Jansen, “Peace and Penance in Late Medieval Italy”

9780691177748Here is an interesting-looking new book from Princeton University Press on the ways in which church and state cooperated to keep the peace in thirteenth- and fourteenth-century Florence, Peace and Penance in Late Medieval Italy, by historian Katherine Ludwig Jansen (Catholic University of America). I’m a bit surprised, I have to say. From what I know, medieval Italy wasn’t greatly characterized either by peace or penance–which could be said of most societies across time, including our own. The part about the Kiss of Peace is fascinating. Here’s the publisher’s description:

Medieval Italian communes are known for their violence, feuds, and vendettas, yet beneath this tumult was a society preoccupied with peace. Peace and Penance in Late Medieval Italy is the first book to examine how civic peacemaking in the age of Dante was forged in the crucible of penitential religious practice.

Focusing on Florence in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, an era known for violence and civil discord, Katherine Ludwig Jansen brilliantly illuminates how religious and political leaders used peace agreements for everything from bringing an end to neighborhood quarrels to restoring full citizenship to judicial exiles. She brings to light a treasure trove of unpublished evidence from notarial archives and supports it with sermons, hagiography, political treatises, and chronicle accounts. She paints a vivid picture of life in an Italian commune, a socially and politically unstable world that strove to achieve peace. Jansen also assembles a wealth of visual material from the period, illustrating for the first time how the kiss of peace—a ritual gesture borrowed from the Catholic Mass—was incorporated into the settlement of secular disputes.

Breaking new ground in the study of peacemaking in the Middle Ages, Peace and Penance in Late Medieval Italy adds an entirely new dimension to our understanding of Italian culture in this turbulent age by showing how peace was conceived, memorialized, and occasionally achieved.

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: