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  • La Réforme en France et en Italie: Contacts, comparisons et contrastes
  • Jeffrey Mallinson
Philip Benedict, Silvana Seidel Menchi, and Alain Tallon, eds. La Réforme en France et en Italie: Contacts, comparisons et contrastes.Collection de l'École française de Rome 384. Rome: École Française de Rome, 2007. 672 pp. + 5 b/w pls. index. append. illus. tbls. bibl. €73. ISBN: 978–2–7283–0790–6.

This thick collection of French, Italian, and English papers is the result of a conference that met in Rome during the autumn of 2005. It established two [End Page 940] objectives: first, to understand the connections between people and historical events in each country, and second, to ask systematic questions to stimulate new research on important (but underappreciated) problems and themes. The book's chief value to the academy is its contribution to nuanced, well-rounded Reformation historiography, and it should have a noticeable effect on such scholarship in the years to come. It initiates discussions not only about principalities dominated by the official church, but also models innovative approaches to the subject matter. This is especially important because Reformation thought that emerged in Protestant cities like Geneva and Wittenberg often can be examined merely through published texts, but regions where evangelical foment was clandestine do not allow such reliance on old books, which compels scholars to consider other sources of information.

Andrew Pettegree's essay, subtitled "les leçons à tirer de la culture de l'imprimé," highlights the complexities of the French situation, in which both evangelical and Roman Catholic propaganda employed printing presses. Susanna Peyronel Rambaldi, however, emphasizes the multiple propaganda sources used in Italy, which included imported books, subversive sermons, discussion groups, and secret fellowships. Jean-François Gilmont, considering both France and Italy, adds to this list placards, songs, Lenten sermons, and theater to the array of propagandistic media. All of these sources require an understanding of how counter-hegemonic communication could take the form of symbolic action, as Menchi and Olivier Christin describe in their essays. Much of the evangelical fellowship in strongly Roman Catholic regions took place in the "conventicole clandestine" described in Frederica Ambrosini's essay. These groups developed networks, especially in the north, and often developed Calvinist or Zwinglian theologies. Nonetheless, they have the potential of being overlooked by older, confessionally Reformed historiography because they could not practically maintain all the marks of a church demanded by Reformed ecclesiology: Word, sacrament, and discipline or institutional order. Several contributors describe the subversive role of evangelical clerics in their official capacities within the Catholic Church prior to the 1550s in France, but such an arrangement came to be denigrated as "Nicodemite" by members of exiled communities, and unworkable as the century wore on with the suppression of evangelical clerics in the official church.

Each contribution to this volume enhances the breadth and depth of one's view of the Reformation. Not only are multiple places considered, so are multiple layers of society: John Martin, Hugues Daussy, Philip Benedict, and Eleonora Belligni contribute fascinating papers that investigate the unique roles of clerics, nobility, and urban elites in the service of reform. Daussy's essay is noteworthy for his recognition of political and economic motivations for evangelical belief across the social strata as well as his simultaneous refusal to reduce everything to such mundane factors. There is not space to discuss all of the comparisons and contrasts between France and Italy noted in this volume; two examples must suffice. First, Elena Brambilla notes the difference between the interrogation methods and documentation of the French Parlements, which she contends focused on external words [End Page 941] and actions, and the Inquisition, which could probe into the inner thought life of an alleged heretic. Second, Robert Kingdon uses the compelling method of looking to the ecclesial mark of "discipline" —a distinctly Calvinist emphasis —to assess commitment to the Reformed tradition within Italian communities. The volume concludes with two of its most stimulating essays: Marc Venard's "Une Église, deux Églises, pas d'Église?" and Adriano Prosperi's "Una chiesa, due chiese, nessuna chiesa." These raise the interesting question of the longterm effects of religious conflict on subsequent...


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Archived 2009
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