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“Enamelled with the Blood of a Noble Lineage”: Tracing Noble Blood and Female Holiness in Early Modern Neapolitan Convents and Their Architecture1

  • Helen Hills (a1)

The stark antithesis between the secular and the religious has been effectively challenged by scholarship of early modern Italy, which has shown the degree to which these fields necessarily overlapped. Nevertheless, studies of early modern female devotion, especially within convents, often present women as caught between competing claims of kinship and clerical authority, a conflict between family and convent, an opposition between the secular and the divine. This paper argues that within Neapolitan conventual circles, at least, nuns' noble blood was regarded as enhancing the spiritual value of their convents, and that, on the whole, the way in which the Decrees of the Council of Trent were interpreted served to “aristocratize” convents. Something of a fusion occurred between nobility and spirituality in women. This paper relates this fusion to discourses on nobility and to the aristocratization of convent culture after enclosure at Trent, examining how it marked post-Tridentine Neapolitan convent architecture and urbanism. In short, I argue that nuns' nobility enhanced the spiritual value of Neapolitan convents after Trent, and that such status was communicated discursively, architecturally, and urbanistically.

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2. See, for instance, van Kessel E. Schulte, “Virgins and Mothers Between Heaven and Earth,” in A History of Women in the West: Renaissance and Enlightenment Paradoxes, eds. Davis N. Zemon and Farge A. (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1993), 132–66; Bossy John, “The Counter Reformation and the People of Catholic Europe,” Past and Present 47 (1970): 55.

3. For Naples, see Russo Carla, I monasteri femminili di clausura a Napoli nel secolo XVII (Naples: Università Istituto di storia medioevale e moderna, 1970); Chavarria E. Novi, “Nobiltà di Seggio, Nobiltà Nuova e Monasteri Femminili a Napoli in Età Moderna,” Dimensioni e Problemi della Ricerca Storica 2 (1993): 84111, and Monache e Gentildonne: Un labile confine. Poteri politici e identità religiose nei monasteri napoletani secoli XVI–XVII (Milano: FrancoAngeli, 2001); Visceglia M. A., “Linee per uno studio unitario dei testamenti e dei contratti matrimoniali dell'aristocrazia feudale napoletana tra fine Quattrocento e Settecento,” Mélanges de L'Ecole Française de Rome 95 (1983): 393470. For other areas of Italy the literature is extensive; see, for example, Zarri Gabriella, Recinti. Donne, clausura e matrimonio nella prima età moderna (Bologna: Il mulino, 2000), esp. 43143; Sperling J. G., Convents and the Body Politics in Late Renaissance Venice (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1999), 1871; Andretta Stefano, “Il governo dell'osservanza: poteri e monache dal Sacco alia fine del Seicento,” in Storia d'ltalia: Annali 16. Roma, la città del papa, eds. Fiorani Luigi and Prosperi Adriano (Turin: Einaudi, 2000), 397430; Baernstein P. R., A Convent Tale: a Century of Sisterhood in Spanish Milan, (New York: Routledge, 2002).

4. See, for instance, Canosa R., II velo e il cappuccio. Monacazioni forzate e sessualità nei conventi femminili in Italia tra Quattrocento e Settecento (Rome: Sapere, 1991). Such ideas have a long-established lineage. In a sermon delivered at S. Maria Novella in Florence in the early fourteenth century, for instance, Fra Giordano da Rivalto suggested that convents were little more than dumping grounds for women who could not make it in marriage: “Which woman today enters the monastery, called by the spirit? No one. She enters there either through lack of beauty, because they are ugly, or through a defect of poverty so that they cannot have a husband.” Quoted by Weddle S., “Enclosing Le Murate: The Ideology of Enclosure and the Architecture of a Florentine Convent, 1390–1597” (Ph.D. diss., Cornell University, 1997), 49.

5. Daniel Bornstein, “Women and Religion in Late Medieval Italy: History and Historiography,” in Women and Religion in Medieval and Renaissance Italy, eds. Bornstein Daniel and Rusconi Roberto (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996), 4, 5.

6. Ibid., 5. Their virginity endowed nuns with special status. Virginity offered both the ideal of Christian transcendence of mundane social divisions, with virgins symbolizing redemption, even at great personal cost, and a sort of religious superiority, in which virgins, like the angels, were free from death, which was linked to sexuality and lust. Virginity was a potentially powerful state, with the capacity to mediate between the mundane and the divine, to transcend manhood and womanhood. Ecclesiastical authorities attempted to regulate and restrict virginity, partly because of its potential for transcendence and partly to support marriage, which was brought into the sacred realm at the Council of Trent that stipulated in 1563 that marriage vows required divine confirmation and clerical supervision. On virginity, see Bugge J., Virginitas: An Essay in the History of a Medieval Idea (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1975); Blok A., “Notes on the Concept of Virginity in Mediterranean Societies,” in Men and Women in Spiritual Culture, ed. Van Kessel E. (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1986), 2239; Fiume G. and Scaraffia L., eds., Quaderni Storici, n.s. 25:3 (1990): 701–14. On nuns' virginity and the city, see Sperling J. G., Convents and the Body Politic, 127–36; Hills Helen, Invisible City: the Architecture of Devotion in Aristocratic Convents in Baroque Naples (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), 4561.

