Lay Preaching in Fifteenth Century Florence

Lay Preaching in Fifteenth Century Florence

Manuscript Florence, Biblioteca Nazionale, Fondo Nuove Accessioni, 694, written in a very neat and elegant humanistic hand, was copied in Florence around 1475.

The scribe reveals his identity twice in the manuscript. After the first text, a vernacular version of the Life of St Paula (Comincia la vita di Sancta Paula composta da sancto Girolamo ad Eustochio sua figliuola), the scribe identifies himself as “Bernardo del Pachio Adimari” and affirms to have copied di mia propria mano (in his own very hand) the text on August 15th 1475. The strong affirmation of his writing performance, signaled by the use of the formula di mia propria mano, suggests that the manuscript could have been written for personal use or for circulation within a restricted circle of users, as family or professional circles.

The personal character of the manuscript is corroborated by a second colophon, placed at the end of the second text in the manuscript:

Finito el sermone di Eucharestia Recitato per me Bernardo di Pachio Adimari el giovedi sancto nella compagnia della fiamma adi xxiij di marzo 1474 quando si fe la lavanda de piedi

[The end of the sermon on the Eucharist recited by me Bernardo di Pachio Adimari on Maundy Thursday at the Compagnia della Fiamma on the 23 March 1474 (according to the Florentine style) during the washing of feet].

The colophon testifies of the personal character of the manuscript but it moreover refers to a practice common to Italian late medieval confraternities: the performance of short vernacular sermons by the lay members of the confraternity before the actual ritual of the washing. In his sermon, Bernardo reflects on the theme of the Eucharist and of the ritual connected to consecration of the host during Mass. He invites his fellow members to meditate and pray with him and to raise their heart in order to contemplate the mystery. The “special” gathering to commemorate Maundy Thursday is of course highly symbolic and essential for reinforcing the sense of community and the bond between the members.

Sabrina Corbellini


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