THE AUGUSTINIANS AND THE RENAISSANCE (1)
This section of Augnet neither proports nor intends to be a general history of the Renaissance. It is not even a general history of the Order of Saint Augustine during that period.
This section arose because the question has been asked as to how and why the Order of Saint Augustine built some of the earliest examples of Renaissance architecture in its churches in both Florence and Rome.
These are the Church of Santo Spirito in Florence, begun about the year 1444, and the Church of Saint Augustine (Sant’Agostino) in Rome in 1479.
What made the Order of Saint Augustine both willing and able to step early in a new architectural direction? How and why did the Order embrace the Renaissance so rapidly?
The explanation that this was simply good fortune is too simplistic. The probable chain of circumstances were more historically complex than that.
Architecture was only one expression of the Renaissance. Literature, philosophy and art were other important areas of development that constituted what is called the Renaissance, and the Order of Saint Augustine had association with all of those areas as well.
What follows in this series of pages in Augnet is a sequential presentation of persons – either members of the Order of Saint Augustine, or else persons associated with it – whose activity offers light on the topic.
For both convenience and simplicity, this review concentrates on persons in Rome and Florence.
Francesco Petrarch, author.
Florence was the primary centre for the birth of the Renaissance in Italy, and the Augustinians there were assistants to its birth.
Two Italian authors with the stature of giants had direct association with members of the Order of Saint Augustine: Petrarch and Boccaccio.
During most of his life, this was the case for Francesco Petrarch (1304 - 1374), who is called "the Father of Humanism."
(For the five pages on Augnet about humanism, click here.)
From Augustine, Petrarch learned that the only proper study for a human being to engage in was to study oneself, to look within oneself and work within oneself to guarantee eternal salvation.
This idea would eventually develop into the hallmark of humanist belief, the dignity of humanity.
For the humanists, humanity is something special in creation and has a special relationship to God.
It was a member of the Order of Saint Augustine, Denis de Borgo San Sepolcro O.S.A., who met Petrarch at Avignon in 1333 and directed him to the works of Augustine.
He became the spiritual director of Petrarch, and other Augustinians became his friends.
Petrarch then had contact with Augustinians for the remaining forty-one years of his life.
(Continued on the next page.)
(Augnet has four pages on Petrarch. To go to them, click here.)