Abigail Brundin, Deborah Howard, and Mary Laven – The Sacred Home in Renaissance Italy

 Abigail Brundin, Deborah Howard, and Mary Laven – The Sacred Home in Renaissance Italy, Oxford University Press, 400 p., 35 £

The Sacred Home in Renaissance Italy explores the rich devotional life of the Italian household between 1450 and 1600. Rejecting the enduring stereotype of the Renaissance as a secular age, this interdisciplinary study reveals the home to have been an important site of spiritual revitalization. Books, buildings, objects, spaces, images, and archival sources are scrutinized to cast new light on the many ways in which religion infused daily life within the household. Acts of devotion, from routine prayers to extraordinary religious experiences such as miracles and visions, frequently took place at home amid the joys and trials of domestic life — from childbirth and marriage to sickness and death.

Breaking free from the usual focus on Venice, Florence, and Rome, The Sacred Home investigates practices of piety across the Italian peninsula, with particular attention paid to the city of Naples, the Marche, and the Venetian mainland. It also looks beyond the elite to consider artisanal and lower-status households, and reveals gender and age as factors that powerfully conditioned religious experience. Recovering a host of lost voices and compelling narratives at the intersection between the divine and the everyday, The Sacred Home offers unprecedented glimpses through the keyhole into the spiritual lives of Renaissance Italians.

1: Regional perspectives
2: House and home
3: Prayer and meditation
4: Sacred Stuff
5: Reading at home
6: The Devotional Eye
7: Printing and Piety
8: Miracles
9: Thresholds

Abigail Brundin, Reader in Early Modern Literature and Culture, Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages, University of Cambridge, Deborah Howard, Professor Emerita of Architectural History, University of Cambridge, and Mary Laven, Professor of Early Modern History, University of Cambridge

Abigail Brundin specializes in the literature and culture of Renaissance and Early Modern Italy. She has written on many aspects of the period, from female convents to the Grand Tour, and is above all known for her work on the poet Vittoria Colonna, as the translator of the Sonnets for Michelangelo (2005) and author of Vittoria Colonna and the Spiritual Poetics of the Italian Reformation (2008). A Fellow of St Catharine’s College, she has taught at the University of Cambridge since 2002 and is currently chair of the Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages.

Deborah Howard is an architectural historian whose principal research interests revolve around the art and architecture of Venice and the Veneto, seen from an interdisciplinary perspective. Her books include Venice & the East (2000), Sound & Space in Renaissance Venice (2009, with L. Moretti) and Venice Disputed (2013). She is a Professor Emerita at the University of Cambridge, and a Fellow of St John’s College. She was elected to the British Academy in 2010.

Mary Laven has published widely on the social and cultural history of religion. She is the author of Virgins of Venice: Enclosed Lives and Broken Vows in the Renaissance Convent (2002) and Mission to China: Matteo Ricci and the Jesuit Encounter with the East (2011). More recently, her attention has turned to material culture and she has been involved in two major exhibition projects at the Fitzwilliam Museum. She is Professor of Early Modern History at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Jesus College.