Skip to main content Accessibility help

Preaching Magnificence in Renaissance Florence*

  • Peter Howard (a1)

The magnificence with which the Florentine Renaissance is synonymous derived its power from a virtue elucidated and disseminated by influential preachers as early as the 1420s. Most notably, Sant’ Antonino Pierozzi O.P. — preacher, reformer, confidant of Cosimo de’ Medici, and eventually the city’s archbishop — drew on and creatively adapted the language of Aquinas and others to forge a public theology of magnificence apposite to the needs of his city and consonant with its republican values. This was well before the mid-1450s and the treatise of Timoteo Maffei which thus far has been the focus of scholarly attention.

Hide All

The present article had its origins in a conference on “Preaching the Virtues in the Middle Ages,” organized in April 2006 for the research program A Genealogy of Morals: The Cardinal Virtues in the Middle Ages, directed by István Bejczy and cosponsored by the Netherlands Organisation of Scientific Research (NWO) and the Radboud University, Nijmegen (though my initial ideas were first aired at a conference, convened by Catherine Kovesi, Dale Kent, and myself, at the University of Melbourne in 2003). My thinking was further honed at St. Andrews University, Scotland, where I presented an extended paper in September 2006: I thank Michèle Mulchahey for the invitation. I am grateful to Louis Green, Bill Kent, Richard Goldthwaite, Cynthia Polecritti, and an anonymous evaluator for their comments. I am also indebted to Timothy Krause, my copyeditor, for valuable stylistic suggestions. My enduring thanks go to Jane Drakard, who, as always, provided unfailing encouragement, in addition to her skills as an astute and critical reader of numerous drafts.

Hide All
Aesop’s Fables. Trans. Laura Gibbs. Oxford, 2002.
Alberti, Leon Battista. De re aedificatoria. 1485. Published under the Archimedes Project by Harvard University and the Max Planck Institute. PDF download, (accessed 19 December 2007).
Alberti, Leon Battista. Ten Books on Architecture. Ed. Rykwert, Joseph. Trans. Leoni, James. London, 1955.
Alberti, Leon Battista. On the Art of Building in Ten Books. Trans. Rykwert, Joseph, Leach, Neil and Tavernor, Robert. Cambridge, MA, 1988.
Alighieri, Dante. La Vita Nuova: I Trattati De Vulgari Eloquio, De Monarchia e la Questione De Aqua Et Terra. Ed. Fraticelli, Pietro. 2 nd ed., Florence, 1861.
Alighieri, Dante. De Vulgari Eloquentia. Ed. and trans. Botterill, Steven. Cambridge, 1996.
Antoninus of Florence. Chroniques de Saint Antonin: Fragments Originaux du Titre XXII (1378–1459). Ed. Morçay, Raoul. Paris, 1913.
Antoninus of Florence. Sermones. Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, Florence, MS Conventi soppressi A.8.1750.
Antoninus of Florence. Summa Historialis. Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, Florence, MS. II. I.376.
Antoninus of Florence. Sancti Antonini Archiepiscopi Florentini Ordinis Praedicatorum Summa Theologica. Verona, 1740. Reprint, Graz, 1959.
Aquinas, Thomas. St Thomas Aquinas Summa Theologiae. Vol. 42, Courage (2a 2ae. 123–40). Trans. Anthony, Ross O.P. and Walsh, P. G.. London, 1965.
Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics: Books II–IV. Trans. Taylor, C. C. W.. Oxford, 2006.
Aurelius, Augustinus. De libero arbitrio libri tres. In Patrologia Latina ed. Migne, J.-P., vol. 32 cols. 12191309 Paris, 1845.
Baldassarri, Stefano Ugo and Arielle, Saiber, eds. Images of Quattrocento Florence: Selected Writings in Literature, History and Art. New Haven, 2000.
Hans, Baron. “ Franciscan Poverty and Civic Wealth as Factors in the Rise of Humanistic Thought.” Speculum 13 (1938): 137
Bec, Christian. Les Marchands écrivains: Affaires et humanisme à Florence 1375–1434. Paris, 1967.10.1515/9783111631134
István, Bejczy. “John of La Rochelle and William Peraldus on the Virtues and Vices.” Archivium Franciscanum Historicum 97 (2004): 99110
Bejczy, István. “Cardinal Virtues in a Christian Context: The Antithesis between Fortitude and Humility in the Twelfth Century.” Medioevo 31 (2006): 4967
Bejczy, István and Newhauser, Richard G., eds. Virtue and Ethics in the Twelfth Century. Leiden, 2005.10.1163/9789047407270
da Siena, Bernardino. Le Prediche Volgari: Quaresimale del 1425. Ed. Cannarozzi, Ciro. 3 vols. Florence, 1940.
