II. THE WORLD OF WOMEN

Che dirai tu delle donne di Siena? Che ne dirò? che le fur fatte in cielo. Acconce, sconce, in cuffia, in treccia, in velo, Formose sono, e la città n'è piena.

ANTONIO CAMMELLI*


I

AMONG the portraits drawn by Fra Bernardino, none are more vivid than those of the women of Siena and Florence. They pass before us, a frieze of brightly-coloured, swiftly-moving figures, as convincing and alive as if we had met them in the Piazza del Campo or Piazza Santa Croce this morning. Here are all the women of his congregation, the fine ladies in their grotesque high headdresses and trailing gowns, the pious old crones in long black cloaks, the stout peasant-women with country baskets, and the pretty girls ogling their young men across the curtain which divided the square. For each one of them he had a penetrating glance, a smile or a frown, and also, to hold their flagging attention, a good story, in which they might see themselves in a mirror. He described the delicate old lady who, when she pleased, could cover more ground in a day than a strong man on horseback, and told the tale of the penitent harlot who, as she stood idly listening to his sermon, was suddenly struck, as by lightning, by the realization of the blackness of her sins, so that, crying out the single word, "Mercy!" she fell to the ground and died. "And I believe," said Fra Bernardino, "that she passed away to glory."1 And for the fine ladies there was the story of Madonna Saragia, an extremely greedy woman, who wished to seem very refined. She told one of her peasants to bring her a basket of ripe cherries ("fine big ones, from the Marches"), and began to gobble them up in handfuls, while he stood by and watched her. A little later her husband came home and she, picking up some cherries,

-43-

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The World of San Bernardino
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS vi
  • List of Illustrations vii
  • SOURCES OF THE PHOTOGRAPHS ix
  • PRINCIPAL EVENTS IN THE LIFE OF SAN BERNARDINO 1
  • Preface 3
  • I. the False and the True Vocation 11
  • Ii. the World of Women 43
  • Iii. the World of Trade 77
  • Iv. the World of the Poor 99
  • V. the Charge of Heresy 117
  • Vi. Strife, Crime and Peacemaking 131
  • VII- the Preternatural And Supernatural Worlds 159
  • Viii the World of Letters 183
  • Ix. the Reform of the Observants 205
  • X. the Last Journey 229
  • EPILOGUE 241
  • PRINCIPAL ABBREVIATIONS OF TITLES USED IN BIBLIOGRAPHY AND NOTES 257
  • SOURCES AND BIBLIOGRAPHY 258
  • NOTES AND ADDITIONAL BIBLIOGRAPHY 263
  • Index 299
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