading nights of my life." --Cynthia Ozick
"A scrupulously researched, elegantly written narrative that deftly combines the take of one family's anguished and fruitless efforts to reclaim their child and the stirring saga of the Risorgimento." --The Jerusalem Report