Borsi, Franco. Leon Battista Alberti. New York, 1977.
Boyle, Leonard, O.P.Notes on the Education of the Fratres Communes in the Dominican Order in the Thirteenth Century.” In Boyle, O.P., Pastoral Care, Clerical Education and Canon Law, 1200–1400, 249–67. London, 1981.
Boyle, Leonard, O.P. The Setting of the “Summa theologiae” of Saint Thomas. In Boyle, , Facing History: A Different Thomas Aquinas. 6591. Louvain-la-Neuve, 1982.
Boyle, Leonard, O.P. “Saint Thomas Aquinas and the Third Millennium.” Presented at “A Symposium: St. Thomas Aquinas and the Third Millennium: For Dominican Educators in Higher Education,” Dominican Conference Center, River Forest, Illinois, 9–11 April 1999. (accessed 19 December 2007).
Brown, Alison.“The Humanist Portrait of Cosimo de’ Medici, Pater Patriae.” In Brown, , The Medici in Florence: The Exercise and Language of Power, 352. Florence, 1992.
Brucker, Gene A. The Civic World of Early Renaissance Florence. Princeton, 1977.
Bruni, Leonardo. “Preface to Book I of the Aristotelian Treatise on Economics, or Family Estate Management, Addressed to Cosimo de’ Medici.” In The Humanism of Leonardo Bruni: Selected Texts, ed. and trans. Griffiths, Gordon, Hankins, James and Thompson, David, 305–06. Binghamton, 1987.
Bruni, Leonardo. History of the Florentine People. Ed. and trans. Hankins, James. Cambridge, MA, 2001.
Bruni, Leonardo. Isagogicon moralis disciplinae. In Montserrat Jiménez San Cristóbal, “La versión castellana del Isagogicon moralis disciplinae de Leonardo Bruni conservada en el incunable 1.704 de la Biblioteca Nacional de Madrid.” Cuadernos de Filologì a Clásica: Estudios Latinos 22 (2002): 87175
Burke, Jill. Changing Patrons: Social Identity and the Visual Arts in Renaissance Florence. University Park, 2004.
Camporeale, Salvatore. “Humanism and the Religious Crisis of the Late Quattrocento: Giovanni Caroli, O.P., and the Liber dierum lucensiumi .” In Christianity and the Renaissance: Image and Religious Imaginiation in the Quattrocento, ed. Verdon, Timothy and Henderson, John, 208–25. New York, 1990.
Castiglione, Francesco. “Vita.” In Sancti Antonini Archiepiscopi Florentini Ordinis Praedicatorum Summa Theologica, coll. xxii–lxxii, 1740. Reprint, Graz, 1959.
Cavalcanti, Giovanni. Istorie Fiorentine. Ed. Polidori, Filippo. 2 vols. Florence, 1839.
Cerracchini, Luca Giuseppe, ed. Fasti Teologali ovvero Notizie Istoriche del Collegio De Teologi dell Sacra Università Fiorentina dall sua Fondazione fino all’anno 1738. Florence, 1738.
La Chiesa e il Convento di Santo Spirito a Firenze. Ed. Luchinat, Cristina Acicini and Capretti, Elena. Florence, 1966.
Cicero, Marcus Tullius. “Rhetorici Libri Duo Qui Vocantur De Inventione.” In Cicero, , De Inventione, De Optimo Genere Oratorum, Topica, 1346. London, 1960.
Clarke, Georgia. “Magnificence and the City: Giovanni Il Bentivoglio and Architecture in Fifteenth-Century Bologna.” Renaissance Studies 13 (1999): 397411 10.1111/j.1477-4658.1999.tb00087.x
Cosimo ‘il Vecchio’ de’ Medici, 1389–1464. Ed. Ames-Lewis, Francis. Oxford, 1992.
da Bisticci, Vespasiano. Le Vite. Ed. Greco, Aulo. 2 vols. Florence, 1976.
Davis, C. T. “An Early Florentine Political Theorist: Fra Remigio de’ Girolami.” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 104 (1960): 662–76
d’Avray, David. Death and the Prince: Memorial Preaching before 1350. Oxford, 1994.10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198203964.001.0001
De La Mare, Albinia C. “Cosimo and his Books.” In Cosimo ‘il Vecchio’ de’ Medici (1992), 133–38.
Delcorno, Carlo. “‘Antico’ e ‘Moderno’ nella Predicazione Medievale.” In Il senso della storia nella cultura medievale italiana (1100–1350) (Atti del quarttordicesimo Convegno Internazionale di studio tenuto a Pistoia nei giorni 14–17 maggio 1993), 397416. Pistoia, 1995.
