The Dominicans and the Making of Florentine Cultural Identity (13th-14th centuries)
From Firenze University Press Book
Johannes Bartuschat, University of Zurich
Elisa Brilli, University of Toronto
Delphine Carron, University of Fribourg
In the summer 1292 or shortly after, Guido Cavalcanti composes a somehow irreverent sonnet mocking both the new cult addressed to an image of the Virgin, posited in the loggia of Orsanmichele in Florence, and the concerns raised by Franciscan friars, who considered such popular piety as a form of worship — but only because, as Calvanti maliciously insinuates, the miraculous icon happens to be far from their convent.
In his reply, Guido Orlandi reminds him of the basic principles of Christian doctrines in terms of Mariology. He also invites his fellow to keep in due respect the mendicant orders. Franciscans, of course, who know the divine scriptures, and even more so –add Orlandi– Dominicans who are «the defenders of our faith» and whose «preaching is our medicine».
Dominicans’ mission as defensores fidei is a pervasive adage, well-spread in all Christian West. As this example shows, it is also an actual fact, which imbues city life and is worthwhile to be recalled, perhaps as a warning, to an excessively free-spirited love poet. As is generally the case with mendicant friars, Preachers have been an object of interest for medievalists since the collective research that characterized the Sixties and Seventies. As a result of the eighth centenary of the foundation of the Dominican Order in 2016, numerous publications and academic conferences have enriched this tradition of study. In comparison with these contributions, which have been intended for academic and non-specialist readers alike, this collection of essays is unique for its interdisciplinary approach as well as its specific focus, namely the city of Florence from the 1293 Ordinamenti di giustizia to the resistance against the siege of Henry VII in 1313.
It results from the research project Ambizione initiated by Delphine Carron and consolidated during the eponymous international conference at the Institute of Romance Studies and the Institute of Philosophy, University of Zurich (8–9 December 2016).
Its first aim is to create a dialogue between two distinct scholarly traditions: on the one hand, studies on cultural and political activity, as well as the didactic, theological, religious and pastoral initiatives of the Dominican Order; and on the other hand, studies on the history of Florence between the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Needless to say, Florence still dominates the historiography of central-northern Italy to the extent that it has progressively become the reference paradigm with which to explore other communal realities, especially Popular ones.
What was the contribution of the Dominicans to the construction of a specifically Florentine cultural identity and, vice versa, in what way did the Florentine context shape and precipitate unprecedented variations of customs and characteristic features of an Order that was, by nature and by vocation, translocal?
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