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The Preacher's Demons: Bernardino of Siena and the Social Underworld of Early Renaissance Italy - Hardcover

 
9780226538549: The Preacher's Demons: Bernardino of Siena and the Social Underworld of Early Renaissance Italy
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"When the city was filled with these bonfires, he then combed the city, and whenever he received notice of some public sodomite, he had him immediately seized and thrown into the nearest bonfire at hand and had him burned immediately." This story, of an anonymous individual who sought to cleanse medieval Paris, was part of a sermon delivered in Siena, Italy, in 1427. The speaker, the friar Bernardino (1380-1444), was one of the most important public figures of the time, and he spent forty years combing the towns of Italy, instructing, admonishing, and entertaining the crowds that gathered in prodigious numbers to hear his sermons.

His story of the Parisian vigilante was a recommendation. Sexual deviants were the objects of relentless, unconditional persecution in Bernardino's sermons. Other targets of the preacher's venom were witches, Jews, and heretics. Mormando takes us into the social underworld of early Renaissance Italy to discover how one enormously influential figure helped to dramatically increase fear, hatred, and intolerance for those on society's margins.

This book is the first on Bernardino to appear in thirty-five years, and the first ever to consider the preacher's inflammatory role in Renaissance social issues.

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Review:
In the age before Gutenberg's printing press, preaching was the most important means of mass communication and persuasion in Europe. Dominicans and Franciscans, the major preaching orders of the period, served as the influential information disseminators, opinion makers, and power wielders. Franco Mormando's The Preacher's Demons takes a fascinating look at an enormously popular public figure of early-15th-century Italy, Franciscan friar Bernardino of Siena (1380-1444), and his response to three of the most critical social issues of his time: witchcraft, sodomy, and Judaism.

Mormando, an assistant professor of Italian at Boston College, consciously directs his study to both scholars and the educated public by including introductory information that helps the reader make sense of what Bernardino is saying and doing within the larger realm of the historical period and the theoretical issues in question. As a result, The Preacher's Demons presents not only an insightful portrayal of Bernardino and his 40 years of public speaking, but also of the marked upsurge in the demonization and persecution of three groups that challenged the moral sensibilities of early-15th-century Italian society. A competent translator, Mormando includes numerous excerpts from Bernardino's sermons and contemporary illustrations depicting Bernardino at work. Though his prose is tediously academic at times, Mormando nevertheless uses this biography of a flamboyant preacher to present a thoroughly researched and insightful examination of the people and events of the quattrocento. --Bertina Loeffler Sedlack

About the Author:
Franco Mormando is assistant professor of Italian at Boston College.

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  • PublisherUniversity of Chicago Press
  • Publication date1999
  • ISBN 10 0226538540
  • ISBN 13 9780226538549
  • BindingHardcover
  • Edition number1
  • Number of pages380
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