7. Over 50 percent of Neapolitan saints were drawn from the highest social ranks (patricians, high-ranking officials, and aristocrats); under 9 percent came from artisanal or peasant groups. See Sallmann J-M, Santi barocchi: modelli di santità, pratiche devozionali e comportamenti religiosi nel regno di Napoli dal 1540 al 1750 (Lecce: n.p., 1994), 197. For these issues specifically within Naples, see also Sallmann J-M, “La sainteté mystique féminine à Naples au tournant des XVIe et XVIIe siècles,” in Culto dei santi: istituzioni e classi sociali in età preindustriale, eds. Gajano S. Boesch and Sebastiani L. (Rome: L'Aquila L. U. Japadre Editore, 1984), 638721. See also Renoux C., “Canonizzazione e santità femminile in età moderna,” in Storia d'Italia. Annali 16. Rome, la città del papa, eds. Fiorani L. and Prosperi A. (Turin: Einaudi, 2000), 731–51.

8. While nuns' Vitae emphasize above all the inherent merits of the individual nun, they frequently reveal crucial interventions by powerful patrons. They are often written by a family relation ambitious for the elevation of one of their members and are carefully dedicated to significant political players. Thus Marchese's D. M. Vita della Serva di Dio Suor Paola Maresca, monaca del Monastero di santa Caterina da Siena di Napoli, published by Geronimo Fasulo in Naples in 1669, was dedicated to Viceroy Pedro Antonio d'Aragona and promoted by Giovanni Domenico Maresca. On the patronage of female saints, see Papi A. Benvenuti, “Il ‘patronage’ nell'agiografia femminile,” in Ragnatele di rapporti: patronage e reti di relazione nella storia delle donne, eds. Ferrante L., Palazzi M., and Pomata G. (Turin: Rosenberg and Sellier, 1988), 201–18; Cabibbo S. and Modica Marilena, La Santa dei Tomasi: Storia di Suor Maria Crocefissa, 1645–1699, (Turin: Einaudi, 1989); Zarri G., ed., Finzione e santità tra medioevo e età moderna (Turin: Rosenberg and Sellier, 1991); Barone G., Caffiero M., and Barcellona F. Scorza, eds., Modelli di santità e modelli di comportamento, (Turin: Rosenberg and Sellier, 1994). For further bibliography see Ditchfield S., “Sanctity in Early Modern Italy,” Journal of Ecclesiastical History 47:1 (1996): 98112.

9. This was a general pattern and by no means confined to Naples or even to southern Italy. Thus the Palermitan, sister Rosaria Caterina (1668–1716), defied her family at crucial junctures in her dedication to God in the convent of S. Vincenzo Ferrer in Carini (Mongitore A., Compendio della Vita e Virtu della serva di Dio Suor Rosaria Caterina alias Detta di Cesù [Palermo: n.p., 1718], esp.15, 2225, 28, 41); and the Capuchin nun of Pavia, Maria Domitilla Galluzzi (d.1671), disconcerted her family, including her “pious aunts,” by her search for “great poverty.” See, Matter E. Ann, “The Personal and the Paradigm: the Book of Maria Domitilla Galluzzi,” in The Crannied Wall, ed. Monson C. (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1992), 8797, esp. 91.

10. See Sallmann, Santi barocchi, 201–12, 229–70.

11. Seventeenth-century Naples was Europe's second most populous city (after Paris). Scholars disagree as to precise figures but concur that the number of inhabitants swelled significantly. At the end of the fifteenth century immigration had increased the city's population to ca. 100,000 (at a time when the population of neither the Kingdom of Naples nor of the Mediterranean world was increasing). By the end of the century, following a boost in population due to immigration from the countryside in the second half of the sixteenth century, the population of Naples was probably in excess of 240,000. In 1630 G. C. Capaccio, Secretary of the City, estimated the population at 300,000, but that figure represents only citizens of Naples. By the middle of the seventeenth century the population of Naples reached over 400,000, probably around 450,000. De Seta C., Napoli, (Roma-Bari: Laterza, 1995), 129, 147.

12. For these issues, see Russo C., Monasteri femminili; Hills H., Invisible City; and Chavarria E. Novi, Monache e gentildonne.

