THE AUGUSTINIANS AND THE RENAISSANCE (5)
In Italy at this time, regard for the clergy was not necessarily high.
There was the blatant example of some Popes who were avaricious, immortal, and more akin to a materialistic earthly ruler (as, in fact, the Popes were in central Italy) than a spiritual representative of God.
A case can be made that the Benedictine movement had become lower in public esteem because over the centuries it had lost much of its evangelical edge, and came to symbolise a wealthy church.
As well, the mendicant orders were not necessarily in any greater favour because of the laxity with which numerous local communities lived their lives.
Some efforts at raising funds played and capitalised on the superstition, fear and the gullibility of simple people.
Some of the early Renaissance literature was anti-clerical. This was the case even in men like Petrarch, although he was close to a number of Augustinians during the second half of his life.
Not that a person such as Luigi Marsigli O.S.A. was untroubled by vice in the church simply because he was a priest and a member of a religious order.
He said the papal court no longer ruled through hypocrisy — so openly did it then flaunt its vices — but only though the dread inspired by its interdicts and excommunications.
From the period of the High Renaissance, there is a wooden crucifix on display that - it is generally believed - Michelangelo carved for the Convento Santo Spirito (Florence) as a young man long before he became famous. (Michelangelo Buonaroti 1475-1564, famed painter, sculptor and architect of Florence and Rome.)
At the time in 1492, Michelangelo was only seventeen years of age.
It is probably no accident that the young Michelangelo depicted Christ as a very young man, probably no older than himself.
This carved image of Christ is totally devoid of the bulging layers of muscle that Michelangelo gave to his sculptures in the years that followed.
(To view an image of this work of art that is reproduced in this web site, click here.)
He produced it in gratitude to the Prior (superior) of the Augustinian Convento of Santo Spirito, and it was placed over the lunette on the high altar.
It is said that this Augustinian superior had given Michelangelo suitable rooms where he was able by dissecting dead bodies to study anatomy.
By this means he began to perfect his great technique for sculptures of the human body. This certainly was humanism brought to a new edge.
(Continued on the next page.)