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The Boys of the Archangel Raphael

The Boys of the Archangel Raphael: A Youth Confraternity in Florence, 1411-1785

Copyright Date: 1998
Pages: 486
  • Book Info
    The Boys of the Archangel Raphael
    Book Description:

    A study of a religious organization for youths (aged 13-14) founded in Florence in1411 that is firmly grounded on archival and contemporary documents, and covers a variety of fields of interest.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7156-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. Boys in Hoods: An Introduction
    (pp. 3-11)

    During the festivities for our Patron the Archangel Raphael, two of our brothers had an argument, or came to blows, in our oratory. For this reason this morning the 11th [of January] they were reprimanded by our Father Corrector, and warned in front of the entire Confraternity, and he had them ask forgiveness of each other, and gave them a small penance to do.¹

    With these words, the scribe for the youth confraternity of the Arcangelo Raffaello recalled a fist-fight that had broken out two weeks earlier, on 31 December 1561, in the confraternity’s oratory during one of its most...

  6. 1 A City of Confraternities
    (pp. 12-22)

    Confraternities were everywhere in premodern Europe and played an important part in the lives of devout Catholics of all social classes. Some regions and cities, Tuscany/Umbria and Florence in particular, were fertile territory for the growth and proliferation of these lay religious associations. The following pages will offer an overview of the situation in Florence by focusing especially on the Dominican church of Santa Maria Novella and its fundamental role in welcoming and fostering the development of lay devotional interests. The notion of confraternities composed exclusively of youths will then lead to a detailed discussion of who, exactly, was a...

  7. 2 The Founding of the Arcangelo Raffaello and the Development of Youth Confraternities in Florence
    (pp. 23-33)

    The confraternity of the Arcangelo Raffaello was founded in 1411 by a gold-leaf worker whose name has not come down to us.¹ An early description of the foundation of the confraternity, dating it precisely to 27 December 1411, can be found in a manuscript from thebucaof San Girolamo that, for a short time, was associated with the Arcangelo Raffaello:

    Resumé of the Statutes of the Company of the Nativity of Christ, of the under-age brothers, and their intentions ... having been founded and having received their own name on the 27th of December 1411, the feast-day of our...

  8. 3 At the Ospedale della Scala (1430s–1530)
    (pp. 34-40)

    The prestige garnered by the confraternity of the Arcangelo Raffaello was due not only to its primogeniture among the youth confraternities in the city, but also to the patronage and support it received from people in authority. Cardinal Cesarini recommended it to youths of promise, such as Vespasiano da Bisticci. Ambrogio Traversari spoke highly of youth confraternities in his two letters to the pope and probably expanded on his views or emphasized the work of individual groups in his conversations with the pontiff. Eugenius iv, on his part, was clearly pleased with the activities of the Arcangelo Raffaello and supported...

  9. 4 Prelates, Princes, and Priors
    (pp. 41-55)

    The confraternity’s new location on the via della Scala made the youths neighbours of the pope, whose own apartments at the back of the convent of Santa Maria Novella had an entrance from that same street. Such proximity was, in effect, further consolidation of the confraternity’s prestigious position as a group fostered by, and close to, a pope whose many years of residence in Florence had made of him an important figure in the life of the city. This chapter will examine the contacts that the Arcangelo Raffaello and, in passing, other youth confraternities enjoyed with the individuals that held...

  10. 5 The Move to Santa Maria Novella
    (pp. 56-71)

    The 1529-30 imperial siege of Florence marks the turning point in Florence’s history from republican to ducal government. The long traditions of elected leadership which, after the return of Cosimo de’ Medici from his Venetian exile (1433–4), had been a mere pretext forde factoMedici rule, were now supplanted by the imperially sanctioned reality of aristocratic and hereditary Medicean government. In 1531 the Emperor Charles v made Alessandro de’ Medici duke of Florence with right of male succession and gave him his own natural daughter, Margaret of Austria, in marriage. Florence thus became a satellite state in the...

  11. 6 Rebirth
    (pp. 72-83)

    By the mid-155os, the confraternity’s increasing wealth, membership, and self-assurance had reached the point where it could look with pride at its activities and accomplishments. This new prosperity is reflected in the decision taken by the two adult officers, the guardian father Antonio di Giovannicuoiaio(leather worker) and the father corrector Fr David da Raggiuolo, OP, to begin once again to keep an official written record of the confraternity’s activities.¹ Their inspired decision allows us to examine this renewal in many ways. In this chapter we will follow it by noting the rebuilding and renovations that were undertaken, and...

  12. 7 The Confraternity and the Post-Tridentine Church
    (pp. 84-95)

    The Church hierarchy in the fifteenth century had been, on the whole, supportive of youth confraternities. The Camaldolese General Ambrogio Traversari had praised their role in the spiritual and moral education of the laity, Pope Eugenius iv had recognized them officially and granted them both permanency and prestige, and Archbishop Antoninus had given them devotional and administrative consistency by overseeing the composition or revision of their statutes. On the whole, the interventions of the hierarchy in the devotional, spiritual, and administrative life of youth confraternities had strengthened the movement while, to a certain extent, limiting it to the few organizations...

