This book examines the relationship between the secular and sacred in late medieval Florence through the vehicle of the religious confraternity, one of the most ubiquitous and popular forms of lay association throughout Europe. Based on a wealth of new documentation Dr Henderson provides a fascinating account of the development of the major fraternities of the city in relation to other types of communal ecclesiastical institutions. The first part discusses in detail their devotional activities for living members, including the singing of lauds, self-flagellation, processions and dramatic presentations, as well as funerals and commemorative services for the dead. Secondly, this is one of the most detailed analyses of relief to the poor and sick in medieval Europe. He examines the complementary welfare roles of fraternities and hospitals, during both non-crisis years and the emergencies caused by plague and famine, all within the wider context of communal policy towards the poor. Taken together the two themes of this book, piety and charity, provide new evidence concerning the complex relationship between religion and society in both private and public life.
`substantial and important book'
The Times Literary Supplement
'a stimulating and suggestive book that deserves a wide readership ... Henderson vividly conveys the scene of many confraternity gatherings'
Times Higher Education Supplement
`Henderson's research is impressively thorough. He has carefully sifted through Florentine archives to present a study rich in statistical data which is summarized in 55 figures and tables. Henderson is thorough in his archive scholarship and conservative in his analysis.'
Sixteenth Century Journal
`Henderson's book offers a systematic ordering and description of the lay adult religious associations that arose in Florence between c. 1250 and 1500...this meticulously detailed exercise in social history makes a valuable contribution to an understanding of late medieval religious history. the book will be welcomed by scholars of the period as well as by advanced undergraduates.'
`Henderson shows an intelligent sensitivity to the question of motivation that bedevil the study of those social phenomena laying clain to high idealism. Within the terms of reference he has set himself, Henderson has written a monumental and definitive study.'
`it is a delight and a privilege to review a scholarly monograph which is clearly a labour of love. This is certainly the quality which animates the monumental study by John Henderson... in its examination of the balance between the sacred and the secular in the preoccupations of Florentines, this most impressive book is an indispensable guide to the context in which such changes may have taken place'
English Historical Review
`He uses a great deal of material now made available by researches of local Italian historians who have published texts from the confraternities. For the first time, this makes it possible to get a comprehensive picture of the range of their activities, the diversity of the groups, and the negative tendencies to extremism and political "networking" that readily developed. There is also innovative work here on the development of terms and concepts,
especially that of "charity". Henderson shows an intelligent sensitivity to the questions of motivation that bedevil the study of those social phenomena laying claim to high idealism. Within the terms of reference
he has set himself, Henderson has written a monumental and definitive study.'
G.R. Evans, University of Cambridge, The Historian
`John Henderson has provided here a much needed overview of late-medieval Florentine confraternities. In so doing, Henderson does more than synthesize previous work in this area.'
Megan Armstrong, University of Toronto, Confraternitas 7:1, Spring 1996
`Readers may challenge the strictly pragmatic and matter-of-fact key in which Henderson registers many of his interpretations, but they will be doing so on a vast empirical terrain that he has usefully mapped out.'
David S. Peterson, Newberry Library, Renaissance Quarterly, Spring '97
`Ambitious, meticulously researched in several archives, but relying on the superlative documentation of the Florentine Archivio di Stato.'
Sixteenth Century Journal XXVII/2 (1996)
`The publication of John Henderson's authoritative study of religion con-fraternities in late medieval Florence has been eagerly anticipated and the wait has not been in vain. In common with many other good works of history, this book delivers much more than expected ... Piety and charity is a substantial work and is as ambitious in its scope as it is in its purpose. This work will be of use to a broad historical and art historical readership ...
Patricia Allerston, University of Glasgow, Ecclesiastical History, Vol. 48, No. 2, Apr '97
`the range of material examined is remarkable and the detail made available to the reader is often fascinating ... The treatment of confraternities, and of Orsanmichele in particular, is thorough, interdisciplinary and convincing. For the sheer amount of material it presents and discusses, this substantial book makes an important contribution to the study of piety and charity in Florence and elsewhere in the late medieval and early modern periods.'
John E. Law, University of Wales, Swansea, The Historical Association 1996
`Those of us dealing with Italian confraternities have eagerly awaited this book, and its final appearance meets all expectations of deep scholarship, clearly presented detail, and lucidity of explanation ... it is an excellent guide to the roles of confraternities as centres of lay piety in the later middle ages ... John Henderson's book becomes the major introduction to late medieval confraternities ... and poor relief. All students of
medieval-renaissance Florence. will benefit considerably from it.'
Christopher F. Black, Glasgow University, Soc. Hist. of Med 8/2