Storia dell'Italia Religiosa, I: L'antichita E Il Medioevo

By Brentano, Robert | The Catholic Historical Review, April 1998 | Go to article overview

Storia dell'Italia Religiosa, I: L'antichita E Il Medioevo


Brentano, Robert, The Catholic Historical Review


Storia dell'talia religiosa, I L'antichita e il medioevo. Edited by Andre Vauchez. [Storia e Societa.] (Bari: Editori Laterza. 1993. Pp. xvi, 612; 20 plates. Lire 50,000.)

The editors of this book have shown a great deal of courage in imagining its subject and in approaching that subject with the structure they have chosen. In fact, it could be argued that there cannot be a religious history of something called Italy stretching from the pre-Roman period to the Second Vatican Council (in the early sixteenth century). It would not be an unreasonable argument; but readers aware of the activities and work of Gabriele De Rosa (one of the general editors of this volume) and Andre Vauchez would probably agree that if anyone could make this a subject, and this a way to treat the subject, they could. They have chosen not to write a single narrative controlled by a single mind, like, say, Colin Morris's The Papal Monarchy, but rather to put together seventeen essays by twelve eminent French and Italian scholars (and it is a very French-Italian production). Four of the writers contribute more than one essay: Giulia Barone, Grado Merlo, and Roberto Rusconi, each two; Andre Vauchez himself, three and an introduction. Although the repeaters do not always speak in the same voice, their repeated presence gives a sense of continuity and connection to the book. The preface and introduction suggest that the editors were aware of difficulty, and both pieces persuade the, at least already persuaded, reader that there was an Italy, and less successfully, at least in terms of the offered essays, that there is a real connection between pre-Roman and Vatican Council II, as Vauchez suggests (p. 7), for example, in the attachment of the people of questo paese to the visibility of the sacred. Vauchez's introduction seems to promise an approach which, probably fortunately, is not really much pursued except in one of Vauchez's own essays, which deals with relics, sanctuaries, and sacred space, and in Chiara Frugoni's essay on, at least according to its title, iconography and the religious life in the later Middle Ages (thirteenth to fifteenth centuries), and in the last part of Paolo Golinelli's essay.

The essays are arranged in chronological, but of course not completely chronological, order. They are repeatedly forced to provide continuum and generalization, not the most enticing kind of writing. That they face their jobs differently a glance at the numbers and kinds of footnotes makes clear. But, of course, historians as talented as these men and women are cannot be kept from presenting much of value and interest and even some surprises. …

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