No historical event has left a greater mark on the civic identity of Trento than the 19th Ecumenical Council called by the Church of Rome on 13 December 1545 and solemnly ended, after two interruptions and some vicissitudes, on 4 December 1563.

Trento had been chosen as the Council venue already in the 1542 Bull of Indiction, when Pope Paul III called it "an easy location, free and convenient for all Nations". Its geographical position made it an ideal bridge between Italy and the German world, and its peculiar political status -“a city governed by a bishop vassal of the Emperor“ - offered guarantees to both the Papacy and the Empire. The extraordinary assembly, which was meant to reconcile the reformed German churches with the Holy See, ended with no success in this sense, but led to a deep internal reform of the Catholic Church. For at least two centuries the Trento decrees exercised a decisive influence not only on religious life, but also on culture and many aspects of civil life in Catholic Europe. During the Council works, which lasted for eighteen years, Trento was home to 284 prelates and numerous other delegates from different nations, taking up the actual role of capital of Catholicism and crossroads of European politics. In the third Council period, the conclusive one, in Trento were present ambassadors from twelve different countries. In order to accommodate them all, the city, which at the time numbered less than ten thousand inhabitants, was engaged at all levels under the capable leadership of Prince-Bishop Cristoforo Madruzzo. Cardinals, bishops, generals of various orders, theologians and ambassadors, often accompanied by a large entourage, were given hospitality in the main palaces, in monasteries and inns, and the council sessions were held in Santa Maria Maggiore and in San Vigilio’s Cathedral.

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