The sacred home in the Italian Renaissance

THURSDAY 8 FEBRUARY, 18.00–19.30

The sacred home in the Italian Renaissance

A talk by Abigail Brundin, Deborah Howard and Mary Laven (Cambridge) to conclude this five-year European Research Council funded project.


The talk introduces our forthcoming book, The Sacred Home in Renaissance Italy (Oxford University Press, 2018). This publication is the summation of five years’ interdisciplinary research supported by a European Research Council Synergy Grant (2013-2017). The ‘synergy’ of the project lies in its interdisciplinary teamwork, integrating literary, historical and art-historical research by nine scholars.

Our book challenges the widespread assumption that a new secular spirit pervaded the Italian Renaissance home. Instead we explore the private devotional life of Italians between 1450 and 1600, and suggest that piety was not confined to the church and the convent but infused the daily life of individual believers. Acts of devotion, from routine prayers to extraordinary religious experiences such as miracles and visions, 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.

The book moves beyond the ‘golden triangle’ of Venice, Florence and Rome to investigate practices of piety across the Italian peninsula. We focus on three contrasting regions — the Venetian terraferma, the Marche, and the city of Naples. Drawing on a wide range of textual, material and visual sources, we recover a host of lost voices and compelling narratives at the intersection between the divine and the everyday. Our multidisciplinary approach enables unprecedented glimpses through the key-hole into the spiritual lives of Renaissance Italians