- Mendicant Cultures in the Medieval and Early Modern World: Word, Deed, and Image eds. by Sally J. Cornelison, Nirit Ben-Aryeh Debby, and Peter Howard
The stated purpose of this book is to "revisit, revise, and enhance our understanding of the ways in which words, deeds, and images shaped and represented mendicant religious culture in Italy and abroad" (p. xii). The eleven articles are focused on the time between the early thirteenth and the seventeenth centuries, primarily in Italy but not confined to the birthplace of Francis. The book offers a smorgasbord of information about mendicant theologians and preachers, church leaders, missionaries (in particular William of Rubruck's mission to the Mongols), medieval women, sacred places, and religious objects. We get a significant glimpse of the many aspects that make up the various mendicant cultures of the Dominican and Franciscan world of the later Middle Ages and beyond.
There are five noteworthy articles that deal with the world of images, that is, the art and architecture that show how the followers of Saints Dominic and Francis produced through stained-glass, fresco paintings, sculpture, church architecture, and other media, the full flowering of mendicant spirituality. We are introduced to the spirituality of the mendicant churches such as San Francesco in Assisi; Santa Croce, San Marco, and Ognisanti in Florence; and Santa Maria di Castello in Genoa.
Three articles in this volume deal with issues of medieval Christians' relations with Islam and Muslims. Nirit Debby's article shows how the iconography of Francis, Clare, and John of Capistrano and their encounter with Muslims (the Sultan, Saracens, and Turks) reflects the Franciscan concern for Christian-Muslim relations at the church of Ognisanti during the seventeenth century. Ashley Elston's article introduces us to Taddeo Gaddi's painting (Santa Croce) of the scene of Francis before the Sultan in relation to other medieval paintings of this same scene. John Zaleski's article on the canonization of Catherine of Siena by Pope Pius II explains the pontiff's concerns with the Ottoman Turks and his desire for a crusade against them.
Preaching was a major focus of these mendicant orders, and therefore it is no surprise that half of the articles in this volume are concerned with mendicant sermons and preaching. The Dominicans receive more attention here, as three articles deal primarily with the Order of Preachers' vocation as preachers. One article offers a commentary on the understanding of the role of friar preachers based on two texts (Vitae fratrum ordinis praedicatorum and Bonum universale de apibus), and two articles are focused on particular Dominicans: Bartolomeo Lapacci Rimbertini and Marco di Pietro Succhielli. The latter two articles give us an excellent view of individual preachers' preaching activity and sermon collections (and in the case of Succhielli, his sermon diary). It would have been helpful to balance the book with an article or two on individual Franciscan preachers besides the presentation of Bernardino of Siena and John of Capistrano covered in the last article in the volume. [End Page 800]
Four articles of the volume deal with gender issues, in particular the experience of medieval women inside the spaces of churches, in convents, and on the streets. We wish to highlight the article on penitent women written by Beverly Kienzle and Travis Stevens because of its balance of Franciscan and Dominican women, its focus on how four women lived the apostolic life, and how their mendicant biographers presented them.
A "Works Cited" section in which each author offers a list of primary and secondary sources accompanies each article. One criticism is that there is no index provided at the end of the book. Otherwise, this is an extremely valuable contribution to the world of medieval mendicant studies and medieval spirituality.