Tag Archives: Italy

Romano, “Markets and Marketplaces in Medieval Italy, c. 1100 to c. 1440″

Apropos of recent posts by Mark and our guest, Professor Nathan Oman, here isRomano an interesting book by Professor Dennis Romano (Syracuse) on the cultural and moral importance of the market and the marketplace in the high medieval and early renaissance period, Markets and Marketplaces in Medieval Italy, c. 1100 to c. 1440, published by Yale University Press last month. The publisher’s description follows.

Cathedrals and civic palaces stand to this day as symbols of the dynamism and creativity of the city-states that flourished in Italy during the Middle Ages. Markets and Marketplaces in Medieval Italy argues that the bustling yet impermanent sites of markets played an equally significant role, not only in the economic life of the Italian communes, but in their political, social, and cultural life as well. Drawing on a range of evidence from cities and towns across northern and central Italy, Dennis Romano explores the significance of the marketplace as the symbolic embodiment of the common good; its regulation and organization; the ethics of economic exchange; and how governments and guilds sought to promote market values. With a special focus on the spatial, architectural, and artistic elements of the marketplace, Romano adds new dimensions to our understanding of the evolution of the market economy and the origins of commercial capitalism and Renaissance individualism.

Raponi, “Religion and Politics in the Risorgimento”

I’m a bit late in noting this book, but the subject is so interesting that an Raponiexception was needed. Danilo Raponi’s (Goethe Universität Frankfurt am Main) still new Religion and Politics in the Risorgimento: Britain and the New Italy, 1861-1875, was published by Palgrave Mamillan last fall and looks to be a wonderful resource on an insufficiently studied topic. The publisher’s description follows.

This book examines Anglo-Italian political and cultural relations in the years of the ‘Roman Question’, and it analyses the impact and importance of religion in the construction of a British ‘Orientalist’ perception of Italy. It focuses on the British and Foreign Bible Society’s attempts to turn Italy into a Protestant nation, showing how perceived shortcomings in the national character of the Italians convinced the British that such ‘Protestantisation’ was necessary if Italy was ever to achieve nationhood. Their efforts encountered, however, strong popular and intellectual resistance from both the Italian people and the Catholic clergy, who called on Catholic Ireland to intervene in their defence. By looking at the interplay between religion and foreign policy, this book breaks through the boundaries between high politics and culture in a way that has not been attempted so far in the study of modern Italy, and puts religion at the centre of a harsh political and cultural war, one that was fought primarily on a transnational level.

Faith or Tradition? A Bolognese Easter Controversy

Here’s an interesting story about an Italian controversy concerning the giving ofGIOSUE-CARDUCCI a blessing at the public Giosuè Carducci Elementary School in Bologna in advance of Easter. Apparently there is an objection by a parent to the blessing that has generated a law suit against the school. In a lovely exemplar of the privatization of religion, the objecting parent opined, “Everything has a place, and the school is not the place for these blessings.” One wonders whether the public square is the place for San Petronio. And in a clear echo of the “endorsement test’s” concern for offended feelings and excluded sensibilities, there is this: “‘Is it fair that everyone has to see this, even if some students are Muslims, Buddhist or atheists?’ asked Adele Orioli, legal adviser to Italy’s Union of Atheists and Rationalistic Agnostics.” There is also some dispute among the school board members about where the blessing should be given, whether in a central garden location or instead in a less central (and probably danker and less sweet smelling) gymnasium. Finally, there is this from the Reverend Raffaele Buono, who oversees religious education in Bologna’s schools:  “It is not a matter of faith. It is a matter of belonging to a tradition.” Must it really be either/or, Reverend Buono?

Welcome, Italy, to issues that have plagued the United States for the last quarter century! You had your first taste with Lautsi, but believe me when I tell you that these will be sources of limitless acrimony and contention for you. We over here are waiting with bated breath to see whether Bologna will be compelled to rip down its statues of San Petronio and house them in privately owned palestre. (parenthetically, Carducci himself (pictured), a late Risorgimento nationalist writer whose poetry I have generally found to be abominably pompous, would almost certainly have held the Christian blessing in the greatest contempt).

Oldfield, “Sanctity and Pilgrimage in Medieval Southern Italy, 1000–1200″

Next month, Cambridge will publish Sanctity and Pilgrimage in Medieval9781107000285 Southern Italy, 1000–1200, by Paul Oldfield (University of Manchester). The publisher’s description follows.

Southern Italy’s strategic location at the crossroads of the Mediterranean gave it a unique position as a frontier for the major religious faiths of the medieval world, where Latin Christian, Greek Christian and Muslim communities coexisted. In this study, the first to offer a comprehensive analysis of sanctity and pilgrimage in Southern Italy between 1000 and 1200, Paul Oldfield presents a fascinating picture of a politically and culturally fragmented land which, as well as hosting its own important relics as important pilgrimage centres, was a transit point for pilgrims and commercial traffic.

