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TWO USES OF THE VITA CHRISTI GENRE IN TUSCANY, C. 1300: JOHN DE CAULIBUS AND UBERTINO DA CÁSALE COMPARED. A Response to Daniel Lesnick, ten years hence INTRODUCTION An important turning point in medieval historiography occurred during the 1950s and 1960s as historians began to turn their attention from an exclusive focus on the culture of the literate classes of nobility and clergy to the culture and, particularly, the religiosity of the popular classes.1 By the 1970s, one of several new and fruitful documentary sources of evidence for such research, giving voice to this heretofore "silent" culture, were the texts of medieval preaching, the sermon: not so much the stylized sermons of the cloisters or even less the scholastic sermons of the universities, but rather the sermones ad statum or, even more narrowly, the sermones vulgares, addressed to the common lot of humanity in the piazzas and churches of Europe. Historians who toil in this fertile field owe a debt of gratitude to scholars like Zelina Zafarana of Italy, Alexander Murray and David d'Avray of England, and Nicole Bériou of France who first tilled the soil for us and unearthed the texts upon which medievalists now work, opening up as well other tributary sources of exploration. In 1989, the University of Georgia Press published a major new contribution to the history of medieval preaching by Professor Daniel Lesnick, entitled Preaching in Medieval Florence: the Social World of Franciscan and Dominican Spirituality.1 Focussing on the preaching done in a specific time and place—Florence at the end of the 13th and early 14th centuries—Professor Lesnick has given us a carefully constructed work on the medium, the message and the 1TlIe work of scholars like Etienne Delaruelle in France, Arsenio Frugoni and Raoul Manselli in Italy, and G. G. Meersseman in Switzerland has been seminal. Daniel L. Lesnick, Preaching in Medieval Florence: the Social World of Franciscan and Dominican Spirituality (Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1989). 131 Franciscan Studies 57 (1999) 132Michael CusATo, O.F.M. audience of two of the most prominent contributors to the revival of preaching in the High Middle Ages: the Friars Minor and Friars Preacher. My intention here is not to offer a full critique of the strengths and, what appear to me to be, the weaknesses of this work.3 Rather it is, more specifically, to discuss a certain number of his contentions about the content and purpose of the preaching of the Friars Minor in Florence and environs. I would like to make these comments, moreover, in the context of a second kind of documentary source, a new literary genre, which was beginning to make its appearance at precisely the same time in Italy but which would reach its culmination only in the latter half of the fourteenth century: the new type of devotional literature which used the vita Christi as the springboard for meditation and spiritual growth. I. THE LESNICK THESIS AND FLORENTINE FRANCISCANISM To do so, however, I need to summarize in five points what I believe to be the salient elements of the Lesnick thesis which bear directly on the preaching of the Friars Minor in Tuscany. - First, that the growth of Florence in the 13th century had been marked by such widespread prosperity that it would be erroneous to speak of the presence of any real economic 3Lesnick's work received some attention in die critical literature, most of it fairly laudatory. See, for example, the reviews ofJohn W. O'Malley in Renaissance Quarterly 43 (1990) 386-88; Robert C. Figueira in Speculum 66 (1991) 910-13; and David S. Peterson in American Historical Review 96 (1991) 154-55. All three reviewers, while admiring die overall thrust of the work and its attempt to show die connections between social history and preaching, correctly fault its somewhat weak methodological underpinnings—a weakness winch results in die author making several unsubstantiated leaps from intriguing suggestion to (unproven) fact. A more positive appreciation of the work, surprisingly, is offered by David d'Avray, specialist in medieval preaching literature, in the context of a larger article— "Philosophy in Preaching: The Case of A Franciscan Based in Thirteendi-Century...


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