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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

From Catherine of Siena to Umberto Eco

- Christ Gives Communion to St. Catherine of Siena by Giovanni di Paolo

It's almost the feast of Catherine of Siena. I'm not a fan of hers - she seemd to embrace an extreme acesticism (wore a chain with which she whipped herself daily, spent a lifetime fasting, etc.) - but she did live at an interesting time and was involved somewhat (whether for good or ill) in the War of the Eight Saints, the struggle between Pope Gregory XI and a coalition of Italian city-states led by Florence which contributed to the end of the Avignon Papacy ....

The most influential decision in the reign of Pope Gregory XI (1370-1378) was the return to Rome in 1378. Although the Pope was French born and still under strong influence by the French King, the increasing conflict between factions friendly and hostile to the Pope posed a threat to the Papal lands and to the allegiance of Rome itself. When the Papacy established an embargo against grain exports during a food scarcity 1374/75, Florence organized several cities into a league against the Papacy: Milan, Bologna, Perugia, Pisa, Lucca and Genoa. The papal legate, Robert de Geneva [Clement VII ], a relative to the House of Savoy, pursued a particularly ruthless policy against the league to re-establish control over these cities. He convinced Pope Gregory to hire Breton mercenaries. To quell an uprising of the inhabitants of Cesena he hired John Hawkwood and had the majority of the people massacred (between 2500 and 3500 people were reported dead). Following such events opposition against the Papacy strengthened. Florence came in open conflict with the Pope, a conflict called "the war of the eight saints" in reference to the eight Florentine councilors who were chosen to orchestrate the conflict. The entire city of Florence was excommunicated and as reply the export of clerical taxes was stopped. The trade was seriously hampered and both sides had to find a solution. In his decision about returning to Rome, the Pope was also under the influence of Catherine of Siena, later canonized, who preached for a return to Rome.
- Wikipedia

And ....

Gregory deputed her [Catherine] on a peace mission to Florence in the winter of 1377, believing, as he told her Dominican confessor and biographer Raymond of Capua, that "they would not molest her; she is a woman, and besides they hold her personally in high esteem." At meetings of the Parte Guelfa, Catherine encouraged the politically divisive purges from public office (ammonizione) of accused Ghibelline sympathizers that the Parte was now promoting as a means of overturning the radical government and unblocking the path to peace. But according to Raymond, she was shocked by the political vendetta that in turn swept the city in the spring of 1378. Stefani [Marchione di Coppo Stefani] reported more dryly that "on that account she was regarded almost as a prophetess by those of the Parte, and by others as a hypocrite and evil woman." That summer Catherine was among those obliged to flee the city ...
- Society and individual in Renaissance Florence by William J. Connell

An interesting semi-related bit of info - after Florence had been put under inderdict in 1376 by Gregory XI, the Fraticelli, who had previously been deemed heretics, re-emerged in Florence ....

The Fraticelli ("Little Brethren") were extreme proponents of the rule of Saint Francis of Assisi, especially with regard to poverty, and regarded the wealth of the Church as scandalous, and that of individual churchmen as invalidating their status. They were thus forced into open revolt against the whole authority of the Church .... Umberto Eco's novel The Name of the Rose is set against the persecution of Fraticelli.

I'll have to read more about them, and maybe even try (again) to read The Name of the Rose :)

- Catherine's sarcophagus beneath the high altar of the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva


Blogger Liam said...

Interesting post, Crystal. I was just (briefly) covering St Catherine in class. She was the 22nd daughter (!) of a Sienese cloth dyer, and she ended up as a major player in the events of the day.

The Name of the Rose is a great book.

6:32 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Liam :)

I was reading an article about her - really interesting. Maybe I can find the book in audio.

12:50 PM  

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