Preachers and governance in fifteenth-century Italian towns : a comparative investigation of three case studies
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This thesis examines the sermons of three conventual mendicant preachers in three 15th-century Italian cities: the Easter Sunday sermons of 1416 and 1417 of a Franciscan, Giovanni Coltellini; a 1446 sermon for the feast-day of St Mark by a Dominican, Leonardo Mattei; and the 1460 Palm Sunday sermon of another Dominican, Tommaso Liuti. These are studied through the contextual framework provided by the use of sacristy records, treatises, chronicles, diaries, council minutes, papal bulls, and other sermons. Through these sources, the thesis explores the theme of mendicant preaching in support of secular governing authority. Whereas most historians have concentrated on the criticisms of observant friars, it is here argued that mendicant preachers were employed as a ‘routine’ business of government at both critical and non-critical moments in order to promote the governance of a secular authority, its policies, or its ideology. The first three parts form case studies of preaching in socio-politically distinct contexts. The preaching on peace and unity by the Bolognese Coltellini during political upheaval in his native city is examined first, and establishes how the preacher sought to strengthen links between the governing coalition of factions. The second part investigates promotion of Venetian governance by Mattei in occupied Udine within a period characterised by claims of mismanagement. The last case study approaches from the viewpoint of personal motivation. It investigates Liuti’s relationship with the Este court in Ferrara and the links between the friar’s treatise on good governance, a sermon on a closely-related theme, and his future career. The final section is a comparative analysis of the case studies, assessing similarities and differences in approach, style, and content. It highlights the importance of a preacher’s local origin in forming bonds with audience and governing authority, and the crucial role played by the use of classical authorities in communicating with ruling elites. Lastly, the commonality of aims, if not ultimate goals, between preacher and secular authority is underscored. The involvement of holy men in secular affairs was perceived on the whole as uncontradictory, and provides evidence for an intrinsic inseparability between religion and public life in Quattrocento Italy.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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