  13. 8 Statutes and Administrative Structures
    (pp. 96-110)

    An inventory of goods compiled in 1690 lists four different copies of the confraternity’s statutes, all kept in a box on top of the cabinet in the change room.¹ They are the capitoli drawn up in 1468, their 1560 copy, a fine copy of the newcapitoliof 1636, and their copy for everyday use. This chapter will examine these different sets of statutes and discuss the most important aspects of the administrative structures they outlined.

    The 1468capitoliwere approved on 20 October 1468 by Giuliano di Antonio da Montelupo, bishop of Citharea and vicar of the archbishop of...

  14. 9 Membership
    (pp. 111-127)

    The nature of the individuals who constituted the membership was of vital importance for the confraternity. The process that identified suitable new members, drew them to the confraternity, inducted them, and eventually released or, in the case of undesirable members, expelled them was clearly outlined in the confraternity’s statutes. These expectations were then reaffirmed in the induction ceremony itself. Members were expected to conform to a high moral code in every aspect of their daily life, and so behaviour was monitored both inside and outside the confraternity’s building. In this chapter we will examine the selection process, the age and...

  15. 10 The Teaching of Christian Doctrine
    (pp. 128-137)

    In his description of the Arcangelo Raffaello, the seventeenth-century erudite Filippo Leopoldo Del Migliore points out that the confraternity was founded by an anonymous gold-leaf worker who gathered young men (giovanetti) together in order to teach them Christian doctrine.¹ Del Migliore describes the man as ‘un uomo spirituale,’ thus suggesting that the initiative was grounded in that individual’s own strong commitment to Christianity and lay evangelism. The founder’s personal initiative was soon modified, first by the group’s brief association with thebucaof San Girolamo and then by papal approval and regularization. The teaching of Christian doctrine by a layman...

  16. 11 Religious Rituals
    (pp. 138-149)

    The confraternity’s spiritual life consisted of a communal and a personal component. The communal component took place on Sundays, all holy days of obligation, and on certain feast-days as established by confraternity custom or decided upon by the guardian father. At these times the brothers gathered in the oratory as a community to pray and to conduct confraternity business. The personal component, instead, was nurtured privately by each brother in his everyday activities outside the confraternity walls, in line, however, with the confraternity’s moral and devotional standards.

    The communal spiritual life of the confraternity revolved around a yearly cycle of...

  17. 12 Confraternity Feasts and Devotions
    (pp. 150-166)

    Aside from the regular schedule of weekly prayer meetings and daily personal devotions, members of the Arcangelo Raffaello celebrated a number of feasts that held specific meaning for them. First and foremost was the festivity in honour of their patron, the Archangel Raphael, which they observed annually on 31 December. The feast-day of their advocate, St Mary Magdalene, was observed in late July. For a time in the mid-sixteenth century, the early August feast-day of St Lawrence was also commemorated at the confraternity. As the years passed and older members died, the feast of All Saints’ became particularly important, for...

  18. 13 Processions
    (pp. 167-179)

    The confraternity of the Arcangelo Raffaello participated in both public and private processions. In June, for example, it took part in the procession to honour the city’s patron, St John the Baptist. In May/June it joined in the Corpus Domini procession. It also took part in occasional processions organized by the Florentine clergy, such as those to welcome the Madonna of Impruneta to Florence or to solicit God’s favour or temper his wrath, as the case might be. Privately, the confraternity accompanied the bodies of deceased members to burial, or joined with the friars of Santa Maria Novella to honour...

  19. 14 Sermons at the Arcangelo Raffaello
    (pp. 180-190)

    Alongside the weekly recitation of matins and celebration of Masses, one of the major regular activities at the Arcangelo Raffaello was the recitation of sermons. Since the last century, scholars of Renaissance theatre, philosophy, and culture have mentioneden passantthe importance of sermons delivered in confraternities. Alessandro D’Ancona drew connections between confraternity recitation of sermons and religiouslaude.¹ Drawing on Isidore Del Lungo, Benedetto Neri claimed (incorrectly) that Agnolo Poliziano had been a member of a youth confraternity where, in his younger years, he had ‘practised piety and eloquence’ by delivering four sermons – two on the Eucharist, one...

  20. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  21. 15 Fun and Games
    (pp. 191-197)

    As the journal entry that opens the introduction to this volume clearly indicates, children are often inclined to physical violence. Educators have long realized this and have therefore sought to temper the tendency by providing the young with acceptable physical outlets – play and exercise. This chapter will first examine the presence and nature of youthful violence in premodern Italian society, and then describe and discuss the manner in which youth confraternities tried to redirect their members’ pent-up physical energies into socially acceptable activities.

    In her article on the social role of children in early modern Italy, Ottavia Niccoli describes...

