An Amphibious Identity: Apollonio Bianchi between Observance and Humanism

Pietro Delcorno, Radboud Universiteit (p.delcorno@let.ru.nl)

Apollonio Bianchi (d. c. 1450) was an Observant Franciscan friar able to address the crowds with spectacular bonfires of vanities while, at the same time, he wrote orations, treatises, and letters following the rules of the humanistic rhetoric, addressing princes and cardinals in the most qualifying forms of the time. His hybrid and conscious cultural identification (expressed by adopting specific models and discursive practices) is ideal to investigate the multifaceted and complex relationships between Observance and humanism.

Bonfire of vanities – Detail in: Giovanni da Capestrao preaching in front of the Dom of Bamberg, painting, 1470/75, Historisches Museum Bamberg

This is particularly true when considering his Libellus de vite prestantia, an eulogy of the (Franciscan) voluntary poverty, written between 1441 and 1444. In this text, Apollonio suggests a conciliation between the two movements by presenting the Observant preacher as the mature outcome of a religious Order exalted as home of the litterarum studia, indicating the idealized champions of this form of life and of action within society in Bernardino da Siena and (perhaps even more interestingly) Alberto da Sarteano, both still alive when Apollonio wrote.

Expressed in humanist forms, this manifesto of Franciscan self-awareness was part of the wider debate on the role of learning within the Italian Franciscan Observance, a debate particularly dynamic exactly in those years. Furthermore, an additional element of interest comes from the reception history of the texts of this quite obscure friar, which found their place in several humanist miscellanies. By situating Apollonio alongside the main authors of his time, these miscellanies, copied and disseminated also outside Italy, show that he was actually perceived as part of the broader res publica litteratum, while instead his contribution seems to leave little trace within his own religious family.

Sankt Pölten (Austria), Diözesanbibliothek, Codex 63, fol. 205v.
Apollonio Bianchi, Libellus de vite prestantia, incipit of the dedicatory letter addressed to Cardinal Gerardo Landriani, copied by the humanist Johannes Tröster, in Wiener Neustadt around 1454.

Note: The research is the fruit of a collaboration with Marco Falcone.


Laisser un commentaire

Votre adresse e-mail ne sera pas publiée.

Ce site utilise Akismet pour réduire les indésirables. En savoir plus sur comment les données de vos commentaires sont utilisées.