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Florence Under SiegeSurviving Plague in an Early Modern City$
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John Henderson

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780300196344

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300196344.001.0001

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Religion in the Time of Plague

Religion in the Time of Plague

(p.149) Chapter 6 Religion in the Time of Plague
Florence Under Siege

John Henderson

Yale University Press

This chapter focuses on religion and the works of art commissioned during and after the epidemic. The strategies adopted by Church and state in Florence were seen as vital to placate the wrath of God, one of the main causes of plague. Indeed, there was close collaboration between Church and state, as each shared the common aim of employing the power of local saints and images to intervene with the wrathful deity. Secular and ecclesiastical authorities also shared similar concerns for public health, by limiting direct participation of the majority of the population in major processions. Official devotion and major processions centred on three major ecclesiastical sites: the Cathedral; SS. Annunziata, which housed the city's main miraculous shrine; and S. Marco, where the body of St Antonino was kept in an elaborate crystal casket. Belief in the power of religion during plague is reflected by the importance placed on artistic patronage in each of these three churches during and following the epidemic. As during previous epidemics, the 1630s plague led to a lasting legacy of commissions of new chapels, altarpieces, frescoes, costly silver candlesticks, and humble ex-voti, reflecting that plague in Florence, as elsewhere, led to the enrichment of churches.

Keywords:   religion, religious art, epidemic, Church, Florence, plague, public health, processions, ecclesiastical sites, artistic patronage

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