Christianity and the Renaissance: Image and Religious Imagination in the Quattrocento

By Timothy Verdon; John Henderson | Go to book overview

I
MONASTERIES, FRIARIES, AND NUNNERIES IN QUATTROCENTO FLORENCE

GENE ADAM BRUCKER

FROM EARLY CHRISTIAN TIMES, the monastery has been understood as an ideal microcosm of Christian life and commitment: an ecclesiola or small scale but intense example to the wider church community of what "Church" means. In this opening chapter of part One, Gene Adam Brucker provides a detailed introductory sketch of the demographic, economic and human components of the monastic environment in fifteenth-century Florence: the kinds of religious communities in and near the city; the numbers of members and nonmembers directly dependent upon the life of these institutions; the overlapping interests of lay society and this monastic world; and the concern shared by ecclesiastical and lay authorities for proper maintenance of order and high standards in these "exemplary" communities. This chapter also introduces the reader to some of the principal sources of our knowledge of Florentine Renaissance conventual life: tax records (the catasto); "efficiency reports" in the form of questionnaires filled out during visits to monasteries by Church authorities; and death notices contained in the necrologies of monastic communities. From Professor Brucker's essay emerges a richly diverse picture of these "cities of God" existing in and alongside the city of man: of their internal politics, of the external social pressures influencing their fives, and of the social and economic factors that allowed the members of some communities to live comfortably on accumulated income while those of others had to engage in manual labor.

GENE ADAM BRUCKER is professor of history at the University of California, Berkeley, and visiting professor at the Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies, Villa I Tatti, Florence. His numerous publications include Florentine Politics and Society, 1343-1378 ( 1962), Renaissance Florence ( 1969), and The Civic World of Early Renaissance Florence ( 1977).

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