13. For discussions of nobility in Renaissance and early modern Naples, see Vitale G., “Modelli culturali nobiliari a Napoli tra Quattrocento e Cinquecento,” Archivio storico per le province napoletane 105 (1987): 27103, and Muto G., “‘I Segni d'honore.’ Rappresentazioni delle dinamiche nobiliari a Napoli in Età moderna,” in Signori, Patrizi, Cavalieri, ed. Visceglia M. A. ( Roma–Bari: Laterza, 1992), 171–92. On the Neapolitan feudal aristocracy, see Astarita T., The Continuity of Feudal Power (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992). On the idea of nobility in early modern Italy in general, see Donati C., L'idea di nobiltà in Italia. Secoli XIV–XVIII (Bari: Laterza, 1988).

14. In the early years of the seventeenth century, the system of municipal government was based on less than 100 noble families and about 20,000 families that were politically active in the piazze or ottine (districts)—out of a population that reached a peak of at least three times that figure. Galasso, Napoli Spagnola, XXIV. On noble titles in Naples and their “inflation,” especially during the first three decades of the seventeenth century, see Muto G., “‘I Segni d'honore.’ Rappresentazioni delle dinamiche nobiliari a Napoli in Età moderna,” in Signori, Patrizi, Cavalieri, ed. Visceglia M. A. (Roma-Bari: Laterza, 1992), 177–79. On the genealogical industry, including the false manufacturers of noble family trees, see Donati C., L'Idea di Nobiltà in Italia, 220, 242, nn. 73 and 75.

15. On the Seggi, the principal source remains Turini C., Del origine e fundatione de' Seggi di Napoli (Naples: Il Beltrano, 1644). See also Galasso G., “Un'ipotesi di ‘blocco storico’ oligarchico borghese nella Napoli del ′600,” Rivista Storica Italiana 90 (1978): 507–29; Astarita, Continuity of Feudal Power, 24.

16. Celano Carlo, Notizie del bello, dell'antico e del curioso della città di Napoli con aggiunzioni … del Cav. G.B. Chiarini, ed. Chiarini G. B. (18561860); new edition with introduction by Macry P. (Napoli: Edizioni dell'Anticaglia, 2000), 3:629–35; 4:110–12, 133–34; Muto, “I Segni d'honore,” 176, n. 22. For the late-sixteenth-century popular radicalism within the Piazza del Popolo, which included alliance with the plebe against the Seggio nobles, see Villari Rosario, The Revolt of Naples (Cambridge: Polity, 1993), 5671.

17. Membership of a Seggio did not confer noble status; it was a recognition of the status of established resident nobles. Contarini L., La nobiltà di Napoli. Dialogo (Naples: Giuseppe Cacchij, 1569), 31. Attempts to open up Seggi to aristocratic families who were not members were thwarted in the sixteenth century, and after 1599 all applications required preliminary approval from the king. Thereafter each case was treated individually. Astarita, Continuity of Feudal Power, 24. The Seggi were not abolished until the edict of April 25, 1800. Muto, “I Segni d'honore,” 175.

18. See Muto, “I Segni d'honore,” 171'92.

19. Galasso, Napoli Spagnola, XIV.

20. Ibid., XIV.

21. Vitignano C., Cronica del Regno di Napoli (Naples: n.p., 1595), 4.

22. Chavarria Novi, “Nobiltà di Seggio,” 8788.

23. Celano, Delle Notitie del Bello, 3:140; Chavarria Novi, “Nobiltà di Seggio,” 86. See also Visceglia, “Scegliere la sepoltura,” 107–39.

24. Chavarria Novi, “Nobiltà di Seggio,” 87.

25. See Chavarria E. Novi, Monache e Gentildonne, (Milan: FrancoAngeli, 2001), 20120.

26. Archivio di Stato, Naples (henceforth ASN), Caracciola, “Esemplare delle nobili,” ff.156v–164r, ASN, Monasteri Soppressi (henceforth Mon. Sop.), S. Gregorio Armeno, 3435; Chavarria Nova, “Nobiltà di Seggio,” 87.

27. Visceglia, “Testamenti e Contratti,” 411.

28. On these debates outside Naples, see Donati, L'Idea di nobiltà in Italia. On these issues within Naples, see Ammirato Scipione, Delle famiglie nobili napoletane (Florence; G. Marescotti, 1580); Muto, “I Segni d'honore,” 179–80. On “magnificentia,” “splendor,” and “liberalitas,” see Vitale, “Modelli culturali,” 2741.

29. Muto, “I Segni d'honore,” 179. This led, in turn, to Agostino Nifo and Luca Prassiccio's disputes betwen 1520 and 1526 about the relative superiority of arms and letters. Ibid.

30. Muto, “I Segni d'honore,” 171–92; Donati, L'Idea di Nobiltà;, 219–21.

31. Totalto G., Discorsi cavallereschi (Naples: Appresso Horatio Saluigni, 1573), 1. See also Muto, “I Segni d'honore,” 179.

