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Prophetic Rome in the High Renaissance Period.

The New Jerusalem or the New Babylon, the City of God or the Great Whore on her seven hills, Julian and Medicean Rome emerges from this rich collection of essays by various authorities not as the antique city of the humanists, but in what the editor aptly describes as "a paradoxical double role": as the city both of providential prophecy and of dreadful apocalypse, the future seat of the Angelic Pope and of Antichrist, the mystical subject of flagellatio and of transfiguratio. Prominent, as one might expect given Marjorie Reeves' own seminal work, is the multi-faceted impact of the vision of the twelfth century Calabrian abbot, Joachim of Fiore. His tripartite division of world history culminating in the Age of the Spirit - particularly as it was articulated in the early fourteenth century in the Vaticinia de summis pontificibus - led his Renaissance followers to expect a renewed and triumphant papacy under a Pastor Angelicus who would purge the Church, restore the Greeks to Latin obedience, and preside over the conversion or destruction of all infidels, preeminently the Turks. Along with the expectation of such a pope came the call in the 1380s for a second Charlemagne - whether French or German remained at issue - who would be the chastiser of Antichrist and the restorer of a truly holy Roman empire.

Nineteen essays - three of them by Reeves, including the introduction on the medieval heritage - are organized under seven categories and address the proliferation and circulation of new prophecies; prophecy and its relationships to the councils, popular culture, political themes, and iconography; and five interpreters of prophecy. Reeves provides each section with a brief preface and William Hudon's essay on the twenty-two day pontificate of Marcellus II serves nicely as an epilogue. There is an excellent bibliography and an index of MSS as well as a general index.

Anna Morisi-Guerra, the authority on the topic, takes us through the necessary initiation: an account of the Apocalypsis Nova, "the summa of the culture of a time of crisis," with its prophecy in its fourth raptus of the coming of a Pastor Angelicus. It was attributed to the Portuguese knight, Amadeus, who joined the Minorites, and eventually ended up in Rome in 1472 as Confessor to Sixtus IV, spending much of his time in a cave on the Janiculum near the monastery of San Pietro in Montorio, a Franciscan congregation with a special role to play, as this volume makes clear. It was not, however, until 1502, when Cardinal Carvajal, patron of this congregation and a man with papal ambitions, unsealed the Apocalypsis in San Pietro with great ceremony, that the book began to circulate widely, acquiring in the process corruptions and a number of "frenzied interpolations," some of the most important of which came from the hand of Salviati, the conventual friar of Bosnian origin who had been a pupil of Bessarion.

In the subsequent essays Aldo Landi deals with the Council of Pisa (1511-1513); and Nelson Minnich with the Fifth Lateran Council (1512-1517), the roles of Egidio of Viterbo and Cajetan, the controversy over the saintliness of Savonarola, and the council's various deliberations on the status of prophesying along with the restrictions it placed on prophets using specific dates. Marjorie Reeves writes on Egidio and his prophetic view of history, his debts to the cabbala, his interpretation of the first twenty psalms as a prophecy of the ten pre- and ten post-Christian ages, his hailing Leo X as the first pontiff of the dawning Tenth Age, and his identification of Charles V as the last world emperor. Nelson Minnich then addresses the role of prophecy in the career of Cardinal Carvajal, the prime-mover behind the Council of Pisa, who saw himself as Amadeus' Pastor Angelicus. Cesare Vasoli writes in some detail on the roles of Salviati, the chief elaborator of the Apocalypsis Nova, and one of the chief defenders of Savonarola, while Roberto Rusconi treats interestingly of Pietro Galatino, his voluminous collection of prophetic manuscripts, his self-identification too with the Pastor Angelicus and his pro-Hapsburg orientation. Bernard McGinn looks at Paulus Angelus, the prolix author of In Sathan ruinam tyrannidis (1524); and Ottavia Niccoli explores "low" prophetic culture in Rome at the onset of the Cinquecento, concentrating particularly on monstrous births. Angus MacKay propositions the subject of Roman whores (Rome - the Whore of Babylon) and Delicado's picaresque novel La Lozana Andaluza - I found this sally rather tangential however - while Thomas Cohen considers another minor hermit-prophet, the irascible Fra Pelagio. John Headley, in a major piece, turns again to the career of Charles V's Grand Chancellor Gattinara and to his imperial, Dantean messianism, which, in invoking the image of a Second Charlemagne, effectively applied "scriptural texts properly pertaining to the Messiah" to the Saviour-Emperor. Marjorie Reeves has a note on the prophecies accompanying the Sack of Rome; and Adriano Prosperi has an excellent essay on the prophetic context of Columbus' voyage, including the Libro de las profeccias, on the Franciscan missions to the New World, and on the Americas themselves as the site of prophecy.

Finally, three suggestive studies explore the impact of Joachimite ideas on iconography: Malcolm Bull looks at the program of the Sistine Chapel ceiling and Joachimite typology; and Josephine Jungic at two Transfigurations, Raphael's and Sebastiano del Piombo's, which, in the early sixteenth century at least, were both in San Pietro in Montorio. She turns in a second essay to Sebastiano's group portrait now known as Cardinal Bandinello Sauli and Three Companions (Sauli was allegedly part of the Conspiracy of Cardinals to poison Leo X in 1517, but also a prophecy's candidate for the Pastor Angelicus).

A wide-ranging collection, this volume is exceptionally stimulating, well edited and well proofed, and, granted the recurring Joachimist motifs, contains little repetition. It is a pity it costs so much.

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Author:Allen, M.J.B.
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 22, 1995
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