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The Catholic Historical Review 87.4 (2001) 779

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Sister Bartolomea Riccoboni, Life and Death in a Venetian Convent: The Chronicle and Necrology of Corpus Domini, 1393-1436

Bornstein, Daniel (Ed. and Trans.). Sister Bartolomea Riccoboni, Life and Death in a Venetian Convent: The Chronicle and Necrology of Corpus Domini, 1393-1436. [The Other Voices in Early Modern Europe.] (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. 2000. Pp. xxvii, 115. $16.00 paperback.)

"The other voice," of European culture presented by the translations in this series is the voice of women. As documents by and about women in historical Christianity have increasingly become part of the historical record, our understanding of how Christianity grew and changed over the centuries has taken some interesting twists and turns. This translation of a chronicle of the powerful Dominican house of Corpus Domini, Venice, is an excellent example of how another voice changes the texture of the song. The Chronicle and Necrology of the community recorded by Sister Bartolomea Riccoboni over three decades at the turn of the fifteenth century are surprisingly worldly documents. For example, although the Necrology does tell some stories of the mystical raptures of the members of the community, the Chronicle instead focuses on the patronage of powerful families and the careers of supportive priests who befriended them. Especially striking is the amount of attention given to the turmoil caused in the community by the Great Schism. After the Council of Pisa in 1409, Corpus Domini manifested a split that mirrored that of the Church at large: about two thirds of the sisters still recognized the Roman Pope, Gregory XII, while the other third followed the Pisan Pope, Alexander VI. Such a situation could not have been unique in these tumultuous times, of course, but this detailed description of how the community dealt with the split among its members (including the thorny question of which pope would be prayed for at Mass) is told here in fascinating detail.

Bornstein's translation has done an excellent job of turning the florid, periodic sentences of early modern Italian into readable English, even while not losing the charm of the original. This volume will be of interest to scholars in many fields of Christian history.


E. Ann Matter
(University of Pennsylvania)



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