Italian preachers during the Reformation era found themselves in the trenches of a more desperate war than anything they had ever imagined. This war—the splintering of western Christendom into conflicting sects—was physically but also spiritually violent. In an era of tremendous religious convolution, fluidity, and danger, preachers of all kinds spoke from the pulpit daily, weekly, or seasonally to confront the hottest controversies of their time. Preachers also turned to the printing press in unprecedented numbers to spread their messages.
Emily Michelson challenges the stereotype that Protestants succeeded in converting Catholics through superior preaching and printing. Catholic preachers were not simply reactionary and uncreative mouthpieces of a monolithic church. Rather, they deftly and imaginatively grappled with the question of how to preserve the orthodoxy of their flock and maintain the authority of the Roman church while also confronting new, undeniable lay demands for inclusion and participation.
These sermons—almost unknown in English until now—tell a new story of the Reformation that credits preachers with keeping Italy Catholic when the region’s religious future seemed uncertain, and with fashioning the post-Reformation Catholicism that thrived into the modern era. By deploying the pulpit, pen, and printing press, preachers in Italy created a new religious culture that would survive in an unprecedented atmosphere of competition and religious choice.
Michelson’s rich book has the great merit of filling a rather surprising gap in the historiography. This void could be partly ascribed to the complexity of the subject and to the large number of sources, primary and secondary, that had to be consulted for such a work. The Pulpit and the Press is based on a vast number of sixteenth-century books, and Michelson demonstrates a solid command of the secondary literature, both in Italian and in English… Michelson’s book is by far the most detailed and comprehensive work on preaching in early modern Italy and is a valuable contribution to our understanding of Italian religious history of that time.
This informative book adds to the increasingly rich image of early modern Catholicism by focusing on the cares and methods of vernacular preachers in mid-sixteenth century Italy, where (at least to preachers) heresy seemed to be everywhere. Emily Michelson shows memorably and convincingly that Italy remained Catholic less because of stern decrees and reactionary policies and more because of these legions of diligent, if now-obscure, preachers.
By focusing on vernacular sermons, Emily Michelson significantly expands our understanding of the interplay between preaching, printing, and Catholic reform. Her stimulating study highlights the efforts of Italian preachers to counter heresy while satisfying lay interest in scripture. Challenging preconceptions about the Church’s monolithic response to Protestantism, it reveals the range of positions possible within a broader Catholic consensus. This is first-rate scholarship.
The Pulpit and the Press in Reformation Italy is much more than a meticulous study of ‘the barely known mainstream’ of Catholic vernacular preaching in the sixteenth century. It changes our understanding of early modern Italian Catholicism as such. Through the texts and textures of sermons that serve both a social and spiritual history, Emily Michelson shows how Catholic clergy sought to instruct and reform lay souls by embracing biblical preaching while avoiding Protestant heresy. This book is an outstanding achievement.
- 272 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
Sorry, there was an error adding the item to your shopping bag.
Sorry, your session has expired. Please refresh your browser's tab.