eremitica in favor of the vita activa, they were dismissed on the basis of the teachings of St. Paul the leader and father, the Dux and Pater: teachings at best fragmentarily contained in St. Jerome Vita pauli.64
One could take this argument further, beyond religious orders and their founders. Cities and nations, bishops, patriarchs, and popes had recourse to eminent ancestral and founding figures to legitimate their authority. 65 This apparent need to define one's own status by reference to an eminent predecessor, be it a historical or a mythical figure, is ever present. Yet, as I hope I have demonstrated, the reference to ancestors did not have to result in conservatism, unthinking preservation of the past, or stagnation. Provided that the founder-figure symbolized a sufficient variety of characteristics, he or she could promote versatility, innovation, and a high degree of adaptability. This was not always so; in the case of the Hermits of St. Paul, recourse to a traditional image of holiness resulted in stagnation. But for the Austin Friars the same process was highly dynamic force, which enabled them not only to develop a great variety of iconographical motifs, but also to adapt to the changing demands of Church and society.
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Publication information: Book title: Christianity and the Renaissance:Image and Religious Imagination in the Quattrocento. Contributors: Timothy Verdon - Editor, John Henderson - Editor. Publisher: Syracuse University Press. Place of publication: Syracuse, NY. Publication year: 1990. Page number: 99.
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