Piety and Plague: From Byzantium to the Baroque

Franco Mormando & Thomas Worcester, eds.

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This research draws extensively upon a wealth of primary sources, both printed and painted, and includes ample bibliographical reference to the most important secondary sources, providing much new insight into how generations of Europeans responded to this dread disease. (SCE&S 78)

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Description

Sixteenth Century Essays & Studies, Vol. 78

Plague was one of the enduring facts of everyday life on the European continent, from earliest antiquity through the first decades of the eighteenth century. It represents one of the most important influences on the development of Europe’s society and culture. In order to understand the changing circumstances of the political, economic, ecclesiastical, artistic, and social history of that continent, it is important to understand epidemic disease and society’s response to it.
To date, the largest portion of scholarship about plague has focused on its political, economic, demographic, and medical aspects. This interdisciplinary volume offers greater coverage of the religious and the psychological dimensions of plague and of European society’s response to it through many centuries and over a wide geographical terrain, including Byzantium. This research draws extensively upon a wealth of primary sources, both printed and painted, and includes ample bibliographical reference to the most important secondary sources, providing much new insight into how generations of Europeans responded to this dread disease.

While much has been written of late concerning the plague, each and every one of these authors has given us a new insight into the problem of dealing with ostensibly incurable epidemic disease in the context of contemporary religious belief as expressed in art and literature.

—Jane C. Hutchison,
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Contents

The Literature of Plague and the Anxieties of Piety in Sixth-Century Byzantium....Anthony Kaldellis
Mice, Arrows, and Tumors: Medieval Plague Iconography North of the Alps.....Pamela Berger
Visualizing Death: Medieval Plagues and the Macabre.....Elina Gertsman
The Making of a Plague Saint: Saint Sebastian’s Imagery and Cult before the Counter-Reformation.....Sheila Barker
Protestants and Plague: The Case of the 1562/63 Pest in Nurnberg.....Ronald K. Rittgers
The Canker Friar: Piety and Intrigue in an Era of New Diseases.....William Eamon
Poussin’s The Plague at Ashdod: A Work of Art in Multiple Contexts.....Elisabeth Hipp
Plague as Spiritual Medicine and Medicine as Spiritual Metaphor: Three Treatises by Etienne Binet, S.J. (1569–1693).....Thomas Worcester
Pestilence, Apostasy, and Heresy in Seventeenth-Century Rome: Deciphering Michael Sweerts’s Plague in an Ancient City.....Franco Mormando

Authors

Franco Mormando is associate professor of Italian studies at Boston College. He holds a doctorate in Italian literature from Harvard University as well as a licentiate in church history from the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, having also completed the Biennio di Filosofia program at the Gregorian University in Rome. In 1999, he was principal curator and catalogue editor of the Boston Caravaggio exhibition, Saints and Sinners: Caravaggio and the Baroque Image. He was also co-curator of the 2005 exhibition at the Worcester Art Museum, Hope and Healing: Painting in Italy in a Time of Plague, 1500–1800. His book, The Preacher’s Demons: Bernardino of Siena and the Social Underworld of Early Renaissance Italy, was awarded the Howard Marraro Prize for Excellence in Italian historical scholarship by the American Catholic Historical Association. In September 2005, he was inducted by the president of Italy into the Italian Republic’s meritorious Ordine della Stella della Solidarietà Italiana, with the title of Cavaliere (Knight).

Thomas Worcester is associate professor of history at the College of the Holy Cross. A specialist in the religious and cultural history of early modern France and Italy with a doctorate from Cambridge University, Worcester is the author of Seventeenth-Century Cultural Discourse: France and the Preaching of Bishop Camus. He co-curated the 1999 Boston College exhibition, Saints and Sinners: Caravaggio and the Baroque Image. He co-edited From Rome to Eternity: Catholicism and the Arts in Italy, ca. 1550–1650. Worcester was one of four curators of Hope and Healing: Painting in Italy in a Time of Plague, 1500–1800, an exhibition at the Worcester Art Museum. His book, The Cambridge Companion to the Jesuits, was released in 2008.

Reviews

[Piety and Plague] creatively explores how historians of Christian thought and ecclesiastical life, art historians, and social historians can successfully blend their insights to produce more sharply focused pictures of the past than each might without the other disciplines' insights.... These nine essays, enriched by copious reproductions of works of art in several cases, are indeed illuminating and provide patterns for further interdisciplinary study.

Church History

This is a rich volume that should find a home on the shelves not only of specialists but of anyone interested in Medieval and Renaissance Europe. The themes present in this work–in particular the variety of reactions to death and disease a any time, and the tensions between physical and spiritual in cause and remedy–open a window onto more general attitudes of the different times and places under consideration.

Canadian Journal of History

This is a welcome addition to a field often dominated by demographic and epidemiological studies…the collection offers challenging readings of well known and less familiar plagues and pictures, and deservedly focuses attention on the issue of how Christian beliefs shaped responses to epidemic disease.

Renaissance Quarterly

Epidemics of acute disease are now recognized as one of the most important influences shaping European history, but most studies of it have focused on political, economic, demographic, and medical aspects. Here scholars of the classics, art history, history, church history, literature, and theology explore the religious, cultural, and psychological aspects of plague and society’s response to it.

Book News Inc.

This fine interdisciplinary collection of essays addresses the religious, psychological, and cultural responses to the onslaughts of the bubonic plague from late antiquity to the late seventeenth century. It offers a range of novel insights based on known but otherwise unexplored material, written evidence, and visual sources, and provides examples of superb methodological skill and sophistication in action.

Sixteenth Century Journal

A genuine strength of the volume is its contribution to our understanding of plague iconography and metaphor...it is refreshing to see a variety of source material being utilized.

The Catholic Historical Review

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