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Preaching Magnificence in Renaissance Florence*

  • Peter Howard (a1)
Abstract

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.

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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.

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