32. Muto, “I Segni d'honore,” 180–82. On the emphasis on the male noble's physical accomplishments, which were seen as a reflection of the nobility of the house as a whole, see Vitale, “Modelli culturali,” 5456.

33. Tutini C., Dell'origine e fundation de Seggi di Napoli, 185–89; see also Donati, L'Idea di nobiltà, 277–78.

34. For the strategies of the feudal aristocracy faced with the rise of the bureaucrats at Court, see Astarita T., The Continuity of Feudal Power, 159201. On the use of entail, see Ibid., 164–66 and Visceglia M. A., “Linee per uno studio unitario dei testamenti e dei contratti matrimoniali dell'aristocrazia feudale napoletana tra fine Quattrocento e Settecento,” Mélanges de l'Ecole Française de Rome 95 (1983): 393470.

35. “sembrasse una tal Corte un chiostro di ferventi Religiosi,” Vittorelli I. M., Della Vita e Virtù della Duchessa di Martina, D. Aurelia Imperiali nelli Caracciol (Naples: n.p., 1743), 15.

36. On female aristocratic behavior in this regard, see Visceglia, Il Bisogno di eternità;, 141–74. Aristocratic women's piety was carefully contained, for instance, through her husband's careful selection of a strict confessor. See Ibid., 172–73.

37. de Luca G. B., La Dama e il cavaliere (Rome: n.p., 1657), 501.

38. Astarita, Continuity of Feudal Power, 179, n. 43.

39. Confuorto, “Notizie,” MS (1693), BNN, I–D–5.

40. Villari R., La rivolta antispagnola a Napoli: le origini 1585–1647 (Bari: Laterza, 1994), 124.

41. Visceglia, “Testamenti e Contratti,” 446.

42. Visceglia, Il Bisogno di Eternità, 166–72; Frigo, “Dal Caos all'Ordine: sulla questione del ‘prender moglie’ nella trattatistica del sedicesimo secolo,” in Nel cerchio della luna: figure di donna in alcuni testi del XVI secolo, ed. Zancan M. (Venice: Marsilio, 1983), 8398.

43. Marginalization was produced by a series of interrelated aristocratic strategies and practices, such as the preferred choice of the groom's family household as home for newly married couples. See Visceglia, Il Bisogno di eternità.

44. Luca De, La Dama e il Cavaliere, 502.

45. The eldest daughters were allowed to marry. Astarita, Continuity of Feudal Power, 176.

46. Foucault exaggerated the differences between aristocratic (backward looking) and bourgeois (forward looking) attitudes in this regard. Foucault Michel, A History of Sexuality (Harmondsworth, U.K.: Penguin, 1976), 1:123–24.

47. Canones, et Decreta Sacrosancti Oecutnenici et Generalis Concilii Tridenti, sub Paulo III, Iulio III, Pio IIII, Pontificibus Max (Rome, 1564), Engl. trans. Waterworth J., The Canons and Decrees of the Sacred and Oecumenical Council of Trent (New York: C. Dolman, 1848); Creytens R., “La Giurisprudenza della Sacra Congregazione del Concilio nella Questione della Clausura delle Monache (1564–1576),” Apollinaris 37 (1964): 251–85; Creytens R., “La Riforma dei monasteri femminili dopo i Decreti Tridentini,” Il Concilio di Trento e la Riforma Tridentina: Atti del Convegno Storico Internazionale Trento, 1963 (Rome: Herder, 1965), 1:4584; Celano, Notitie del Bello, 1:250–51. An invaluable account of this process is given by Abbess Fulvia Caracciolo in 1577 in her account of enclosure at S. Gregorio Armeno in Naples (ASN, Monasteri soppressi, S. Gregorio Armeno 3435, ff.121r–164r).

48. “Bonifatii VIII constitutionem, quae incipit Periculoso, renovans, sancta synodus universis episcopis sub obtestatione divini iudicii et interminatione maledictionis aeternae praecipit, ut in omnibus monasteriis sibi subiectis ordinaria, in aliis vero Sedis Apostolicae auctoritate clausuram sanctimonialium, ubi violata fuerit, diligenter restitui, et, ubi inviolata est, conservari maxime procurent, inobedientes atque contradictores per censuras ecclesiasticas aliasque poenas, quacumque sappellatione postposita, compescentes, invocatio etiam ad hoc, si opus fuerit, auxilio brachii saecularis … Nemini autem sanctimonialium liceat, post professionem exire a monasterio, etiam ad breve tempus, quocumque praetextu, nisi ex aliqua legitima causa, ab episcopo approbanda, indultis quibuscumque et privilegiis non obstantibus.” Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent (Sess. 25, Cap. V), 240. This ruling opened gaping uncertainties about the correct measures to be taken with the open monasteries where enclosure had never existed. The Council ruled that professed nuns, or “sanctimoniales” (itself an ambivalent term since it was not clear whether it included tertiaries) were not to be allowed out of convents, except for a legitimate cause and with episcopal approval. This was based on the mistaken assumption that nuns who took the three solemn vows necessarily abdicated their free will, even where the rule allowed nuns to leave their convent. In fact, this renunciation had not been demanded by the popes from Sixtus IV onwards, when the solemn vows were changed to simple vows and regular tertiaries had been recognized as true professed nuns. For a discussion of the increased rigidification of interpretation of Trent, see Creytens R., “La Riforma dei monasteri femminili,” 5053, 60, 64, 65. On Periculoso, see Makowski E., Canon Law and Cloistered Women: Periculoso and Its Commentators, 1298–1545. Studies in Medieval and Early Modern Canon Law 5 (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1997).

