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Humanist Taste and Franciscan Values: Cornelio Musso and Catholic Preaching in Sixteenth-Century Italy.

Corrie E. Norman. (Renaissance and Baroque Studies and Texts, 24.) New York: Peter Lang, 1998. 188 pp. $43.95. ISBN: 0-8204-3871-5.

The rise of Protestantism in the sixteenth century led many reformers within the Catholic Church to advocate a program of renewal that rested on the principle of "reformatio in capite et membris." The Church in the seventeenth century strove to implement this reform through the Tridentine reform program. The two books under consideration shed light on these efforts in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Norman's work focuses on the idea of preaching in sixteenth-century Italy, while Poska's study examines the implementation of Tridentine reform in seventeenth-century Spain.

Norman presents a case study of the Franciscan preacher Cornelio Musso (1511-1574) as a vehicle for the assessment of Catholic preaching in sixteenth-century Italy. The author contends that Musso's importance as a popular vernacular preacher has been obscured, if not totally ignored, by scholars who have focussed exclusively on his inaugural oration at the Council of Trent. Consequently, scholars have examined his humanist style, without acknowledging the influence of the Franciscan preaching tradition on Musso. Norman seeks to rectify this misrepresentation of Musso, arguing that his "Franciscanism was bound to be an important influence on the way he thought about preaching" (4). Viewing Musso's preaching from this perspective, the author argues that he played a role in altering the course of Catholic preaching in the sixteenth century.

To demonstrate her thesis, Norman examines the relationship between the humanist culture of Musso's day and his Franciscan roots. Central to her argument is the placing of Musso firmly in the tradition of Franciscan preaching. The author does this quite effectively by illustrating that Musso's preaching values were essentially Franciscan, particularly the understanding of the Christian message as essentially moral-penitential, which the author presents as the bridge between Musso's Franciscanism and humanism. Seeing his role as preacher as one sent to reform the people, Musso's goal was to move listeners to penitence and better living. Norman demonstrates this by highlighting the Franciscan, scriptural, and classical models upon which Musso drew for his sermons. Norman here makes an important observation concerning the relationship between humanism and Musso's Franciscanism. She argues that "Musso was never able to reconcile his humanist tastes to his Franciscan values in terms of style; but he did have the basis on which to reconcile them in terms of purpose and psychology" (88). For Musso the main purpose of preaching was affective, moving the listener's heart by inducing a fear of eternal punishment, while at the same time engendering hope of eternal reward. This balance between fear and hope, the author contends, represents the synthesis between Musso's Franciscanism and his humanism.

Norman's study effectively demonstrates the Franciscan context from which Musso's preaching emerges and to which it adheres. However, the author's analysis of Musso's preaching remains on the technical level. It would have been helpful to balance this with an analysis of the pastoral message of his sermons. Arguing that Musso's approach was consistent with his Franciscan heritage, the study is not convincing in terms of Musso's uniqueness compared to other preachers of his day. The author also fails to demonstrate effectively how Musso altered the course of Catholic preaching. Despite these weaknesses, Norman's study is valuable in that it highlights the important role of preaching in sixteenth-century Catholicism.

The importance of ecclesial jurisdiction underlies Poska's study of the Church in seventeenth-century Spain. A variety of religious practices and traditions developed in Spain that met local spiritual needs, but which were incompatible with Tridentine Catholicism. The Tridentine reform program aimed at uniformity of practice and belief. To what extent was this possible? Herein lies the focus of Poska's work, which examines "the degree to which the Catholic Church succeeded in bringing its parishioners into conformity with the new, more rigid expectations of post-Tridentine Catholicism" (2). Focusing on the diocese of Ourense in Galicia, Poska studies the relationship between local religious practice and the expectations of the Catholic Reformation Church,

In examining this dialogue between the Church and local religion and the episcopacy's efforts to impose conformity, Poska focuses on several features of religious life that served as a source of tensions between the hierarchy and the faithful - sacred sites, clerical life, spiritual life of the laity, sacramental life, and funerary rituals. In each of these areas the author provides convincing evidence of the frustrations and successes experienced by the Church in implementing Tridentine reform. What becomes clear in this analysis is that while theologians and Church officials anticipated that the implementation of Trent would be easy and met with great enthusiasm, the reality was far different. This situation arose, according to Poska, as a result of an erroneous assumption that Catholic Reformation Catholicism "would immediately overcome the culturally distinct local religions that had developed throughout Europe over the centuries" (160).

The author makes this immediately apparent in her examination of parish life, which was the focus of religious life in Ourense and Catholic reform. Whereas episcopal Visitors identified the parish as the parish church, the author demonstrates that Orensanos "did not limit their interaction with the spiritual world to the parish church" (17). Throughout the years, the people of this region developed alternative religious sites that extended the boundaries of the sacred beyond the limits of the parish church. Of utmost significance were the ermitas, shrines, or chapels, which were sacred to either a particular group or an individual person. These sites were problematic for the hierarchy since they fell outside their jurisdiction and challenged the primacy of the parish. Yet, Poska demonstrates that they became sites of dialogue between the Catholic Reformation program and local Catholicism.

Similar difficulties in the implementation of the Catholic Reformation are presented by the author in her discussion of attempts at regulating the life of the clergy and the laity. Poska demonstrates that while the local clergy displayed little enthusiasm for the rigid standards of the Catholic Reformation, many of the laity refused to attend the episcopal visitation, thereby undermining the reform efforts introduced by the Visitor's mandates. Pointing to the behavior of parishioners and the lifestyle of the clergy, Poska concludes that the Catholic Church was "struggling to integrate itself into the fabric of parish life" (76).

In the area of sacramental life, the goal of the Catholic Reformation was to place the administration of all sacraments under the control of the clergy, eliminating many of the local ritual traditions that had developed. Poska contends that while the Church achieved some success in this area, it was limited, thereby evidencing the "basic inability of the Church to firmly control its flock" (88).

Poska's study provides an excellent analysis of the dichotomy that existed between the aims of the Catholic Reformation and the practice of religion on the local level. While the Church did manage to implement some reform, the effects of that reform were quite limited. Poska concludes that "successful reform appeared rarely in the overall process of bringing reform to Ourense" (160). This convincing study challenges the often perceived notion of a monolithic Spanish Church. If there is one area of weakness here it stems from the contention that Ourense can provide us with a picture of how the Catholic Reformation was received, or not received, in other outlying areas of Europe and the New World. While this may indeed be the case, some comparisons with other areas would have made this conclusion more apparent.

Both studies provide us with a picture of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Catholicism that allows for a better understanding of the complex and diverse factors operative in the life of the Church and the lives of the faithful.

John Carroll University
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Title Annotation:Review
Author:Cesareo, Francesco C.
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 22, 1999
Words:1280
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