- Essays on Giovanni of Capestrano Preface
The following essays focus on one of the most important figures in the religious history of the later middle ages. Giovanni of Capestrano is in one sense familiar to many, above all to scholars and students of Franciscan history. The story of the friar from Abruzzo, one of the 'four pillars' of the Observance, appears in every standard account of the Order's history: his career as a jurist, his conversion and tutelage under Bernardino, his fierce advocacy for the Observants, his long preaching tour north of the Alps and his role in the crusade of 1456. And for centuries that story has been the subject of progressively more refined scholarship, from Luke Wadding in the seventeenth century to Johannes Hofer and Ottokar Bonmann in the twentieth. Some of the best has appeared in the last generation, including important conference proceedings and essays in the 1980s and 1990s. But momentum and focus have increased in the last decade in particular, as scholars from Italy, France, Germany, Poland, Hungary, and Romania have turned to Giovanni with renewed focus and interest.
Yet in the Anglophone tradition of studies on the Franciscan Order, to which the journal Franciscan Studies has long been central, Capestrano remains by turns relatively neglected, misread, or misunderstood. He remains a challenging, enigmatic, and overall difficult figure who can be subject to widely divergent, even contradictory interpretations. The sources for access to his life and work, in contrast to other Franciscan figures, remain very difficult to access. And overall his story, perhaps along with that of the Observants generally, may seem too 'late' for scholars interested in Francesco d'Assisi and his followers, or the 'golden age' of the Order. Whatever the reasons, the fact remains: despite the great scholarly energy devoted to Giovanni in recent years, we still have relatively little English-language scholarship on this important figure, and in comparison to his contemporaries he remains marginal in Anglophone histories of the religious history of his era.
In an effort to remedy that neglect, and to add to the few but significant studies on Capestrano that have appeared previously in Franciscan [End Page 1] Studies,1 we have brought together a number of essays by predominantly European scholars who are either currently working on Capestrano and his legacy, or whose work touches on the Observant world partly shaped by the initiatives of the friar from Abruzzo. Given the range of his work, the complexity of the sources, and his intricate afterlife, we cannot pretend that these essays offer anything like a complete or panoramic view. Instead, we present a selection of essays that provide a few select entry points into the historical context of Giovanni of Capestrano's many undertakings; that focus on some central aspects of his agency, his literary production, and the controversies he both inspired and engaged in; that highlight the contemporary and posthumous impact of his activities, and that give a sense of Capestrano's place in the self-representation of the Early Modern Franciscan Order.
An entry point into the historical context is provided by the opening essay of Letizia Pellegrini & Ludovic Viallet ('Between christianitas and Europe: Giovanni of Capestrano as an historical issue'), which situates Capestrano's actions, his successes and failures in the broad historical context of fifteenth-century Europe, with an emphasis on his letter writing as a key historical source for the period. The essays that follow then deal with specific aspects of Capestrano's agency, his impact and immediate reception: his evaluation of the behavior of doctors in the context of the plague (Ottó Gecser, 'Giovanni of Capestrano on the Plague and the Doctors'), his fight for the canonization of Bernardino of Siena and his liturgical commemoration (Daniele Solvi, 'Giovanni of Capestrano's Liturgical Office for the Feast of Saint Bernardino of Siena'), and the wide-ranging tensions and impacts of his 'Great Mission' north of the Alps (James D. Mixson, 'Bernardino's Rotting Corpse? A Skeptic's Tale of Capestrano's Preaching North of the Alps' and Pietro Delcorno, 'Giovanni of Capestrano and Jan Brugman in a Manuscript of the Brothers of the...