Drawing on a diverse range of sources from hagiographical material to calendars, martyrologies, charters and pilgrim travel guides, the book examines how sanctity functioned at this key cultural crossroads and, by integrating the analysis of sanctity with that of pilgrimage, offers important new insights into society, cross-cultural interaction and faith in the region and across the medieval world.

A River Runs Through It

As a young woman in 1968, American Wallis Wilde-Menozzi moved to Rome, leaving behind a troubled first marriage and a tenured faculty position in the UK. In The Other Side of the Tiber, she reflects upon that experience and the decades that followed, in which she developed as a writer, married again and raised a family, and became acculturated to her new home. Her metaphor for remembering is the Tiber, the river that runs through Rome, carrying with it the residue of earlier times and civilizations. Like the river, she writes, one’s memories are always a fluid part of one’s present.

The book is not only a personal memoir, though. A major theme is the contrast between the American and Italian ways of doing things–between a Protestant, progressive, rule-of-law society that exalts individualism and looks relentlessly to the future, and a Catholic, traditional one that rejects the idea that people can disregard the past and create their own identities. (“There is no such thing. We are always accompanied by ancestors.”) Each way has advantages and disadvantages. Americans are often shocked by what they see as the casual lawlessness of Italian life–“there is a breathtaking gap,” she writes–“a metaphysical canyon, between what is considered moral and what is considered legal in Italy”–which, no doubt, contributes to economic and political stagnation. On the other hand, there are qualities of community and public forgiveness to compensate. Italians are dismayed by American free-market economics, which often seem heartless and uncivilized, and by Americans’ lack of real appreciation for history. One of the most interesting episodes in the book is Wilde-Menozzi’s account of teaching American students in Siena. The students seem unaware of even the recent history of their own country, to say nothing of the ancients. She attributes their ignorance to the cost, and emptiness, of higher education in the US.

Wilde-Menozzi often gets nostalgic for the leftism of her youth, when she read Gramsci and Pasolini, and she tends to find feminist implications in everything, from Etruscan statuary to the annual August holiday, the Ferragosto. But, ideology aside, her writing is often lovely, and her images remain with you. (She is admirably spare in conveying, without detail, the pain of the sexual abuse in her childhood and her tense relationship with her mother; the theme of mothers is a recurring one in the book). On sfogliatelle, the Neapolitan pastries that must be done in a certain way: they are “a conscious effort to deny time its novelty.” On the the mosaics at the fourth-century church of Santa Costanza: their creators “imagined permanence, and yet, how could they have imagined us, so far away in time, still delighted by them?” And on the infinite regress of memory: “Italy is a story that always starts with ‘In the beginning there was already something before what you think is the beginning.'”

Conference: The Lateran Pacts and the Jews (Oct. 24-25)

On October 24-25 in New York, the Centro Primo Levi, the NYU Casa Italiana Zerilli Marim, and the Museum of Tolerance will co-sponsor a conference, “The Lateran Pacts, the Rights of Jews and Other Religious Minorities”:

In view of the upcoming 85th anniversary of the Lateran Pacts and the current debates on the position of the Church toward the Jews during Fascism and World War II, Centro Primo Levi has invited an interdisciplinary group of scholars to closely examine and discuss the legal, social, political and economic aspects of this redefinition of the relations between Church and State in Italy and in totalitarian Europe.
The conference will offer an overview of the Lateran Pacts, the background of negotiations between Mussolini and Pius XI as well as an analysis of the ways the Pacts affected Italian society, the rights of minorities vis-à-vis family law, education, public moral, protection of minority rights, with a particular focus on the subsequent re-organization of the Jewish communities. Scholars will present new research on the changes to the civil and penal codes brought about by the Pacts, as well as the reforms of key public institution that became necessary in order to make them compatible with a state religion.

Looks interesting. Details are here.

Annicchino on Developments in Religious Freedom in Italian Foreign Policy

Our friend Pasquale Annicchino (European University Institute) has posted a concise and highly informative paper on recent developments in the promotion of freedom of religion or belief in Italian foreign policy. Here is Pasquale’s abstract:

The right to freedom of religion or belief has visibly made an entry into the international arena through specialized institutions aimed at its protection and promotion in multilateral fora, in international organizations, and in relationships with third countries (countries that are not part of the European Union) and civil society at large. This is also true in the case of Italy, which recently joined the growing number of countries with dedicated policies for the protection and promotion of freedom of religion or belief in their foreign policy. In this article I provide a brief update and analysis of the recent attempts undertaken by the Italian Ministry for Foreign Affairs in the field. An English translation of the protocol between the City of Rome and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs establishing the Italian Oversight Committee for Religious Freedom is provided in the Annex.