Delcorno, Carlo. “Medieval Preaching in Italy (1200–1500).” In The Sermon, ed. Kienzle, Beverly Mayne, 449559. Turnhout, 2000.
Dondaine, Antoine. “Guillaume Peyraut, vie et œuvres.” Archivum Fratrum Praedicatorum 18 (1948): 162236
Elam, Caroline. “Cosimo de’Medici and San Lorenzo.” In Cosimo ‘il Vecchio’ de’ Medici (1992), 157–80.
Fanelli, Giovanni. Firenze. Rome, 1980.
Garin, Eugenio. Italian Humanism. Trans. Manz, Peter. Oxford, 1965.
Gaston, Robert W. “Sacred Place and Liturgical Space: Florence’s Renaissance Churches.” In Renaissance Florence (2006), 331–52.
Gauthier, René Antonin. Magninimité: l’idalé de la grandeur dans la philosophie païenne et dans la théologie chrétienne. Paris, 1951.
Gehl, Paul F. A Moral Art: Grammar, Society, and Culture in Trecento Florence. Ithaca, 1993.
Gehl, Paul F. “Preachers, Teachers, and Translators: The Social Meaning of Language Study in Trecento Tuscany.” Viator 25 (1994): 289323 10.1484/J.VIATOR.2.301217
Gilbert, Creighton. “The Earliest Guide to Florentine Architecture, 1423.” Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorischen Institutes in Florenz 14 (1969): 3346
Giovanni Rucellai ed il suo zibaldone I: Il Zibaldone Quaresimale. Ed. Perosa, Alessandro. London, 1960.
Giovanni Rucellai ed il suo zibaldone II: A Florentine Patrician and His Palace. Ed. Kent, F. W. et al. London, 1981.
Goldthwaite, Richard A.. “The Florentine Palace as Domestic Architecture.” American Historical Review 77 (1972): 9771012 10.2307/1859505
Goldthwaite, Richard A. Building Renaissance Florence. Baltimore, 1980.
Goldthwaite, Richard A. Wealth and the Demand for Art in Renaissance Italy 1300–1600. Baltimore, 1993.
Gombrich, Ernst H.The Early Medici as Patrons of Art.” In Italian Renaissance Studies, ed. Jacobs, E. F., 279311. London, 1960.
Greaves, Margaret. The Blazon of Honour: A Study in Renaissance Magnanimity. London, 1964.
Green, Louis. “Galvano Fiamma, Azzone Visconti and the Revival of the Classical Theory of Magnificence.” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 53 (1990): 98113 10.2307/751341
Gregory, Heather. Palla“ Strozzi’s Patronage and Pre-Medicean Florence.” In Patronage, Art and Society in Renaissance Italy (1987), 201–20.
Guerzoni, Guido. “Liberalitas, Magnificentia, Splendor: The Classic Origins of Italian Renaissance Lifestyles.” In Economic Engagements with Art, ed. de Marchi, Neil and Goodwin, Craufurd D. W., 332–78. Durham, NC, 1999.
Hatfield, Rab. “The Funding of the Façade of Santa Maria Novella.” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 67 (2004): 81127
Hood, William. Fra Angelico at San Marco. New Haven, 1993.
Howard, Peter Francis. Beyondthe Written Word: Preaching and Theology in the Florence of ArchbishopAntoninus, 1427–1459. Florence, 1995.
Howard, Peter Francis. “‘Leone Superbi’: Florentines, Sant’ Antonino and His Preaching in the Duomo.” In Atti del VII Centenario di S.Maria del Fiore, ed. Verdon, Timothy and Innocenti, Annalisa, 495509. Florence, 2001.
Howard, Peter Francis. “ The Impact of Preaching in Renaissance Florence: Fra Niccolò da Pisa at San Lorenzo.” Medieval Sermon Studies 48 (2004): 2944
Howard, Peter Francis. “The Aural Spaces of the Sacred in Renaissance Florence.” In Renaissance Florence (2006), 376–93.
Howard, Peter Francis. “‘The Womb of Memory’: Carmelite Liturgy and the Frescoes of the Brancacci Chapel.” In Eckstein, Nicholas, ed., The Brancacci Chapel: A Symposium on Form, Function and Setting. Collected Essays of a Symposium Held 6–7 June 2003 in The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies, Villa I Tatti, 177206. Florence, 2007.
Imesch, Kornelia. Magnificenza als architektonische Kategorie: individuelle Selbstdarstellung versus ästhetische Verwirklichung von Gemeinschaft in den venezianischen Villen Palladios und Scamozzis Oberhausen. Oberhausen, 2003.
