VII. THE PRETERNATURAL AND SUPERNATURAL WORLDS

Lume v'è dato a bene ed a malizia, E libero voler . . .

DANTE*

"Lo," said Fra Bernardino suddenly, interrupting himself in the midst of one of his sermons, "the Campo is full of angels!"1 He was not speaking in terms of metaphor, but as a man stating a plain fact. And indeed it is not possible to read either his works or those of the historians of his time, without becoming aware of how very thin the veil then seemed between this world and the supernatural one. This was not only true of the uneducated. To read the Chronicles of Philippe de Commines or of Giovanni Villani is to realize how large a part, in the interpretation of any unusual occurrence, was attributed to supernatural intervention, and sometimes to the direct action of the Evil One. Villani, for instance, records as a historical fact that, on the night before the great flood of the whole Arno valley in 1333, "a holy hermit praying in his solitary cell above Vallombrosa, heard a sound of demons, as if a company of armed knights were riding by furiously." He asked them where they were going, and received the reply: "We go to drown the city of Florence, on account of her sins."2

A belief 'in such stories naturally implied a view of the whole course of history as part of God's plan for mankind -- a vision not necessarily incompatible with a full awareness, on another plane, of what is caused by the vagaries of human character, and the vices and virtues of individuals. This view of history, far from being exclusively mediaeval, was accepted by most of the historians of the Renaissance. In 1499 the Neapolitan humanist Giovanni Pontano, as he laid down the principles by which a historian should be guided, declared that in writing about war (which he assumed to be the

-159-

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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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