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22.01.18 Doyno, The Lay Saint

22.01.18 Doyno, The Lay Saint

This book takes a new and original look at the emergence of lay saints in the cities of medieval north-central Italy. Mary Doyno builds on the scholarship of André Vauchez, who was the first to identify urban lay sanctity as a distinct phenomenon, and others who have studied aspects of lay sanctity in Italian cites: for example, Augustine Thompson, Diana Webb, and Joanna Cannon. But where Vauchez and others have seen the cults of lay saints as an outgrowth of increased lay piety and as the church’s recognition of that piety, Doyno explores the cults of lay saints as sites of tension in which the church sought to rein in and control lay religious aspirations--as evidence “both of the radical assertions standing at the heart of the laity’s embrace of the vita apostolica and of the church’s efforts to restrain and manage such claims” (279). Doyno focuses on the cults of sixteen lay penitents, men and women, mostly through their vitae, but also through sermons and other texts as well as visual images. She pays close attention to the ways in which the saints and their cults are shaped by connections to local religious and civic institutions, and to how these cults develop through multiple accounts and diverse perspectives, for instance, early vitae by clerical authors tied to local institutions compared to later vitae by mendicant authors. Overall, she identifies a process whereby discomfort with claims to saintly charisma for independent lay people, and especially lay women, led to the elimination of lay penance and its absorption into the mendicant orders by the middle to late fourteenth century.

The book is very clearly organized thematically and to a large extent chronologically. The first part examines lay male saints; the second part deals with female lay saints before Nicholas II’s 1289 decree Supra montem, which called on the Franciscans to oversee communities of lay penitents; and the third part explores female lay sanctity between 1289 and the gradual absorption of lay female penitents into the mendicant orders. In Part I, Doyno begins by exploring the differences in the cults of two male saints, the merchants Ranieri of Pisa (d. 1160) and Omobono of Cremona (d. 1197). Ranieri was a reformer whose embrace of penance gave him access to the power of healing and a quasi-priestly authority, demonstrated vividly in a sculpted font originally from the Cremonese cathedral in which he is shown blessing both clerics and laypeople. But this model of lay spiritual power posed a threat to the power of the clergy and institutional church and did not fit into Innocent III’s conception of the distinction between clerical and lay roles. For Innocent, the lay state was inherently flawed; Omobono as an exception was “a lily among the thorns” of ordinary lay life (40). Innocent’s canonization of Omobono has usually been seen as both embracing the lay charisma of a saint like Ranieri and coopting a potentially hostile movement by giving it a place within the church. Doyno argues instead that the portrait of Omobono in Innocent’s canonization decree seeks to transform and restrain lay charisma by redirecting it into less threatening channels: posthumous rather than living miracles, fighting heretics rather than reforming the church, civic charity and peacemaking rather than blessings.

Doyno then shows how Innocent’s emphasis on civic charity and good works was embraced, to a large extent, in a new paradigm, the “communal lay saint.” As civic authorities in the emergent popolo-led communal governments of the thirteenth century took control of local cults, they promoted the model of the ideal layman as one who performed charity and helped fix social and economic inequalities. Here she focuses on the artisan Raimondo Palmiero of Piacenza (d. 1200), new versions of the vita of Omobono that in popolo-led Cremona recast him as a distinctly communal saint, and the gold- and silversmith Facio of Cremona (d. 1271). The hagiography of communal lay saints features details of work and urban life that citizens would have identified with and was generally more positively disposed toward lay life than Innocent III’s model. And the idea of the lay saint as a miracle worker reappears in the cult of Facio and the later lives of Omobono; under the auspices of civic authorities “lay saints were again portrayed as living holy men, dispensing miracles that healed their local communities” (82). The apotheosis of this model of lay saint was achieved in the cult of the comb-maker Pier “Pettinaio” of Siena, embraced by the ruling magistracy of the Nine as a saint who helped regulate Siena’s religious ideals and, like the Nine themselves, pursued “the good and honor of the city” (123).

