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

By Timothy Verdon; John Henderson | Go to book overview

In general, the Scuole Grandi were expressions of a form of civic Catholicism, and they could become so in Venice because of the state's capacity for coming to terms with them, and for harnessing fraternities more effectively than did the rulers of the Florentine commune. Though not militantly anticlerical, they stood for a species of religious organization that had developed, through the Council of Ten, far stronger links with the state than with the parish, the diocese, or the pope. They promoted the cohesion of Venetian society by stressing the mutual obligations of rich and poor, by defining the limits of respectability, by proscribing antisocial behavior, and by enticing their members away from essentially local concerns. Yet the state they served was a sacred corpus, and one of their purposes was to add to its virtue, to beg for it the intercession of the saints, and to make it worthier of the favor of God. In the next century, their importance would scarcely be challenged. True, they would be increasingly affected by the state's obsessive concern to raise oarsmen for its reserve fleet; they would face stronger rivalry from the parishes; and new kinds of charity, redemptive as well as supportive, would arise to deal with the obtrusive problem of the unrespectable poor. But on dramatic occasions, especially during Paul V's Interdict, they and the Conventual Friars would still stand publicly for an old Catholicism that had forged strong links with the state, against a new Catholicism linked through the newer religious orders to the pope in Rome. 102 During the Counter-Reformation, the tension between the Venetian state and the Society of Jesus, between the Catholicism of St. Mark and that of St. Peter, had become much more formidable than the mild but unmistakable contrast between the civic and the universal brotherhoods of the late fifteenth century -- between the Scuole Grandi of Venice and the Confraternity of the Rosary in the convent of Dominican friars.


NOTES

My thanks am due to John Henderson, Richard Mackenney, Richard Palmer, and William Wurthmann for their kind permission to consult and to cite material of theirs not yet in print.

-295-

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