|LIFE OF CARDINAL MEZZOFANTI|
Home > Mezzofanti > Biography > 1798 to 1802 > Military Hospitals
Mezzofanti works as an interpreter in the military hospitals in Bologna for Austrian soldiers wounded in Napoleonic wars. These soldiers spoke German, Russian, Czech, Hungarian or Romanian.
At all events, whatever may have been his actual opportunities of study during the years which succeeded his deprivation, it is certain that, upon the whole, his progress during that time was not less wonderful than at the most favoured periods of his life. Northern Italy, during this troubled time, was the principal seat of the struggle between Austria and the French Republic ; and from the first advance of the French in 1796, till the decisive field of Marengo in 1800, Bologna found itself alternately in the occupation of one or other of the contending powers. For nearly twelve months, however, after the battle of Trebbia, in July, 1799, the Austrians remained in undisturbed possession. The army of Austria at that day comprised in its motley ranks, representatives of most of the leading European languages—Teutonic, Slavonic, Czechish, Magyar, Romanic. The intercourse with the officers and soldiery thus opened for Mezzofanti, in itself supplied a school of languages, which, taken in conjunction with the university, and its other resources, it would have been difficult to find in any other single European city, except Rome.
And these advantages presented themselves to the Abate Mezzofanti, since his advancement to the priesthood, in a way which enlisted still higher feelings than that desire for knowledge which had hitherto formed his main incentive to study.
All the accounts which have been preserved of the early years of his ministry, concur in extolling his remarkable piety, his devotedness to the duties of the confessional, Note 1 and above all his active and tender charity. He had a share in every work of benevolence. He loved to organize little plans for the education of the poor. Notwithstanding his numerous and pressing occupations, he was a constant visitant of the numerous charitable institutions for which Bologna, even among the munificent cities of Italy, has long been celebrated. He was particularly devoted to the sick ;— not only to the class who are called in Italy " the bashful poor," whom he loved to seek out and visit at their own houses, and to whom, poor as he was in worldly wealth, his active benevolence enabled him to render services which money could not have procured ;—but also in the public hospitals, both civil and military. Now the terrible campaign of 1796-1797, and again of 1799, had filled the camps of both armies with sick and wounded soldiers ; and thus in the public hospitals of Bologna were constantly to be found invalids of almost every European race. M. Manavit Note 2 states that, even before Mezzofanti was ordained priest, he had begun to act as interpreter to the wounded or dying in the hospitals, whether of their temporal or their spiritual wants and wishes. From the date of his ordination, of course, he was moved to the same service by a zeal still higher and more holy.
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