Domestic Devotions brings together the study of books, buildings, objects, spaces, images and archives in order to understand how religion functioned in the Renaissance household. In opposition to the enduring stereotype of the Renaissance as a ‘secular age’, our research is premised on the view that religion played a key role in attending to the needs of the laity, and presents the period 1400-1600 as an age of spiritual revitalization. Devotions, from routine prayers to extraordinary religious experiences such as miracles or exorcisms, frequently took place within the home and were specifically shaped to meet the demands of domestic life – childbirth, marriage, infertility, sickness, accidents, poverty and death. This tight bond between the domestic and the devotional was neither institutionally nor legally defined. It cannot be adequately traced in any one type of source nor by means of a single approach. A rare combination of expertise and experience across several disciplines – social history, textual scholarship, and the study of art and architecture – is required to reveal the pivotal place of piety in the Renaissance home.
The project moves beyond traditional research on the Renaissance in two further ways. Firstly, it breaks free from the golden triangle of Venice, Florence and Rome in order to investigate practices of piety in three significant zones: Naples and its environs; the Marche in central Italy; and the Venetian mainland. Secondly, it rejects the standard focus on Renaissance elites in order to develop our understanding of the artisanal household. Inspired in part by the rich historiography on the Protestant family, Domestic Devotions will shed new light on the roles of women and children in the Catholic home, and will be attentive to gender and age as factors that conditioned religious experience. Our multidisciplinary approach will enable unprecedented glimpses into the private lives of Renaissance Italians.
Fields of science
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