Stock, Nuns

Intera Narrazione della Vita, Costumi, e Intelligenze Spirituali della Venerabile Sposa di Gesù, Suor Domenica dal Paradiso, Fondatrice del Monastero della Croce di Firenze

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BORGHIGIANI, Benedetto Maria
Florence, Michele Nestenus & Francesco Moucke
US$ 2,250.00
SAVONAROLA MEETS HIS MATCH. Large 4to. [27 x 20.5 cm]. (2), 3-495, (1), plus engr. frontispiece signed C[arlo]. Gregori after G[iuseppe]. Menabuoni, dated 1745. [Bound with:] Intera Narrazione… Parte Terza, ora per la prima volta data in luce. Florence: Francesco Moucke, 1802. LII pp, 208 pp. Bound together in early 19th century quarter vellum over speckled boards with modern manuscript title on spine. Recased at some point with late 19th endpapers; textblock cracked but holding perfectly. Rare first edition, and a complete copy with the portrait and all three parts, of this voluminous biography of a Florentine nun, Domenica del Paradiso (1473-1553), who remains unbeatified to this day. “Published in 1719, the account has no equal in the description of nuns in the period immediately following the forced enclosure imposed by the Council of Trent. But even this biography appears to be an invention of its time, with post-Tridentine prurience now replaced with enlightened idealism. According to Borghigiani, Domenica is single-minded and acts according to her inner principles, rather than buckling to authority” (Breckon). Born Domenica Narducci, our heroine fled from an abusive life on a Tuscan farm for the tranquility of convent life in Florence, taking the habit in 1499 during the heyday of Savonarola’s preaching. “An outspoken critic of her male counterparts who were followers of the controversial Dominican reformer Girolamo Savonarola (1452–1498), Suor Domenica championed her own reforms for female Dominicans. In 1515 she founded the Convent of Santa Crocetta in Florence. In later years she remained a major figure in Italian religious life, exchanging letters with Popes Clement VII and Paul III. During the centuries that followed her death, many pious Florentines believed that Suor Domenica's protection had saved them from the plague.” (Bridwell Library). Thanks to the support of the ruling Medici family, who appreciated her anti-Savonarolan bent, Domenica and her religious sisters were able to shake off the yoke of their nominal supervisors, the Dominican monks of San Marco, and instead fell under the direct supervision of the Archbishop of Florence himself. Alongside frequent musical performances (which are preserved in its archive), Domenica encouraged her nuns of La Crocetta to pursue economically viable activities like silk weaving in order to support the convent's finances, which continued until the building's confiscation by the state in the late 19th century. The publishing history of this Vita are somewhat complex, and the preface to Part III notes that “the first two Parts of this Vita printed in Florence by Michele Nestenus at the end of the year 1719 in small folio are extremely rare and most desirable, seeing as most copies were jealously kept in said Convent as an imperfect book, waiting for its companion…” (p. III). OCLC shows US copies at Chicago, Boston College, and SMU. * cf eg. Callahan, “Suor Domenica da Paradiso as alter Christus: Portraits of a Renaissance Mystic” The Sixteenth Century Journal, Vol. 43 (2012), pp. 323-350; and Breckon, Agency through Plainchant: Nuns of Florence, 1550–1650 (University of London PhD thesis, 2022)