49. Boccadamo G., “Una riforma impossibile? I papi e i primi tentativi di riforma dei monasteri femminili di Napoli nel ′500,” Campania Sacra 21 (1990): 96122; Solfaroli Camillocci, “L'obbedienza femminile tra virtù domestiche e disciplina monastica,” in Donna e Fede, ed. Scaraffia L. and Zarri G. (Roma-Bari: Laterza, 1994), 269–84;Canosa R., Il velo e il cappuccio.

50. See Bruzelius C., “Hearing is Believing: Clarissan Architecture, ca.1213–1340,” Gesta 31:2 (1992): 8391, and “Queen Sancia of Mallorca and the Convent Church of Sta Chiara in Naples,” Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome, XL (Bergamo: Istituto Italiano d'Arti Grafiche, 1995), 69100.

51. Russo, Monasteri Femminili, 69. For a discussion of these rankings in relation to the feudal and non-feudal nobilities, see Hills, Invisible City, 3557.

52. Mazzucchelli M., La monaca di Monza (suor Virginia Maria de Leyve) (Milan: TEA Storica nov., 1993), 28.

53. Russo, Monasteri Femminili, 54; ASN, Mon. Sop., S. Gregorio Armeno, 3451. Elsewhere in Italy as in Naples, dowries varied, despite attempts to establish standard sums. See Zarri G., “‘De Monialibus’ (Secoli XVI–XVII–XVIII),” Rivista di Storia e Letteratura Religiosa, Anno XXXIII, no. 3 (1997): 688.

54. Russo, Monasteri femminili, 54 and 54, n. 112. The daughter of Giovanni Angelo Muscettola and Laura Caracciolo, Scolastica entered S. Giuseppe dei Ruffi aged 14, with a dowry of 1,000 ducats “to be paid after her mother's death.” ASN, Mon. Sop., S. Giuseppe dei Ruffi, 4922, ff. 15, 20–28.

55. ASN, Mon. Sop, S. Francesco delle Cappuccinelle, 4540, ff.92r, 100r, and 108r.

56. ASN, Mon. Sop., S. Giuseppe dei Ruffi, 4922, f.18.

57. Ibid., f.18.

58. ASN, Mon. Sop., S. Gregorio Armeno, 3435, f.170r.

59. ASN, Mon. Sop., S. Gregorio Armeno, 3435, f.176r.

60. Tertiaries lived in convents, in communal households with other tertiaries, or with their families. See Creytens, “La Riforma,” 1, 4649.

61. Boccadamo G. G. “Le bizzoche a Napoli tra ‘600 e ’700,” in Campania Sacra 22 (1991): 361.

62. Ibid., 369; Russo, Monasteri Femminili, 5557.

63. When, for instance, sister Ippolita Sebastiano, daughter of Giovan Francesco, the Razionale of the Reale Camera della Summaria and Tommasina Candido, decided in 1622 to leave the convent of S. Francesco delle Cappuccinelle a Pontecorvo, where she and her sister had become nuns in September 1607, the convent repaid to her family only half of the annual income on her dowry. ASN, Mon. Sop, 4540, f.22r.

64. Russo, Monasteri Femminili, 54, and ASN, Mon. Sop., S. Monica, 4637, f.13r.

65. ASN, Mon. Sop., S. Monica, 4637, f.11r.

66. ASN, Mon. Sop., S. Monica, 4637, f.12v–13r.

67. Novices and young professed nuns were taught Christian doctrine, confession, and Communion; a teacher (maestra) listened to their recitations of the Rosary, divine office, and Mass, and ensured that they did not read profane books or read or write letters without approval. Russo, Monasteri Femminili, 6567.

