Current Research (Assoc. Professor Peter Howard)

Current Research (Assoc. Professor Peter Howard)

Peter is working on a number of projec450px-9792_-_Firenze_-_Colonna_di_S._Trinita_-_Foto_Giovanni_Dall'Orto,_27-Oct-2007ts related to “cultures of belief in Renaissance Florence”, funded by an ARC Discovery Grant. He has recently completed a contribution to a volume in honour of Professor Charles Zika, a long-time mentor at the University of Melbourne.  Peter’s chapter explores the trial and execution of Giovanni Cani da Montecatini in May 1450 as a heretic and enchanter.  It is a story that has received little attention in the literature on Renaissance Florence. But Cani’s trial and execution sparked an immediate reaction in Renaissance Florence. “Do not speak of it, it is a great disgrace for our city,” declared one citizen. Others declared: “This was not approved by any of our citizens.” How was it that an archbishop who was considered to be saintly, with humanist friends, and who wrote that “in punishing heretics the church, nevertheless, uses justice and mercy” should hand a heretic and sorcerer over to Florence’s podestà for execution? The search for answers was more of a “detective tale” than usual. A reference to documents, currently held in the lovely little Tuscan town of Pescia, promisingly titled “the judgement of Saint Antoninus against the heretic Giovanni de’ Cani,” ended somewhat abruptly. Rather than Antoninus’s judgement, that material comprises nineteenth-century transcriptions of a range of sources which refer to Cani extracted from Florentine libraries and archives by someone who worked Florentine libraries. Clearly they were never returned! For when these references are traced back to their original sources they no longer exist (although they may be in a box hidden in a family attic!). Not to be deterred by the documentary dead end, Peter’s essay revisits and re-contextualizes what we know of Cani’s case within the broader framework of preaching, sorcery, and heresy in early Renaissance Florence.