Breda on Accommodation of Sharia Law in Italy

Vito Breda (Cardiff Law School & Australian National University) has posted Sharia Law in Catholic Italy: A Non-Agnostic Model of Accommodation. The abstract follows.

The Italian Constitution and its interpretation by the Constitutional Court have led to the development of a model of accommodation of religious practices that seeks to balance a commitment to promoting religious pluralism whilst, at the same time, maintaining the neutrality of state institutions. What is distinctive about this quasi-neutral constitutional stance is the commitment to reducing the discrepancies between the legal and religious effects of key life decisions (e.g. the decision to get married). I call this stance positive secularism. In this essay, I would like to show that, thus far, positive secularism has been particularly effective in accommodating the demands of Muslim immigrants (Pacini 2001). For instance, some aspects of the Sharia law, such as marriage (including some effects of polygamous marriage) and divorce (including some effects of unilateral divorce), are already recognized by Italian international private law. The second stage for the accommodation of Sharia law in Italy is likely to be the recognition of Islam as one of Italy’s official religions. Recognition will increase the level of the Islamic communities’ autonomy and will allow for the automatic recognition of some aspects of Sharia law. In February 2010, the Italian government established the Committee for Islam, composed of representatives of Italian Islamic communities, within the Ministry of Interior Affairs. In the recent past, these types of dialogues between institutions and religious representatives have been the proxy for the official recognition of nine faiths in Italy. Waldensian Evangelical Church, the World Assemblies of God Fellowship, the Evangelical Baptist Church, the Lutheran Baptist Church, the Apostolic Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints, the Adventist Church, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Italy, Hebrew Communities of Italy. The chapter is divided into two sections, which is preceded by an introduction, and followed by a conclusion. The first section will discuss the judicial introduction of Sharia law via the procedure of Italian international law. The second section will explain the advantages of the recognition process and the reasons that have prevented Islamic communities from benefiting from it.

Shopping on Sunday

Every year, it seems, Christmas becomes more commercialized. In NYC this year, we started seeing Christmas decorations in stores in October. In October. Christmas is starting to lap Halloween.

I was thinking about this when I read that the Catholic Church in Italy is working to repeal that country’s new Sunday shopping law. Earlier this year, in an effort to stimulate the Italian economy, the Monti government enacted a law allowing shops across the country to open on Sundays. The new law is opposed by a coalition including the Vatican, small shop owners, and some secularists who argue that a nationwide day of rest is in everyone’s interest. The Italian campaign is part of a larger movement called the European Sunday Alliance, a network of “trade unions, civil society organizations and religious communities committed to raise awareness of the unique value of synchronized free time for our European societies.”

The Sunday Alliance is not at heart religious . Sure, some Christians argue that Sunday shopping violates the Sabbath, but mostly the movement has secular goals, such as working less, putting a brake on commercialism, and spending time with family and friends. To be sure, small shop owners have an economic interest in ending Sunday shopping, since the practice disproportionately favors big-box retailers. But it’s not like the big-box retailers who favor Sunday shopping are being altruistic. They’re only advancing their economic interests.

The arguments for allowing Sunday shopping are pretty straightforward. Increased commercial activity means more wealth and greater tax revenues. More people will be able to find employment. And there is the matter of consumer choice. If people want to buy TVs on Sundays, why should the state stop them? Who’s harmed? Finally, allowing shopping on Sundays could be seen as a gesture toward religious pluralism. Not everyone observes the Christian Sabbath, and Sunday closing laws may create burdens for non-Christian businesses and consumers.

These arguments have carried the day in America. Notwithstanding the fact that the Supreme Court has declared Sunday closing laws constitutional, most places allow Sunday shopping nowadays. Americans have become accustomed to the convenience and see nothing wrong with it. A movement to ban shopping on Sundays in America would go nowhere.

To my mind, though, opponents of the new Italian law have a point. Economics isn’t everything. It’s not unreasonable to think that, one day a week, society should forgo buying and selling, even if that means a reduction in wealth and tax revenues. (Tax revenues? In Italy? Who are we kidding?) In a culture as homogeneously Catholic as Italy’s, Sunday is the only realistic option. Moreover, it’s not unreasonable to think that Sunday store openings will create a situation in which observant Christian employees feel pressured to work, or that Sunday shopping will threaten traditions Italians enjoy. Perhaps Italians don’t want a society in which Christmas becomes, inevitably, the Biggest Shopping Season of the Year.

So, to the opponents of the Italian law, I say, Good Luck and Buon Natale. Not that any of this would affect us here at CLR Forum. We’re open seven days a week.