Cover image for Illuminating the Vitae patrum: The Lives of Desert Saints in Fourteenth-Century Italy By Denva Gallant

Illuminating the Vitae patrum

The Lives of Desert Saints in Fourteenth-Century Italy

Denva Gallant

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$94.95 | Hardcover Edition
ISBN: 978-0-271-09563-9

Available as an e-book

168 pages
8" × 10"
35 color/39 b&w illustrations
2024

Illuminating the Vitae patrum

The Lives of Desert Saints in Fourteenth-Century Italy

Denva Gallant

“Denva Gallant, in a masterful analysis of this manuscript’s unique imagery, convincingly argues for a renewed rise in the interest in the desert fathers in trecento Italy. Her study reveals ways that religious trends of the period encouraged laypeople to adopt some of the spiritual practices of monks, nuns, and even hermits, including penance, prayer, and imaginative contemplation of religious narratives.”

 

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During the fourteenth century in Western Europe, there was a growing interest in imitating the practices of a group of hermits known as the Desert Fathers and Mothers. Laypeople and religious alike learned about their rituals not only through readings from the Vitae patrum (Lives of the Desert Fathers) and sermons but also through the images that brought their stories to life.

In this volume, Denva Gallant examines the Morgan Library’s richly illustrated manuscript of the Vitae patrum (MS M.626), whose extraordinary artworks witness the rise of the eremitic ideal and its impact on the visual culture of late medieval Italy. Drawing upon scholarship on the history of psychology, eastern monasticism, gender, and hagiography, Gallant deepens our understanding of the centrality of the Desert Fathers and Mothers to late medieval piety. She provides important insights into the role of images in making the practices of the desert saints both compelling and accessible to fourteenth-century city dwellers, who were just beginning to cultivate the habit of private devotion on a wide scale.

By focusing on the most extensively illuminated manuscript of the Vitae patrum to emerge during the trecento, this book sheds new light on the ways in which images communicated and reinforced modes of piety. It will be of interest to art historians, religious historians, and students focusing on this period in Italian history.

“Denva Gallant, in a masterful analysis of this manuscript’s unique imagery, convincingly argues for a renewed rise in the interest in the desert fathers in trecento Italy. Her study reveals ways that religious trends of the period encouraged laypeople to adopt some of the spiritual practices of monks, nuns, and even hermits, including penance, prayer, and imaginative contemplation of religious narratives.”

Denva Gallant is Assistant Professor of Art History at Rice University. Her website is www.denvagallant.com.

Contents

List of Illustrations

Acknowledgments

List of Abbreviations

Introduction 1

1. Cultivating Virtue in the Vitae patrum

2. On Withdrawal

3. On Temptation

4. On Penance

Conclusion

Notes

Bibliography

Index

Download a PDF sample chapter here: Introduction

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