68. Russo, Monasteri Femminili, 68.

69. ASN, Mon. Sop., S. Giuseppe dei Ruffi, 4922, f.196.

70. This practice extended throughout the peninsula and to France and Spain.

71. Russo, Monasteri Femminili, 64.

72. Russo, Monasteri Femminili, 60.

73. ASN, Mon. Sop., S. Francesco delle Cappuccinelle, 4540, f.4r. Nevertheless at the Sapienza, dowries rose to 3,000 ducats by the 1630s.

74. ASN, Mon. Sop., S. Francesco delle Cappuccinelle, 4540, f.4r.

75. ASN, Mon. Sop., S. Francesco delle Cappuccinelle, 4540, f.4r.

76. Strazzullo F., Edilizia e urbanistica a Napoli dal '500 al '700 (Naples: Arte Tipografica, 1995), 221.

77. ASN, Mon. Sop., S. Maria Donn'Albina, 3307, f.633r.

78. Ibid.

79. ASN, Mon Sop., S. Giuseppe dei Ruffi, 4922, f.161.

80. ASN, Mon. Sop., S. Giuseppe dei Ruffi, 4922, f.172.

81. ASN, Mon. Sop., S. Giuseppe dei Ruffi, 4922, f.170.

82. One cannot simply dismiss the use of this language as “simply conventional.” Conventions tell us about the society in which they circulate.

83. Macciucca Vargas, Dissertazione attorno alla Riforma degli Abusi introdotti ne' Munasterij delle Monache per le Doti e per le spese die vogliono dalle donzelle (Naples: Fiorentino, 1745), lxviii.

84. “la nobiltà del sangue e … la bontà e la santità della vita.” De Lellis C., Aggiunta alla Napoli Sacra di D. Cesare d'Engenio Caracciolo, Napolitano, ed. Aceto F. (Naples: Fiorentino, 1977), 1:122.

85. “non solo vi sono e vi sono state SSre. delle Illme. e nobilissime Piazze, seù Seggi di questa fedelissima Città e vasto Regno, ma dalle Spagne l'Avalos, et altre, e dalla Francia le Valses, di Rega. stirpe e sangue Reale; si che questo Venerabile Monastero si conserva con quell'Ille. Decoro, e splendida magnificenza di nobiltà che ricevé dalla sua primiera e gloriosa Culla.” ASN, Mon. Sop., S. Maria Donn'Albina, 3211, f.3.

86. “non solo era fondato mà fioriva in grand[issi]mo Santità e nobiltà.” ASN, Mon. Sop., S. Maria Donn'Albina, 3501, f.1r.

87. Regio P. and Torbizi C., Vita di S. Patricia vergine Figlia dell'Imperator Costante e Protettrice della Città, e Regno di Napoli, Descritta già da Monsignor Paolo Regio … e poi … ampliata da Cleonte Torbizi, ad istanza delle molte Reveren. Monache del Monasterio di S. Patricia di Napoli (Naples: Franco Savio Corbelletti, 1643), 4143.

88. Celano C., Notizie del bello; Caracciolo C. D'Engenio, Napoli sacra … ove oltre le vere orgini, e fundationi di tutte le chiese monasterij, cappelle, spedali, e d'altri luoghi sacri della città di Napoli, e de' suoi borghi, si tratta di tutti i corpi, e reliquie dé santi e beati, che vi si trovano, ed. Chiarini G. B. (Naples: Ottavio Beltrano, 1624).

89. Quoted by Scarano C., “La Chiesa e il monastero di S. Francesco dell'Osservanza,” Napoli Nobilissima 25 (1986): fasc.111, 57.

90. Ibid., 58. These women were prominent patrons of the convent. Further research is needed to clarify their involvement.

91. On the complexity of issues determining choice of location and manner of noble burial in Naples, see Visceglia M. A., “Corpo e sepoltura nei testamenti della nobiltà napoletana (XVI–XVIII secolo),” Quaderni Storici 50:2 (1982): 583614. The circumstances and motives in and for which lay men and women electing to be buried in female convent churches require further research, both in Naples and elsewhere.

92. Celano, Notizie, III, 801.

93. ASN, Mon. Sop., Donn'Albina, 3211, f.2.

94. “acciò si veda come dissi che tutti i tre Monasteri erano di nobiltà segnalissima,” ASN, Mon. Sop., S. Maria Donn'Albina, 3211, f.6.

95. ASN, Mon. Sop., Armeno S. Gregorio, 3435, ”Esemplare delle nobili memorie della Rda. Fulvia Caracciola, 1577,“ 146v148r.

96. Metaphrastes Simeon, Vita di S. Gregorio Archivescovo Armenia, ed. Gravina Fr. F., Hanc Vitam cum miraculis s. Gregorij collectam ex Metaphraste, exemplari Longobardo, and relationibus Christianitatis Armeniae (Naples: n.p., 1630).

