Humanist and Observant Practices in Quattrocento Italian religious orders

Cécile Caby, Université Lumière Lyon 2 (

My presentation will proceed from a simple observation which has however multiple and heavy historiographical consequences: the penetration of literary practices emblematic of humanism into certain sectors of the regular orders in fifteenth-century Italy (familiar letters, classical oratory, dialogues etc.).

After a general presentation of this phenomenon, I’d like firstly to examine possible correlations and interactions with the contemporary development of reform practices and discourses within religious orders: is it possible to attribute these practices to one group rather than another, especially in divided orders? What relationship does exist between these choices and the affirmation strategies of the orders, or of certain families within them, in the different geopolitical contexts of fifteenth-century Italy?

As a second step, attention will be focused on oratory practices, particularly those deployed within the orders, for example in the context of the (general or provincial) chapters of orders, as privileged places for the elaboration, self-representation and exposition of the ideas of reform. What can we understand about reform and regularis observantia looking at these orationes?

Considering the wide range of issues involved, this presentation will take the form of a research outline based primarily on examples taken from the range of religious orders (mendicant orders and traditional monasticism).

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