PENITENCE AND THE LAITY IN FIFTEENTH-CENTURY FLORENCE
AS SUGGESTED IN THE INTRODUCTION, the most characteristic form of lay spirituality in quattrocento Italy was the confraternity. In this opening chapter of Part Two, John Henderson provides a historical and organizational outline of confraternal life, articulating its relationship to the monastic world treated in the preceding section of our book. Focusing on penitential confraternities, Dr. Henderson reviews the theology of penitence in the Western Church and the rise of group penitential exercises among layfolk in the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth centuries. He illustrates the structural, devotional, and liturgical parallels between confraternal practices and the usages current in the mendicant orders, discussing as a particular case the Compagnia di San Girolamo in Florence, dedicated to the early Christian saint who so strongly appealed to the Renaissance imagination, St. Jerome: at once a learned classical scholar and a Christian tormented by guilt over his love of pagan literature.
JOHN HENDERSON is Fellow of Wolfson College, Cambridge, and director of a research project at the University of London examining plague in early modern Europe. He is the author of a forthcoming monograph on lay piety and charity in Renaissance Florence, has edited a volume of essays on charity and the poor in Italy and England, and is the author of a series of articles on religion, welfare provision for the poor, and plague in Renaissance Italy.