Since I had both _Santi del Carmelo_ and the January volume of the new
Butler on my desk, and was looking for a distraction from grading, I
thought to compare what the two have to say about St Andrew Corsini (d.
1374), Carmelite and bishop of Fiesole, whose feast is 6 January.
Oh dear, it's not a happy result for Burns' Butler. The first mistake is
AC's dates, given as 1301-73. There is no reliable evidence for the date of
his birth; and he died 6 January 1374 (1373 Florentine style, which
surely should be adjusted for modern publication).
Most of Burns' entry is taken up with legendary material, drawn ultimately
from the mid-15th c. vita by Piero Del Castagno, presumably via AA.SS. and
the Italian biographies by Mattei (1872) and Caioli (1929), the only
sources given in the bibliography. Saggi's article in _Santi del Carmelo_
gives much space to an evaluation of Del Castagno's vita and the state of
the text, which he calls a source of little credibility (Saggi was never
one to mince words). He thinks Del Castagno can generally be accepted when
he recounts things he witnessed himself, though not always even then.
According to Saggi, the following details (all of what follows are
elements in Burns' account) should be dismissed as standard topoi: the
circumstances of his birth; his "dissipated and vicious life" as a youth
[until the age of 15]. Unconfirmed are: his mother's dream of giving birth
to a wolf who becomes a lamb; the date of his birth; the details of his
entrance to religious life; the flight to the Charterhouse to escape
ordination as bishop; the papal peace mission to Bologna. Certainly not
true are his priorship of the Carmine in Florence and his three years at
the University of Paris. Burns does not mention that he was in fact prior
provincial of Tuscany at the time of his nomination as bishop. And though
it is true that he was buried in Florence, it was only after his body was
stolen from its original tomb in Fiesole some weeks after the first
Although Burns mentions AC's austerity and charity, the entry is rather
stereotyped, and in comparison with Saggi's account lacks many
of the concrete details which give a more vivid picture of this saint: his
rejection of a century-old tradition of episcopal residence in Florence in
favour of his dilapidated palace and cathedral in Fiesole; his retention
of a conventual horarium; his commitment to canonical visitation of his
diocese and reform of the clergy, and the institution of a confraternity
of priests for this purpose; his concern to be "father and administrator
of the poor"; etc.
I don't have any independent knowledge of AC, and am unable to evaluate
Saggi's account of him. But a simple comparison of these two articles
suggests that Burns' entry repeats legendary material rather uncritically
to construct a rather conventional sort of mini-vita. It's surprising not
to see a bibliographical reference to Bibliotheca Sanctorum, which I
presume contains some version of Saggi's article.
Paul Chandler || Yarra Theological Union
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