97. Metaphrastes, Vita, 190–91.

98. In 1520 the Seggio of Nido insisted that “four quarters” of any member's immediate ancestors must have been gentlemen. Vitale, “Modelli Culturali,” 67.

99. In his late-fifteenth-century discussion of nobility, Giovanni Pontano refers specifically to “stragula gemmis intertexta” as an appropriate means to demonstrate “splendor.” Pontano G., “De splendore,” in Opera omnia soluta oratione compposita (Venice: Aldi Andrea Iunio, 1518), 138r, quoted by Vitale, “Modelli culturali,” 2829, n. 1.

100. Metaphrastes, Vita, 191.

101. Ibid., 190–91.

102. Labrot G., Collections of Paintings in Naples 1600–1780 (Munich: K. G. Saur, 1992), 6. The best account of palace building in baroque Naples remains Labrot G., Palazzi Napoletani: Storie di nobili e cortegiani 1520–1750 (Naples: Electa, 1993). See also Baroni in città. Residenze e comportamenti dell'aristocrazia napoletana 1530–1734 (Naples: Società Editrice Napoletana, 1979), esp. 49; “Le comportement collectif,” 45–71. On the significance of the Viceregal Court for Neapolitan urbanism, see De Seta C., Napoli (Roma-Bari: Laterza, 1995), 95164; Napoli fra Rinascimento e Illuminismo (Naples: Electa, 1997), 60127; Galasso G., Napoli capitale: identità politica e identità cittadina (Naples: Electa, 1998), 125–31; Strazzullo F., Edilizia e urbanistica a Napoli dal'500 al ′700 (Naples: Arte Tipografica, 1995) 330.

103. I am here concerned with the way in which convents (including their architecture) were presented as part of the aristocratic (dynastic) body constituting the city of Naples.

104. “situata in mezzo di molti altri monasteri di RRde. Monache, … come altresi tra molti Palagi principali ed Edificij de Particolari, e da che ave avuto principio sin' a tempi correnti si è mantenuto, e si mantiene con ogni splendore, e decoro, per essere stato sempre abitato da Religiose di famiglie, e nobili, e molto Illustri, e Civili di questa Città.” ASN, Mon. Sop., S. Maria della Consolazione, 4672, f.2. An almost identical claim occurs a few pages later in the account by Cesare d'Ingenio Caracciolo, Ibid., f.12.

105. Cantone, “I Conservatory dell'Imbrecciata di Gesù e Maria,” 215. The Cappuccinelle, the Maddalena, and the Periclitanti were founded as conservatories. The Cappuccinelle had its origins in 1585 when Giovan Luca Giglio and Eleonora Scarpato “began by getting some girls to enter, gathering them throughout the city, exhorting them to take the aforementioned [monastic] habit, and to attend at set hours to say office and other prayers, in imitation of the Capuchin fathers.” ASN, Mon. Sop, 4540, f.2r. The Maddalena, founded here in 1605, housed poor girls, and the Periclitanti, founded in 1674, was dedicated to “protecting the honour of those damsels who were increasingly ensnared by wolves.” Celano refers to the girls of the Periclitanti as “the damsels who through poverty are at risk of losing their honesty.” Celano, ed. Chiarini, 799.

106. See Hills, Invisible City, 120–39.

107. “apportare notabile pregiudizio” (Monasteri soppressi, S. Andrea, 4939, f.267), quoted by Colombo A., “Sant' Andrea delle Dame,” Napoli Nobilissima 13., fasc. IV, p. 3.

108. Colombo A., “Sant' Andrea delle Dame,” Napoli Nobilissima 13, fasc. IV, p. 4.

109. ASN, Mon. Sop., S. Giuseppe dei Ruffi, 4919, f.33r.

110. ASN, Mon. Sop., S. Giuseppe dei Ruffi, 4919, f.33r.

111. ASN, Mon. Sop., S. Giuseppe dei Ruffi, 4949, ff.46r–445r.

112. “non era necessario, ma puramente voluntario, per magnificenza.” ASN, Mon. Sop., S. Giuseppe dei Ruffi, 4919, f.46r.

113. “La Pianta e sito di detto antichissimo e nobilissimo monastero existe in forma quadrata, con semetria di finissima Architettura a la moderna ridotto, con magnificenza di bellissime stanze e correlative, e degne alia grandezza di tante nobilissime suore, spose di Giesù Christo” ASN, Mon. Sop., Donn'Albina, 3211, f.4.

114. On the practice of building in “blocks” or isole, see De Seta C., Napoli (Roma-Bari: Laterza), 136–40; Strazzullo F., Edilizia e Urbanistica a Napoli dal '500 al '700 (Naples: Arte Tipografica, 1999), 77124. On aristocratic palace architecture at this date in Naples, see Labrot G., Baroni in città, esp. 4850, and “Le Comportement collectif,” 4571.

