Featured Publication

Clerical Households in Late Medieval Italy
Cossar, Roisin. 2017. Clerical Households in Late Medieval Italy. Harvard University Press.Abstract

Roisin Cossar brings a new perspective to the history of the Christian church in fourteenth century Italy by examining how clerics managed efforts to reform their domestic lives in the decades after the arrival of the Black Death.

Priests at the end of the Middle Ages resembled their lay contemporaries as they entered into domestic relationships with women, fathered children, and took responsibility for managing households, or familiae. Cossar limns a complex portrait of daily life in the medieval clerical familia that traces the phases of its development. Many priests began their vocation as apprentices in the households of older clerics. In middle age, priests fully embraced the traditional role of paterfamilias—patriarchs with authority over their households, including servants and, especially in Venice, slaves. As fathers they endeavored to establish their illegitimate sons in a clerical family trade. They also used their legal knowledge to protect their female companions and children against a church that frowned on such domestic arrangements and actively sought to stamp them out.

Clerical Households in Late Medieval Italy refutes the longstanding charge that the late medieval clergy were corrupt, living licentious lives that failed to uphold priestly obligations. In fashioning a domestic culture that responded flexibly to their own needs, priests tempered the often unrealistic expectations of their superiors. Their response to the rigid demands of church reform allowed the church to maintain itself during a period of crisis and transition in European history.

The Avignon Papacy Contested: An Intellectual History from Dante to Catherine of Siena
Falkeid, Unn. 2017. The Avignon Papacy Contested: An Intellectual History from Dante to Catherine of Siena. Harvard University Press.Abstract
The Avignon papacy (1309–1377) represented the zenith of papal power in Europe. The Roman curia’s move to southern France enlarged its bureaucracy, centralized its authority, and initiated closer contact with secular institutions. The pope’s presence also attracted leading minds to Avignon, transforming a modest city into a cosmopolitan center of learning. But a crisis of legitimacy was brewing among leading thinkers of the day. The Avignon Papacy Contested considers the work of six fourteenth-century writers who waged literary war against the Catholic Church’s increasing claims of supremacy over secular rulers—a conflict that engaged contemporary critics from every corner of Europe.
San Lorenzo: A Florentine Church
Gaston, Robert W., and Louis A. Waldman, ed. 2017. San Lorenzo: A Florentine Church.Abstract

This comprehensive, interdisciplinary collection illuminates many previously unexplored aspects of the Basilica of San Lorenzo’s history, extending from its Early Christian foundation to the modern era. Brunelleschi’s rebuilt Basilica, the center of liturgical patronage of the Medici and their grand-ducal successors until the nineteenth century, is today one of the most frequently studied churches in Florence. Modern research has tended, however, to focus on the remarkable art and architecture from ca. 1400–1600. In this wide-ranging collection, scholars investigate: the urban setting of the church and its parish; San Lorenzo’s relations with other ecclesiastical institutions; the genesis of individual major buildings of the complex and their decorations; the clergy, chapels and altars; the chapter’s administration and financial structure; lay and clerical patronage; devotional furnishings, music, illuminated liturgical manuscripts, and preaching; as well as the annual or ephemeral festal practices on the site. Each contribution offers a profound exploration of its topic, wide-ranging in its chronological scope. One encounters here fresh archival research, the publication of relevant documents, and critical assessments of the historiography. San Lorenzo is represented in this volume as a living Florentine institution, continually reshaped by complex historical forces.

I Tatti Studies Fall 2016
2016. “I Tatti Studies Fall 2016,” 19.2.Abstract

The Fall 2016 number of our journal, I Tatti Studies in the Italian Renaissance (vol. 19.2) is now available.

Success and Suppression: Arabic Sciences and Philosophy in the Renaissance
Hasse, Dag Nikolaus. 2016. Success and Suppression: Arabic Sciences and Philosophy in the Renaissance. Harvard University Press.Abstract

The Renaissance marked a turning point in Europe’s relationship to Arabic thought. On the one hand, Dag Nikolaus Hasse argues, it was the period in which important Arabic traditions reached the peak of their influence in Europe. On the other hand, it is the time when the West began to forget, and even actively suppress, its debt to Arabic culture. Success and Suppressiontraces the complex story of Arabic influence on Renaissance thought.

It is often assumed that the Renaissance had little interest in Arabic sciences and philosophy, because humanist polemics from the period attacked Arabic learning and championed Greek civilization. Yet Hasse shows that Renaissance denials of Arabic influence emerged not because scholars of the time rejected that intellectual tradition altogether but because a small group of anti-Arab hard-liners strove to suppress its powerful and persuasive influence. The period witnessed a boom in new translations and multivolume editions of Arabic authors, and European philosophers and scientists incorporated—and often celebrated—Arabic thought in their work, especially in medicine, philosophy, and astrology. But the famous Arabic authorities were a prominent obstacle to the Renaissance project of renewing European academic culture through Greece and Rome, and radical reformers accused Arabic science of linguistic corruption, plagiarism, or irreligion. Hasse shows how a mixture of ideological and scientific motives led to the decline of some Arabic traditions in important areas of European culture, while others continued to flourish.

My Secret Book
Petrarca, Francesco. 2016. My Secret Book. Harvard University Press.