  22. 16 Theatre in the Confraternity
    (pp. 198-217)

    At different times in its annual calendar of feasts and devotions, as well as at different moments in its 374-year existence, the confraternity of the Arcangelo Raffaello organized theatrical performances that were either inserted into its devotional life or performed separately as a special event for members and friends. In line with current theories on play-acting and education, the performance of plays by youths in confraternities was seen both as a moment of relaxation and as an opportunity for education. The Horatian maxim ofdelectare et docere, so often repeated in the prologues of fifteenth- and sixteenth-century plays, served as...

  23. 17 Theatre in the Seventeenth Century
    (pp. 218-234)

    Theatre in youth confraternities changed significantly in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. First of all, the revival of classical theatre at the end of the fifteenth century, and especially the revival of the comedies of Plautus and Terence, led to the creation of a new dramatic genre that combined ancient form and contemporary subject matter - the erudite comedy. Secular, and often critical of some aspects of contemporary society, the new genre could be found everywhere. Secondly, princely patronage often supported and encouraged the theatrical entertainments mounted by youth confraternities. Splendid sets, elaborate costumes, music, and dancing became ever more...

  24. 18 Music in the Confraternity
    (pp. 235-256)

    More than any of the other arts, music was probably the Arcangelo Raffaello’s most important contribution to cultural life in Florence. The membership as a whole, and the most musically gifted youths in particular, received musical training and were then given an opportunity to perform in public. Coupled with the presence within the membership of youths with talent in the visual arts and in theatre, this proved to be a powerful mixture that produced, especially in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century, a critical mass of gifted young men who, without exaggeration, helped to change the course of European...

  25. 19 Art in the Confraternity
    (pp. 257-269)

    Although the Arcangelo Raffaello came into the public eye in the fifteenth century because of its interest in theatre, from the mid-sixteenth century it also began to attract attention because of its rapidly growing interest in the visual arts. By the time Marc’Antonio Seminari drew up the 1690 inventory, the confraternity could boast of a collection of paintings, frescoes, terracotta figures, reliquaries, and other such objects of artistic merit that was not at all negligible. Among the artists represented were Jacopo Vignali, Jacopo Chimenti detto l’Empoli, Piero Dandini, Orazio Fidani, Lorenzo Lippi, Carlino Dolci, Baccio del Bianco, Matteo Rosselli, and...

  26. 20 The Obsequies for Grand Duke Cosimo II
    (pp. 270-291)

    One of the most visually stunning events at the Arcangelo Raffaello must have been the confraternity’s 1621 obsequies for Grand Duke Cosimo ii. The premature death of their belovedconfratelloand ruler was lamented and observed with an extensive (and expensive) stage set and with a formal eulogy. A detailed description and an analysis of the decorations set up in the confraternity, and of the eulogy delivered in Cosimo’s praise, form the core of this chapter. They are introduced by a few words on Cosimo ii himself and some closing comments about the birth of his namesake, Cosimo iii.


  27. 21 The Final Years
    (pp. 292-306)

    A period of apparent vitality at the Arcangelo Raffaello in the 1730s, witnessed by an ambitious building program, could not reverse a severe attendance problem. A new secular attitude towards religious organizations and Catholic piety, especially widespread among the intellectual elite, further militated against a ‘rebirth’ of the confraternity’s spirituality. Government scrutiny in the early 1780s was only a prelude to the inevitable grand-ducal suppression of the Arcangelo Raffaello and all other Florentine confraternities. This last chapter will be devoted to the confraternity’s final halfcentury, focusing in particular on the momentary burst of energy in the 1730s, its irreversible attendance...

  28. Epilogue
    (pp. 307-312)

    My first intention had been to examine the Arcangelo Raffaello from its inception in 1411 to the death of its member and patron Grand Duke Cosimo ii in 1621, but then friends and colleagues urged me to expand my sights to take in the entire spectrum of the confraternity’s life. I am glad they did so, for it has given me the opportunity to discover, among other things, the richness and variety of the confraternity’s theatrical and musical activities in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, its metamorphosis into a confraternity of adults, and its new-found interest in the charitable work...

  29. APPENDIX 1 Guardian Fathers at the Arcangelo Raffaello
    (pp. 313-316)
  30. APPENDIX 2 Father Correctors of the Arcangelo Raffaello
    (pp. 317-322)
  31. APPENDIX 3 Chapel Masters at the Arcangelo Raffaello
    (pp. 323-329)
  32. APPENDIX 4 Musical and Theatrical Performances at the Arcangelo Raffaello
    (pp. 330-335)
  33. APPENDIX 5 Works of Art at the Arcangelo Raffaello
    (pp. 336-344)
  34. Notes
    (pp. 345-420)
  35. Bibliography of Manuscript Sources Cited
    (pp. 421-426)
  36. Bibliography of Published Works Cited
    (pp. 427-450)
  37. Index
    (pp. 451-474)