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MEDIEVAL-RELIGION  February 2006

MEDIEVAL-RELIGION February 2006

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Subject:

Re: beggars and saints' charity

From:

John Dillon <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

medieval-religion - Scholarly discussions of medieval religious culture <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 14 Feb 2006 17:33:51 -0600

Content-Type:

text/plain

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medieval-religion: Scholarly discussions of medieval religion and culture

On Tuesday, February 14, 2006, at 9:03 am, Christopher Crockett wrote:
 
> did the Neopolitans at least get it right to the extent that the 
> mendicantswere sited in the poorer sections of town, whether 
> that/those quarter(s)
> was/were "on the outer periphery" or not, John?

Not initially and, after that, not always.  Naples' first major 
Franciscan convent, San Lorenzo Maggiore (as it became), was located at 
the city's then major market area, diagonally opposite a major diocesan 
church, San Paolo Maggiore, and just up their north/south street from a 
major Benedictine house, San Gregorio Armeno.  The cathedral was/is 
only a few blocks away (2 or 3 east on the Via dei Tribunali, the 
middle of the city's three east/west running _decumani_, and then a 
block or so north on the Via Duomo).  The Franciscans could surely meet 
a lot of people of modest means here, but they were not really living 
among them.  The first Dominican presence of any size, San Domenico 
Maggiore (as it became), was just off the lowest of the three 
_decumani_ but further west and in a mixed neighborhood of nobles and 
professionals.  The first Augustinian convent, Sant'Agostino alla/della 
Zecca, was built in an open space on the southwestern corner of the 
hill on which the Old City stands.  A cliff separated it from the 
suburbs below and the area just to its east was occupied primarily by 
wealthy tradespeople.  It was a fairly short walk from here down to the 
Piazza della Sellaria, another busy market area, but the area itself 
was not poor.  These three houses were built on sites given them by 
major patrons (ecclesiastical in the case of the Franciscans and the 
Dominicans; royal in the case of the Augustinians).

In the later thirteenth century all three houses were recipients of 
significant royal patronage; each became its order's mother house for 
the entire kingdom, housing its _studium_, its inquisitors, and various
important guests.  They were thus administrative centers and as the 
Middle Ages wore on they and their neighborhoods also became tonier.  
San Lorenzo was one of the crown's funerary churches during the Angevin 
period; San Domenico was the Aragonese funerary church.  Sant'Agostino 
became identified with the _popolo grosso_, whose leaders often lived 
in its vicinity and whose civic meetings took place on its premises.  
All three also had important connections with the university, with the 
Dominicans (who were located just above it) being clearly _primi inter 
pares_ in this regard.  We're not talking about _ordinary_ mendicant 
houses here.

As all this was going on, the population grew both in the city proper 
and in its suburbs between the hill and the sea.  Mendicants were here 
also, though less prominently.  To correct something I said yesterday, 
the very first Franciscan house at Naples was not San Lorenzo but 
rather Santa Maria, founded near the port in 1216 at a site that was so 
good that in the 1260s Charles I chose it for Castel Nuovo.  The 
Franciscans were moved slightly up the hill to Santa Maria la Nova, 
which remained throughout the later Middle Ages the chief Franciscan 
house for the port area.  Located at the western edge of the Old City 
in or just next to a poor residential area, and occupied by strictly 
Observant Franciscans, it fits the order's stereotype in ways that San 
Lorenzo and the royally patronized convents of Santa Chiara (double) 
and Santa Maria di Donnaregina (women only; both in tony neighborhoods) 
did not.  The Dominicans also had a smaller house near the port, San 
Pietro Martire, founded in 1299.

The area southeast of the Old City that was included within the early 
fourteenth-century Angevin wall included, in addition to open space and 
previously existing monasteries, one mixed noble and bourgeois district 
(Porta Nova) and a string of poorer neighborhoods running east along 
the coast from the port.  Its southeast corner was anchored by Piazza 
Mercato, an early project of Charles I that was bracketed on the east 
by Hospitaler foundation of San Giovanni a Mare and the adjacent lay-
confraternity-managed hospital of Sant'Eligio (ecclesiastically subject 
to the archdiocese) and on the west by the Carmelites of Santa Maria 
del Carmine.  There were smaller mendicant houses in the former suburbs 
north of here, including two royally founded Franciscan houses for 
former prostitutes (Santa Maria Maddalena and Santa Maria Egiziaca; 
neither seems to have been still Franciscan in the late fifteenth 
century) and the variously Celestinian and Dominican Santa Caterina a 
Formiello, which treated sick and weary travellers.  To the northeast, 
the fourteenth-century Reformed Augustinian house of San Giovanni alla 
Carbonara, sited next to the town dump, was adjacent to another poor 
suburb and ministered to the poor long before it attracted significant 
royal and noble patronage in the fifteenth century.        

So, yes, there _were_ mendicant houses in poor areas.  As well as 
others in areas that were (or quickly became) anything but poor.

Two recent art historical books dealing in part with this material are 
Caroline Bruzelius, _The Stones of Naples: Church Building in Angevin 
Italy, 1266-1343_ (Yale Univ. Pr., 2004), and Janis Elliott and 
Cordelia Warr, eds., _The Church of Santa Maria Donna Regina: Art, 
Iconography and Patronage in Fourteenth-Century Naples_ Ashgate, 2004).

Best again,
John Dillon

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