Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/684

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.

elsewhere, in the Italian Peninsula it had lost its savour. Documentary evidence from almost every district and city leaves no doubt on this melancholy subject. The clergy were despised; so patent was their misconduct that proposals to abrogate the law of celibacy began to be put forward. Pius II may have entertained such a thought. But he contented himself with an endeavour to correct the religious Orders. The Observantines, who were strict, deserved and obtained his favour. But continual strife for precedence, which meant disciples and influence, raged between these and the Conventuals, nor could any Pope reconcile them. Santa Giustina, the Benedictine house at Padua (1412), became an Italian Bursfelde; its reform was accepted in Verona, Pavia, Milan; Pius II brought under it many monasteries which required better discipline. He deposed Auribelle, the unworthy General of the Dominicans. He took severe measures with the convents of Vallombrosa, the Humiliati in Venice, the Carmelites in Brescia, the Religious in Siena and Florence. Other Popes, Paul II, Sixtus IV, even Alexander VI did in like manner. Such efforts had been stimulated by earnest and cultivated men, of whom the most capable were Traversari, General of the Camaldulese (1386-1439), Baptista Mantuanus (1448-1516), and Aegidius of Viterbo, Augustinian and Cardinal, whose decrees in the synod of Santa Sabina afforded a scheme of reformation to the Fifth Lateran.

The correspondence of Alessandra degli Strozzi (1406-71), the biographies of Bisticci, the note-books of Rucellai, Landucci's Diary, Domenichi's work on the government of the household, reveal a sincere spirit of piety in many families, and correct the hard impression we should otherwise receive, especially of life at Florence under the Medici. Vittorino da Feltre's school at Mantua is estimated in another chapter. With him as a Christian teacher may be named Agostini Dati of Siena (1479), and Maffeo Vigeo, the latter of whom wrote six books on education and was a friend of Pius II, devout, cultivated, and practical. St Antoninus published a manual of confession, which is but a specimen of a very large class, and which instructs all professions, from magistrates to weavers and day-labourers, in their several duties. Gilds and brotherhoods were a feature of the time. Their objects were mainly secular, but religious and charitable foundations were almost invariably associated with them. Strict rules, enjoining daily prayer, the use of the Sacraments, the observance of Sundays and holidays, are incorporated in their statutes. Care of the poor and sick members was obligatory; every gild had its physician; pensions were often provided for widows and children, and dowries for maidens. The wealthier brotherhoods built each their Scuola, and embellished or erected churches. In Italy, even more than among Germans, church-building was a passion and an art, lending itself sometimes to strange ends,—witness the Isotta Chapel at Rimini,—but serving religion on a grand scale, according as it was