I. THE FALSE AND THE TRUE VOCATION

La vraie éloquence se moque de l'éloquence. PASCAL


I

ON Friday, August 15, 1427, the Cathedral bell of Siena called Sovana1 tolled, as usual, at dawn, -- but the city was already awake. Long before sunrise, in the dark Piazza del Campo, Fra Bernardino degli Albizzeschi had set up his altar before the Palazzo Pubblico and had said his Mass by the light of two guttering tapers, and from their barred shops and shuttered houses the citizens had hurried down the steep, narrow streets to get themselves a good place -- for this was the Feast of the Assumption, and at dawn Fra Bernardino was to preach to the Signori of the Council and the assembled citizens. The pulpit, adorned with a piece of red brocade, had already been set up, and beside it, on a dais hung with a fine tapestry, sat the city officials, while 'in the square a low canvas partition separated the men from the women -- the women wearing long, seemly cloaks with white or black shawls covering their heads, the men in the garments of their station: the long merchant's gown, the short gay cloak of the young nobleman, or the drab tunic of the craftsman. As the sun rose over the piazza -- its first rays catching the summit of the slender rose-coloured tower beside the Palazzo Pubblico, then slowly bringing light to the whole honey-coloured square -- the Cathedral bell began to toll. As it ceased, the preacher rose, held up the tablet bearing the monogram of the name of Jesus, and slowly made the sign of the Cross, while the congregation fell upon their knees. Then he began to describe "how our glorious Mother went to Heaven, and the delight that she aroused in Paradise."2

All this is not surmised, but recorded. Two artists of the time,

-11-

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