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  • Cathedral and Civic Ritual in Late Medieval and Renaissance Florence: The Service Books of Santa Maria del Fiore
  • Murray Steib
Marica S. Tacconi . Cathedral and Civic Ritual in Late Medieval and Renaissance Florence: The Service Books of Santa Maria del Fiore. Cambridge Studies in Palaeography and Codicology 12. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005. xx + 358 pp. index. append. illus. tbls. map. bibl. $120. ISBN: 0-521-81704-8.

Although there have been numerous studies of the Florence Cathedral (both Santa Maria del Fiore as well as the earlier Santa Reparata), little work has been done on their sixty-five extant service books. These books — antiphonaries, breviaries, epistolaries, evangelaries, graduals, lectionaries, missals, ordinals, [End Page 1199] processionals, and psalters — were designed for and used in the liturgy on a daily basis, but they also have codicological, musical, and artistic significance. They were a source of great civic pride as well, and much time, money, and artistry was lavished upon them. In order to treat such a complex group of manuscripts, Tacconi has adopted a multidisciplinary methodology common in such studies.

After a brief introduction, the first chapter examines the books as a whole, dividing them into three distinct time periods: those made for Santa Reparata ca. 1150-1231 (only three extant manuscripts), those made for Santa Maria del Fiori after ca. 1331 (six manuscripts), and those made from 1438-1526 (fifty-six manuscripts). By examining extant inventories and other documents, Tacconi is able to determine dates for most of the manuscripts, estimate how many others have been lost, discuss many of the scribes, illuminators, and other artisans involved with their production, determine who commissioned them, and why, and, finally, establish their fate after the Council of Trent. The second chapter traces the development of the Florentine calendar. Early hagiological practice had much in common with that of Lucca, but following the liturgical reforms of 1310, Florence consciously aligned itself with Roman practice.

Chapters 3 and 4 form the heart of the book. Here Tacconi analyzes the service books from various perspectives. Many of them, for instance, are luxuriously decorated, and the author discusses some of the most stunning illuminations. Indeed, one of the great attractions of this book is its thirty-two full-color plates, some of which are only mentioned briefly in the text, while others are discussed in great detail. The author's purpose is not to give a history of manuscript illumination, however: her focus is on what the illuminations can tell us about the church, the city, and the intersection of the two. For example, Medicean symbols and portraits are often used in books produced after their return to the city in 1512, and Tacconi argues that such iconography served a dual religious and political agenda and helped in the consolidation of Medicean authority. She also approaches these books from a liturgical perspective, showing how the presence of relics influenced certain rites. Particularly interesting is her discussion of processions, especially at Santa Reparata.

The final chapter discusses six saints of particular importance in Florence: Saint Reparata, the Virgin Mary, and Saints Zenobius, Eugene, Crescentius, and Podius. She traces their connection to the city and examines the liturgies associated with their feasts. A brief epilogue is followed by four appendices: a concordance between references to the service books mentioned by Giovanni Poggi (a modern scholar) and their modern shelf numbers, a list of artists and craftsmen involved with the production of the service books, a calendar of the feasts based on ten of the books, and eight liturgical texts and chants for various saints. A bibliography, the color plates, and an index round off the book.

I have two small problems with this book. As with most books of this kind, there are numerous quotations from medieval and Renaissance Latin and Italian documents. Most of these are given in English with the original language in a footnote or an adjacent column, but some are in the original language only, [End Page 1200] without translation (see especially pp. 56-64 and Appendix D, example 4 — a two-page vita of Saint Eugene). This inconsistency will make it unnecessarily difficult for some readers. Finally, although there is some...


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