As Claudio Donati has suggested, it is better to speak of the bishops of the different Italian states, than of'the Italian bishops', even if the latter expression can legitimately be used to underline the exceptional relationship between the Italian 'church' and Rome.
There was a larger number of dioceses in Italy than in any other European region: eighteen, for example, in Tuscany; thirty-two under Venetian jurisdiction, and about 130 distributed throughout the Kingdom of Naples. The state's intervention in episcopal appointments in the Italian peninsula was similar to that in other European regions, although the array of specific practices was greater. These ranged from direct appointments by the sovereign in Sicily and the Kingdom of Naples, to the practice which prevailed elsewhere, where the pope was given the final choice from up to three candidates proposed by the local political authority.
The majority of the Italian bishops were drawn from the ranks of the secular clergy, from cathedral canons or vicars-general, most of whom held doctoral degrees. Only 15 to 30 per cent - especially those appointed by the papacy -came from the monastic and mendicant orders or from congregations of regular clerics such as the Theatines and the Barnabites, and most of these were destined for undistinguished sees. The growing aristocratic character of the episcopacy was most marked in the Duchy of Savoy, in Sardinia, in the Venetian Republic, and in Sicily. By contrast, only 30 per cent of prelates could claim noble birth in the Kingdom of Naples during the eighteenth century, and a similar trend towards 'bourgeois' bishops was to be found in Tuscany and Lombardy.
Despite the contradictory positions of Rome, which did not always favour the implementation of Tridentine discipline in the dioceses, the papacy's
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