Becoming (or not) a Bishop? Some Cases of Italian Observant Friars. Pietro Delcorno, Sylvie Duval

Talk to be presented at Weingarten, November 30 2018

Anonymous, Saint Bernardino of Siena,  XVth Century, Germany. New York, Museum of Modern Art

The multifaceted Observant movement was one of the driving forces in the attempts to reform the fifteenth-century Church. Yet the direct and permanent institutional involvement was not an obvious choice for Observant leaders.

On the one hand, the paper will focus on those Observant friars who became bishop and prioritized the (pastoral) reform of a local Church over their own religious orders. By focusing on figures such as Ludovico Barbo, Lorenzo Giustiniani, Niccolò Albergati, Antoninus Pierozzi and the network of people connected with San Giorgio in Alga, the paper will address the following questions: Did a model of ‘Observant bishop’ exist? Was it an Italian specificity, connected with the (political) role of the Papacy? How much were these Observant bishops influential for the sixteenth-century evolution of the figure of the bishop? What role did the 1523 canonization of Antoninus play?

On the other hand, the paper will look at Bernardino da Siena’s repeated refuses to become a bishop and point out to the presence of a different approach, which prioritized (itinerant) preaching. The paper will explore the hagiographical discourse – in words and images – developed to justify Bernardino’s refuse to become bishop. It will consider whether there was a concomitant line that opposed ‘true’ Observance and the acceptance of an institutional position within the ecclesiastical hierarchy and whether the claim about the superiority of the mission of charismatic preachers over that of local bishops played any role in the sixteenth-century Reformation.

Maestro del trittico di Imola, Madonna con Bambino in trono tra San Francesco di Assisi e San Bernardino da Siena, prima meta del Quattrocento. Milano, collezione privata (immagine: fondazione Zeri)

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