Inglis, John. “Aquinas’s Replication of the Acquired Moral Virtues: Rethinking the Standard Philosophical Interpretation of Moral Virtue in Aquinas.” Journal of Religious Ethics 27 (1999): 327 10.1111/0384-9694.00003
Izbicki, Thomas M. “The Origins of the De ornatu mulierum of Antoninus of Florence.” Modern Language Notes 119 (2004): S142S161
Jenkins, A. D. Fraser. “Cosimo de Medici’s Patronage of Architecture and the Theory of Magnificence.” In The Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 33 (1970): 162–7010.2307/750894
Kent, Dale V. The Rise of the Medici: Faction in Florence 1426–1434. Oxford, 1978.
Kent, Dale V. “The Importance of Being Eccentric: Giovanni Cavalcanti’s View of Cosimo de’ Medici’s Florence.” In The Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies 20 (1979): 101–32
Kent, Dale V. “The Dynamic of Power in Cosimo de’ Medici’s Florence.” In Patronage, Art and Society (1987), 6377.
Kent, Dale V. Cosimo de’ Medici and the Florentine Renaissance. New Haven, 2000.
Kent, Dale V. and Kent, Francis William. Neighbours and Neighbourhood in Renaissance Florence. Locust Valley, NY, 1982.
Kent, Francis William. “The Making of a Renaissance Patron.” In Giovanni Rucellai ed il suo zibaldone (1981), 2 : 795.
Kent, Francis William. “Palaces, Politics and Society in Fifteenth-Century Florence.” I Tatti Studies: Essays in the Renaissance 2 (1987): 4170
Kent, Francis William. Lorenzo de’ Medici and the Art of Magnificence. Baltimore, 2004.
King, Margaret L. “Personal, Domestic and Republican Values in the Moral Philosophy of Giovanni Caldiera.” Renaissance Quarterly 28, no. 4 (1975): 535–7410.2307/2860172
Kovesi Killerby, Catherine. Sumptuary Law in Italy 1200–1500. Oxford, 2002.10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199247936.001.0001
Lapaccini, Giuliano. “La Cronica del Convento Fiorentino di San Marco (la parte più antica, dettata da Giuliano Lapaccini).” Archivio Storico Italiano series 6 , 71 (1913): 129
Latini, Brunetto. Li Livres Dou Tresor de Brunetto Latini. Ed. Carmody, Francis J.. Berkeley, 1948.
Latini, Brunetto. Il Tesoretto (The Little Treasure). Ed. and trans. Holloway, Julia Bolton. New York, 1981.
Lindow, James R. The RenaissancePalace in Florence: Magnificence and Splendour in Fifteenth-CenturyItaly. London, 2007.
Lingohr, Michael. “The Palace and Villa as Spaces of Patrician Self-Definition.” In Renaissance Florence (2006), 240–72.
Luporini, Eugenio. Brunelleschi: forma e ragione. Milan, 1964.
Maffei, Timotheus. In magnificentiae Cosmi Medicei Florentini detractores libellus. Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Plut. 47, Cod. 27, fols. 78–102.
Manetti, Antonio di Tuccio. The Life of Brunelleschi. Ed. Saalman, Howard. Trans. Engass, Catherine. University Park, 1970.
Martines, Lauro. The Social World of the Florentine Humanists 1340–1460. Princeton, 1963.
McGinness, Frederick J. Right Thinking and Sacred Oratory in Counter-Reformation Rome. Princeton, 1995.10.1515/9781400864072
Messelaar, Petrus Adrianus. Le vocabulaire des idées dans le “Le Tresor” de Brunet Latin. Assen, 1963.
Messersi, A. “Matteo Palmieri cittadino di Firenze del secolo XV.” Archivio Storico Italiano series 5, 13 (1894): 257340
Morçay, Raoul. Saint Antonin, Fondateur du Couvent de Saint-Marc, Archevêque de Florence, 1389–1459. Paris, 1913.
Muessig, Carolyn. “Sermon, Preacher and Society in the Middle Ages.” Journal of Medieval History 28 (2002): 7391 10.1016/S0304-4181(01)00021-5
Mulchahey, M. Michèle. ‘First the Bow is Bent to Study’: Dominican Education before 1350. Toronto, 1998.
Najemy, John. A History of Florence 1200–1575. Malden, MA, 2006.10.1002/9780470754870
Nelson, Jonathan Katz. “Memorial Chapels in Churches: The Privatization and Transformation of Sacred Spaces.” In Renaissance Florence (2006), 353–75.