In part two, Dayno examines the hagiography and cults of several female lay saints prior to 1289--Ubaldesca of Calcinaia (d. 1205), Bona of Pisa (d. 1207), Rose of Viterbo (d. 1251), Umiliana de’ Cerchi of Florence (d. 1246), and Zita of Lucca (d. 1278)--to show how gender norms compounded the institutional challenges posed by all lay saints to make independent lay female saints especially threatening. Doyno shows that the hagiography of female saints was especially sensitive to the dangers of female independence and the disruptive potential of living miracles. If male lay saints needed favorable civic contexts for their charisma and independence to be recognized, female saints needed to be distanced from living miracles and could not be represented as independent. Their influence and the success of their cults depended absolutely on their attachment to religious orders or other institutions governed by men. Doyno makes her argument most effectively by comparing the successful cult of Umiliana de’ Cerchi and the (initially) less successful cult of Rose of Viterbo. Umiliana’s Franciscan hagiographer gave her an “institutional identity” by making her (anachronistically) a member of the Franciscan Third Order “to obscure what was essentially an independent lay religious life” (146). He also took pains to portray her as living secluded rather than moving in public and devoted less to public charity and more to the interior life and visions. And he downplayed Umiliana’s agency in the miracles God performs in response to her prayers. On the other hand, while there was a papal inquiry into Rose’s cult, Doyno observes that the earliest vita of Rose presented her in ways that emphasized her independence and initiative as well as the “informal, ad hoc” nature of her religious life: she “embodied a side of the lay penitential movement that church authorities were increasingly seeking to control and redefine” (160). Doyno speculates that the pope might have found Rose “too difficult, too independent, and ultimately too lay and female to support her cult” (161). Rose’s cult did eventually spread beyond Viterbo, but only in the fourteenth century when the Franciscans began to claim her as an early member of the Third Order. Zita of Lucca is an interesting exception that proves the rule. Her character as an independent lay person remained intact, but she was also to an unusual degree promoted and protected by influential (male) clerical and civic authorities in Lucca.

In the third part, Doyno shows how “the problem of the female lay penitent” (243) was solved by “regulating the lay penitent out of existence” (262). She builds on the research of Giovanna Casagrande, Alison More, and Maiju Lehmijoi-Gardner showing that documents that have long been treated as evidence of the early existence of the mendicant “third orders” were in fact regulatory measures seeking to rein in the problematic aspects of lay penitence. Nicholas II’s bull Supra montem, which in 1289 delegated oversight of all lay penitents to the Franciscans, was one such measure. In the case of the Ordinationes issued for lay female penitents in Orvieto by the Dominican Munio of Zamora in 1286, it seems that the women themselves sought the protection of stronger institutional affiliation with the mendicants to preserve their way of life. Measures such as these laid the groundwork for the Third Orders that emerged in their fully developed forms in the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries. The civic saint remained an outward-looking model for men to exercise lay piety through public charity as members of confraternities, while mendicant hagiographers of saintly lay women increasingly emphasized their visions and somatic religiosity to provide a model for female penitents to pursue devotional lives within their own homes rather than through public activities. Doyno’s main example here is the complex and fascinating case of Margaret of Cortona (d. 1297), a civic saint recast by her Franciscan hagiographer as a reclusive visionary. That these trends did not affect only women in the Franciscan orbit can be seen in the lives of saints with connections to the Dominicans like Giovanna of Orvieto (d. 1307) and Margaret of Città di Castello (d. 1320). The culmination of a process of moving “the site of an ideal lay life out of the city streets and into women’s bodies” (264) can be seen in Catherine of Siena (d. 1380), an independent and publicly active lay penitent who became posthumously the authority for the Dominican Third Order.

This book is very well written, deeply sourced, and compellingly argued. Doyno reads hagiographical texts with sensitivity to the ambiguities and contradictions of the lives they depict and the ideals they seek to communicate. The individual saints are presented as case studies in which Doyno digs deep into the complexities of the multiple voices that claimed or supported each saint and the ways in which different hagiographical emphases were shaped by different institutional concerns, at the local level and beyond. At times she perhaps leans too heavily on the idea that developments in lay sanctity can be explained as responses to the threat posed by lay spiritual aspiration. To make only a couple of obvious points related to the later chapters of the book, interest in visions and the visionary was something larger and separate from a campaign to control lay penitents. And an emphasis on emotions and interiority tracks with broader cultural trends in late medieval spirituality, not just the rejection of women’s public independence. The texts cited here show plenty of evidence of fascination with their saintly subjects, not just repression. But one of the great virtues of this book is precisely the richness and abundance of the evidence, so that the reader is invited to think along with the author and build on her insights by asking new or different questions. And Doyno’s emphasis on the ideological work that can be done by hagiography is an important correction to the tendency to read the lives of lay saints mainly or simply as representations of lay ideals. Her main point is convincing: as much as the lives of lay saints in medieval Italy provide evidence of lay spiritual aspirations, they also show--especially in the case of women--the unwillingness of the church and sometimes civic society to accommodate autonomous lay piety.