The novel, an historical thriller set in Rome in the XVII century, translated in 26 languages and 60 countries, is the most successful Italian historical novel after The name of the Rose and one of the most extraordinary literary cases of the last years.It is the September 11th 1683. The Muslims are mustering on Western borders and Vienna is withstanding the siege. The alliance which joins or divides the Pope and the kings or several European countries and the terror by which every citizen of Christianity is gripped are the important factors which trigger the plot of the novel. In a inn set in the centre of Rome one of the guests, an old French gentleman, dies and doctors fear that it might a be Plague and then they lock the guests in the inn in order to avoid any contagion. The odd death, though, arouses one of the inn’s guests’ suspicions. The guest is Atto Melani, an abbé, a castrato, a spy and a secret agent of the King of France. Atto Melani starts investigating the death and he actually finds the way to get out of the inn through underground tunnels and catacombs.In order to discover the truth, Atto Melani will have to overcome other guests’ reticences and subterfuges. An English student, a French guitarist, a Spanish Jesuit, an enigmatic gentleman of the Marche, a neurotic Venetian glassmaker, an ambiguous poet from Naples, a fascinating courtesan, the hot-tempered proprietor of the inn and his young boy. Characters of the plot are not only the inn’s guests, but also Kings, Queens and important personalities of many countries of Europe.The stakes are very high. Atto Melani will have to reveal one after the other the terrible truths which are conditioning Europe‘s future. He will have to unmask the sordid events of interest and corruption who pull the strings of France’s, Italy‘s, Austria‘s, Holland‘s and England‘s destiny. It is an underground struggle in which politics, religion, spying and corruption interlace. And the reader will discover that the events revealed by the plot have changed the course of History with violence and forever.The authors have discovered explosive historical documents which indeed cast new light upon Europe‘s History starting from XVII century up to nowadays. And the solution of the thriller are historical events which have been concealed to historians for centuries and the authors have discovered and revealed in their novel. The most astonishing one is that William of Orange, the Protestant hero who with the so-called Glorious Revolution conquered England in 1688, was in the pay of the Pope. The authors have found in the archives of the Vatican the documents which prove that Pope Innocent XI, beatified in 1956, supported financially William sending him secretly huge sums of money through a company based in Venice.
The result of years of researches in many libraries and archives of Europe, the novel reconstructs the historical background in every small detail, from smells to clothing, from beliefs to recipes, to medical theories. Also the setting in the inn is a realistic recreation, as the authors have discovered the inn in the historical centre of Rome and have even found the daily guest book.The background for characters’ actions are secret tunnels in Rome’s underground, alchemic laboratories, bigotry and superstition, relics’ hunters, clandestine printing works and pursuits in underground passages. Finally, music too plays a very important role in the novel and in particular an enigmatic and fascinating rondeau of three hundred years ago.
The realistic historical setting in IMPRIMATUR, including the discovery of the secret alliance between William of Orange and the papacy, has deserved also the attention of the scholars (see for example the essay by Raia Prokhovnik, Spinoza and Republicanism, Palgrave/Macmillan 2004).
Obstacles and resistence in Italy
In Imprimatur, Monaldi & Sorti made public documents proving that Pope Innocent XI (proclaimed blessed in 1956) had made a deal with the protestant William of Orange – to the effect that the pope would connive in the expulsion of the Catholic ruling house of Stuarts from England in 1689. This discovery and its literary manifestation in Imprimatur produced consternation among European historians and journalists – and in the Vatican, where, as a symbolic response to the attack in NY of the September 11th 2001, plans were afoot to canonise Pope Innocent XI, as historic figure in the struggle of the Church against Islam. Because of IMPRIMATUR the canonisation of Pope Innocent XI did not take place.
The publication of the novel with its volatile revelations for the Vatican had also an immediate impact on one particular priest, who happened to be the inspiration for the bishop in the novel. On the Vatican’s orders, this priest was transferred from Rome to Constanza, formerly Tomi – interestingly, the same small city on the Black Sea to which Caesar Augustus banished the poet Ovid. Caesar had suspected Ovid of having inserted allusions to delicate private affairs of the imperial family in his literary works, and so expelled him from Rome because of “literary offenses”. Likewise associated with a literary affront, this innocent priest (interviewed by several papers) must now adjust to life in Romania.
Although Monaldi & Sorti knew that their historical revelations were explosive, they never imagined their novels would have such far-reaching effects. Monaldi & Sorti have thus decided not to have their novels published in Italy. The first country in which the following appeared was the Netherlands, the very country in which Italians of the 17th century published their writings in order to avoid papal censorship. Also IMPRIMATUR is published now in Italian by the Dutch publisher of Monaldi & Sorti, De Bezige Bij.