Orlandi, Stefano, O.P. Bibliografia Antoniniana: Descrizione dei manoscritti della Vita e delle Opere di S. Antonino O.P. Arcivescovo di Firenze, e degli Studi stampati che lo riguardano. Vatican City, 1961.
Palmieri, Matteo. La Vita Civile. Ed. Belloni, Gino. Florence, 1982.
Pandimiglio, Leonida. I Brancacci di Firenze: Felice di Michele vir clarissimus e una consorteria. Florence, 1989.
Patronage, Art and Society in Renaissance Italy. Ed. Kent, Francis William and Simons, Patricia. Oxford, 1987.
Peraldus, Guilelmus. Summa de virtutibus et vitiis. Venice, 1497.
Peterson, David Spenser. “Archbishop Antoninus: Florence and the Church in the Earlier Fifteenth Century.” PhD diss., Cornell University, 1985.
Peterson, David Spenser. “Antoninus.” In Encyclopedia of the Renaissance, ed. Grendler, Paul F., 1 : 7980. New York, 1999.
Polecritti, Cynthia. Preaching Peace in Renaissance Italy: Bernardino of Siena and His Audience. Washington, DC, 2000.
Pontano, Giovanni. I trattati delle virtu sociali. De liberalitate. De heneficentia. De magnificentia. De splendore. De conviventia. Ed. Tateo, Francesco. Rome, 1965.
Rainey, Ronald Eugene. “Sumptuary Legislation in Renaissance Florence (Italy).” PhD diss., Columbia University, 1985.
Renaissance Florence: A Social History. Ed. Crum, Roger J. and Paoletti, John T.. New York, 2006.
Rubin, Patricia. “Magnificence and the Medici.” In The Early Medici and their Artists, ed. Ames-Lewis, Francis, 3769. London, 1995.
Rubin, Patricia. Images and Identity in Fifteenth-Century Florence. New Haven, 2007.
Savonarola, Girolamo. Prediche Sopra Ruth e Michea. Ed. Romano, Vincenzo. Rome, 1962.
Seneca, . De beneficiis. In Moral Essays, vol. 3, trans. Basore, John. Cambridge, 1965.
Shepherd, Rupert. “Giovanni Sabadino degli Arienti and a Practical Definition of Magnificence in the Context of Renaissance Architecture.” In Concepts of Beauty in Renaissance Art, ed. Ames-Lewis, Francis and Rogers, Mary, 5265. Aldershot, 1998.
Spicciani, A.The ‘Poveri Vergognosi’ in Fifteenth-Century Florence.” In Aspects of Poverty in Early Modern Europe, ed. Riis, Thomas, 119–82. Brussells, 1981.
Tocco, Francesco Paolo. Niccolà Acciaiuoli: Vita e Politica in Italia alla Metà del XIV Secolo. Rome, 2001.
Tuve, Rosemond. “Notes on the Virtues and Vices.” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 26 (1963): 264303 10.2307/750495
Ullman, B. L. and Stadter, P. A.. The Public Library of Renaissance Florence: Niccolà Niccoli, Cosimo de’ Medici and the Library of San Marco. Padua, 1972.
Varese, Claudio. “Una ‘Laudatio florentinae urbis’: La ‘Istoria di Firenze’ di Goro Dati.” Rassegna della letteratura italiana 63 (1959): 373–89
Varese, Claudio. “Giovanni Cavalcanti storico e scrittore.” In Storia e politica nella prosa del Quattrocento, 93131. Turin, 1961.
Bellovacensis, Vincentius (William of Beauvais). Speculum Doctrinale. Strassbourg, 1472.
Walker, Bernard, O.P. The “Chronicles” of Saint Antoninus: A Study in Historiography. Washington, 1933.
Walsh, P. G.Appendix: Thomas and His Authorities.” In Aquinas, Thomas, St Thomas Aquinas Summa Theologiae, vol. 42, Courage (2a 2ae. 123–40), trans. Anthony, Ross O.P. and Walsh, P. G., 241–43. London, 1965.
Walter of England. Romuleae fabulae Gualteri Anglici, LIV: “De Cane e Lupo.” 1895. In Les fabulistes latins: Depuis le siècle d’Augustejusqu’à la fin du moyen âge, ed. Léopold Hervieux, 2:344. Reprint, Paris, 1965.
Widloecher, D. Nicola. LaCongregazione dei Canonici Regolari Lateranensi: Periodo di Formazione(1402–1483). Gubbio, 1929.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Renaissance Quarterly
  • ISSN: 0034-4338
  • EISSN: 1935-0236
  • URL: /core/journals/renaissance-quarterly
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed