This essay explores forms and practices of governance of the Bolognese family Ranuzzi in the fiefdom of Bagni di Porretta, a county of Papal investiture located in the Legation of Bologna. The middle decades of the seventeenth century, which form the focus of this study, were characterized by a delicate institutional balance between the administrative integration of the fiefdom into the fabric of the Papal States and the effective autonomy of local feudal rule. The issue of autonomy is considered not only in relation to territorial ecclesiastical authorities but also with regard to the local Regiment of Bologna. More than the Legate or the various Roman tribunals, the Senate of the city maintained its role as the principal and closest institutional partner of the counts. Within the context of an investigation of social history, this study defines the framework of a tolerant feudal rule which by this time had achieved a harmonious relationship with surrounding territorial forces. At the same time, the power of the counts still appears to contain a strong element of autonomy, both in terms of its ruling practices and of its administration of justice; this autonomy was indeed maintained by virtue of the willingness of the feudal rulers to accept the larger demands of Roman power.
Keywords: Ranuzzi; Fiefdom; Feudal justice; Legation of Bologna; Porretta; States of Church