115. For all its grandiosity the portal of Palazzo Maddaloni is not central, as a result of the piecemeal building of the palace. See Labrot G., Palazzi Napoletani, 122–25; Cantone G., Napoli Barocca e Cosimo Fanzago (Roma-Bari: Laterza, 1990), 125–29.

116. The grandiose rusticated entrance does not simply signify “entrance,” since in seventeenth-century Naples non-aulic entrances were unadorned. It marks the entrance as socially significant and noble and was the symbolic object of antinoble attack during revolts. See Labrot, Palazzi napoletani, 124, 125–27.

117. Tim Benton first drew my attention to the degree to which this facade resembles a palace. Palazzo Gravina was built for Ferdinando Orsini, duke of Gravina. The building was begun in 1513 by Gabriele D'Angelo and finished in 1549 by Giovanni Francesco de Palma (Mormanno). For Palazzo Gravina, see Ceci G., “Il Palazzo Gravina,” Napoli Nobilissima 6 (1897): 24, 2431; Chierici U., “II Palazzo Gravina,” Atti del I congresso nazionale di storia dell'architettura (1936) (Florence: n.p., 1938), 217–29; Rotili M., L'arte del Cinquecento nel regno di Napoli (Naples: Società Editrice Napoletana, 1972), 5859; Labrot, Palazzi napoletani, 124, 128, 328, n. 86.

118. “the new street will be of the greatest convenience to the public and to traffic allowing the passage of goods from the quarter of the Marina del Vino to the quarter above, since there is no other street which provides such convenience, apart from Mezzocanone and the strada delli ferri vecchi.” ASN, Mon. Sop., SS. Marcellino e Festo, 2882, printed document of ca.1720, n.p.

119. “nel Mon[aster]o di s. Marcellino vivono le donne del primo ordine di questa Città, le quali per servir' à Dio, e publico bene, havendosi eletto menare la lor' vita in perpetua clausura, post'in non cale i diletti del mondo, e commodo delle proprie case, sono meritevoli di tutta la maggior' equità, ed attenzione, acciò non si pentono del loro stato, e per l'innanzi non s'arrestino dal professarvi.” ASN, Mon. Sop., SS. Marcellino e Festo, 2882, undated printed pamphlet, ca.1720, n.p.

120. The rents of 166 ducats and 6 carlini paid by the Benedictines to date for the disputed properties were returned to them. ASN, Mon. Sop., SS. Marcellino e Festo, 2882, n.p.

121. I am not suggesting that the decision was determined solely by the arguments advanced by either side. The Jesuits were probably successful because of their consolidated position with regime change after the War of the Spanish Succession, but the terms in which they and the nuns advanced their position are telling.

122. Likewise, an ecclesiastical treatise on the role of women by Agostino Valier, Bishop of Verona, describes cloistered virgins as playing an important role in reconstituting the discipline of their city, by furnishing through their well ordered respected convents a bulwark (“baluardo”) against evil. De'Ricordi del cardinale Agostino Valiero lasciati alle Monache nella sua Visitazione fatta l'anno del santissimo Giubileo MDLXXV (Padua: n.p., 1744 [1575]), 22.

1 Research for this article was made possible by an AHRB Matching Leave Award taken in conjunction with Manchester University research leave (2001–02) and British Academy Small Grants. I am pleased to thank those institutions for their support. My colleagues in the School of Art History and Archaeology displayed their generosity of spirit and intellectual commitment in their support for my research leave. My greatest debts are to Neapolitans. Giuliana Boccadamo, Gaetana Cantone, Giuseppe Galasso, Cesare de Seta, Genoveffa Palumbo, and Architetto C. Pasinetti deserve special thanks. I am indebted to the unfailing efficiency and helpfulness of Nicola Spinosa, director of the Soprintendenza Speciale per il Polo Museale di Napoli, and to his staff. My thanks also to Felicita de Negri and her staff at the Archivio di Stato, to all at the Biblioteca Nazionale di Napoli (especially in the manuscript section), the Archivio Diocesano, and the Biblioteca della Società Napoletana di Storia Patria. Massimo Velo in Naples and Michael Pollard and Derek Trillo provided timely photographic assistance. Encouragement and stimulating insights throughout the process of research and writing came from many people, but I should thank especially Sara Cabibbo, Sarah Cormack, Joseph Connors, Simon Ditchfield, Irene Fosi, Peter Higginson, Roberto Rusconi, and Mike Savage. I presented an earlier version of this paper at the “Religion and the Early Modern State” conference at Keele University in June, 2003; it benefited considerably from the questions I received then. Margaret Littler gave thoughtful feedback during the last stages of writing. Elegant translations were provided by Mary Pardo; otherwise they are my own. Finally, I should like to thank the anonymous readers of Church History for their stimulating questions and insightful suggestions in the last stages.

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