The Agricultural Reform


In one of the most important measures of the agrarian reform initiated by Pope Pius VI with the “Motu Proprio” of April 21, 1778, a prize of one Paolo coin was granted for each olive tree planted.

In the famous motu proprio of 1801 by Pius VII " Le più colte" the Pontiff undertook a series of measures aimed at eliminating trade restrictions that were issued by previous popes. In fact, farmers were obliged to sell oil to the public depots at a price that did not cover production costs.
Pius VII, to avoid the spectre of famine, that always loomed over the State of the Church, decided to abolish any edict that had obliged farmers to sell their products to the public depots. He granted them the right to sell wheat and similar products in any place of the State. Moreover, they had ample power to negotiate the price. On the other hand, the Pope applied harsh penalties for illegal trade outside the borders of the Papal State and for the owners of uncultivated land. Olive cultivation had a great increase (200,000 olive trees were planted), pushed by the liberalization of trade and the price.
The agrarian reform was a very advanced agricultural policy for the time that gave impetus to the agricultural vocation of our territories. Thanks to the reform and its effects we still cultivate a high-quality organic oil. Furthermore, according to a supply chain contract we ensure sustainable production and a perfect combination of knowledge, agricultural production, history, and traditions.

The Papal State was constituted of all the territories over which the Holy See exercised its temporal power, from 751 to 1870. The administrative activity concentrated in Rome and its district and the economic activity of the large landed estates constituted the original nucleus of the temporal dominion of the Church.

At the beginning of the thirteenth century the Holy See exercised effective sovereignty only over the Latium territory, the States of the Church were formed by the following territories: north of Rome, Tuscia - or Roman Tuscany - and Sabina; to the south of Rome, the Marittima (the maritime Latium) and the Campagna (the interior). Only with Innocent III (1198-1216) did the Papal State begin to leave the Roman Duchy to take on a new, inter-regional appearance, his pontificate was characterized by the recovery of the patrimony of St. Peter.

Only with Innocent III (1198-1216) the Papal State began to leave the Roman Duchy to take on an inter-regional form, his pontificate was characterized by the recovery of the patrimony of St. Peter. The Papal State reached the maximum territorial extension in 1649. After the loss of some cities in the Po valley, in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, that were ceded to the Farnese and Este families. And, after the subsequent acquisition of the Duchies of Ferrara, Urbino, and Castro.

After 1649, Papal State became an aggregated territorial entity and a centralized state. At the same time, an important anti-feudal policy was carried out with a centralized control of the territory, with central departments in Rome and control bodies in the provinces. The provinces were administered by the local governors, who were the main ministers of the legation on the territory; from the Restoration and until the capture of Rome, the Papal State was administratively divided into 17 apostolic delegations - territorial circumscriptions - established by Pius VII on 6 July 1816 with the motu proprio "Quando per ammirabile disposizione". The delegations assumed the name of Legations when they were governed by a cardinal.

In relations with the cities of the provinces, taxation was one of the most discussed subjects, starting from the pontificate of Clement VII, general taxes were established that affected the clergy, the laity and even the Jews, their amount was divided between the different cities of the State of the Church (therefore they were called "allotment" taxes) and was the subject of negotiations with the representatives of the cities. The methods of taxes collection were left to the local government bodies, that were charged of the levy on individual citizens. On the other hand, the Apostolic Chamber used to direct all the matters relating to the temporal revenues of the State of the Church. This dicastery brought together all administrative powers and accounting in economic and financial matters of the State of the Church.
In the Apostolic Chamber there were presidencies or prefectures. They were competent on specific branches of the administration. The Annona frumentaria – cereals public stock - active since the 1770 and it regulated the supply of meat, fats, and oil, it supervised the quality of the goods, the weights used for its sale and the relative handling licenses.

The cleric of the Chamber and president of Grascia was competent only over a limited geographical area (Campagna, Marittima, Patrimony, Sabina). The magistracy of particular importance was the Annona olearia – Oil public stock - which used to manage the purchase and requisition of large quantities of oil that was stored in the ration warehouses to contrast poor harvest years. They controlled the olive harvest, and the hoarders were severely punished. They used to provide a census of oil, to authorize exports or not. Finally, they fixed the purchase price and enacted planting laws. If the president of La Grascia could not promote the hoarding and storage of food goods within his competence. However, the oil was an exception. In fact, the practice of storing oil was consolidated at the beginning of the eighteenth century, when Clement XI issued the chirograph of 9 January 1712 which made 30,000 scudi available to the president of Grascia for the purchase of oil. The money anticipated had to be repaid with the sales. During the eighteenth century they made repeated loans.

Pius VII gave a new form to the legislation of Annona and Grascia, in favour to the principle of free trade, and deprived the said two courts of all judicial competence, retaining only the administrative one. Leo XII reunited the two tribunals under the direction of the same person, keeping their attributions distinct, and Pius VIII reunited the two attributions into one, to which Gregory XVI again granted judicial jurisdiction. In the first half of the eighteenth century there was a general economic and cultural recovery in Italy and in other countries. Some popes initiated a series of social and economic reforms that had very important repercussions on the olive growing of lower Latium. However, the first attempts, aimed at improving the living conditions of the subjects and relaunching the economy, were unsuccessful.

Pope Clement XI also instituted a "Congregation of Relief" in 1701, which developed an economic and social program that provided for the splitting of large estates, agricultural education, the improvement of workers' hygiene conditions, the organization of credit agriculture, the improvement of communications and commerce. The landowners strongly opposed the reforms and the plan fell through. In 1715 the Pontiff dissolved the Congregation.

In 1763 another pope, Clement XII (1758 - 1769), authorized the construction of an oil reserve which, guaranteeing supplies for the city, would calm the prices of the product. The wells for the storage of the precious element were built in the space of a year in the basement of the granaries in the Baths of Diocletian, for the conservation of the oil a cool place with constant temperature was in fact necessary and the Gregorian undergrounds were considered ideal for this purpose.

In the Nineteenth century olive growing was an important source of income and trade for the Papal States, even if, widespread in many areas of the region, it was not yet sufficient for its needs. The landowners were only interested in quick and easy earnings, so they were reluctant to expand the areas planted with olive trees.

In 1810 the planting of an olive tree cost 7 Paolos per hole and 10 per pit for 6 years. Faced with this expense, the owners "... neglect not a little the cultivation of olive trees, because they say it is a plant that bears its fruit too late" (NM Nicolaj, Memories, laws, and observations on the countryside and on the Annona of Rome, III, Rome 1803). Even the peasants were reluctant to put new plants under cultivation due to the short rents which rarely exceeded nine years. Another problem was linked to the fact that olive cultivation was affected, and unfortunately suffers, from strong seasonal variations: a rich year is generally followed by a mediocre or even lean one, but two good vintages can also be had after a decade and the problem of the frosts between 1707 and 1809 which caused very serious damage to the olive growing in Latium and more generally to the whole agricultural sector, induced the papal government to initiate new reforms in the economic field.

Pope Pius VI (1775-1799) began a program of reorganization of the finances which resulted in the simplification of taxes and the creation of a first land registry, called "land registry" (1777). Furthermore, he tried to make fiscal control over the Legations more effective by establishing a Chamber of Accounts in each of them.

In 1786 the Pontiff eliminated internal customs (only those of the most important centres remained in operation: Bologna, Ferrara, Benevento, and Avignon), at the same time strengthening the control over goods in circulation within the State, with the establishment of eighty new border offices.


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