Lorenzo de’Medici liked to discuss theology with and to attend the preaching of Mariano da Genazzano O.S.A., who presumably was not going to discomfort his patron with too pointed a message of social justice, or on the Christian obligations of rulers and princes. As a sign of his favour to Mariano da Genazzano O.S.A., Lorenzo de’Medici build the Augustinian monastery at San Gallo. It was situated just outside a gate (the Porta San Gallo) in the city wall of Florence. Its location proved its downfall in the following century, when the monastery was demolished during the siege of Florence in 1529-1530.
(For a separate page on Augnet about Luigi Marsigli O.S.A., click here.)
Giuliano di San Gallo, architect
The architect of this monastery at San Gallo was Giuliano, the son of Francesco Giamberti. After this Augustinian assignment Giuliano always called himself Giuliano di San Gallo (1445 - 1516). He has been called by that name ever since. In 1488 he designed the sacristy of the Augustinian Church of Santo Spirito in Florence. In 1514-1515 he was the assistant architect of Saint Peter’s Basilica (construction began in 1546), Rome, working with Raphael (1483 – 1520), the painter and architect. In the previous year, Raphael had executed the Chigi chapel at the Augustinian Church of Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome.
(For a page on Augnet about the Convento San Gallo, click here.)
William d’Estouteville, cardinal and patron
It has been established above that patronage was a factor in bringing architectural plans to fruition. For a religious order to build churches, gaining such patronage often meant an ability to win support from the wealthy, sometimes their visibly objectionable morals notwithstanding. This was the case with the major renovations of the Church of Sant’Agostino in Rome in the style of the Renaissance in 1479-1483, and in 1466-1480 with a new Augustinian convento at Cori, near Latina, south of Rome - the native town of the notable Ambrose Massari da Cori O.S.A..
The patron was the Cardinal Protector of the Order of Saint Augustine. For thirty-six years in the fifteenth century (1446 - 1482) the Cardinal was William d’Estouteville (1403 – 1483). The Renaissance façade of the Church of Sant’Agostino in Rome was begun thirty-five years after the Church of Santo Spirito was begun in Florence. (Incidentally, the intended Renaissance façade was never added to Santo Spirito, and it still stands "bare faced" to this day.)
The renovations of the Church of Sant’Agostino consciously remodelled the church in the Renaissance style of the Augustinian church of Santo Spirito in Florence. The Church of Sant’Agostino is the finest example of early Renaissance church architecture in Rome.
The Renaissance façade, one of the first in this style, is built in travertine stone said to be from the ruins of the Colosseum. Cardinal d’Estouteville was independently wealthy through his family in France, and was Camerlengo (chamberlain, or chief agent) to five successive popes.
He was not adverse to using his position to sell to kings and governments his influence in church matters, and to buy property in Rome for speculative investment. He had an illegitimate son whom he named Girolamo Tuttavilla (which is an Italian copy of d'Estouteville), and whom he promoted in business.
(For a number of pages on Augnet about William d’Estouteville, click here.)
The Order of Saint Augustine was able to work with him. In fact, there was financial difficulty in the completion of the church and convento of Sant’Agostino when he did not respond to a request of the Augustinian General Chapter at Padua in 1482 for more funds. Months later, his death in January 1483 then made his decision absolutely final. Possibly other religious orders could paint a similar scenario; that, however, is not the question under review here.
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. 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.
Giles of Viterbo O.S.A.
Giles of Viterbo O.S.A., was a person of the Renaissance and in the sixteenth century and also the Prior General of the Order of Saint Augustine in 1506-1517, the eve of the Protestant Reformation. He must be among the best and most talented to have occupied a position in the list of Priors General of the Order of Saint Augustine throughout its 750 years of existence.
As he assessed it, the Order of Saint Augustine was not all bad or all good. On the one hand, it was not decadent at its core; nor, on the other hand, was it without blemish and fault. There was laxity, and he anticipated that it could be eradicated.
(For the pages in Augnet about Giles of Viterbo O.S.A., click here.)
In the growth of humanism and in the Renaissance, the Order of Saint Augustine attempted to walk the tightrope of staying in meaningful contact with contemporary society while at the same time attempting to temper the excesses of that society. Possibly the Order had not much right either in principle or in reality to assume a stance of being "holier than thou."
Is there a real choice for an individual between being a message bearer who is accepted by his audience (such as Giles of Viterbo O.S.A., Luigi Marsigli O.S.A., or Mariano da Genazzano O.S.A.) and being one who is uncompromising and ultimately rejected (Girolamo Savonarola O.P., Martin Luther O.S.A.)? In any case, in history there seems sufficient room for both.
Paradoxplace. A huge and very pictorial site on the Middle Ages, especially in Italy. It also contains helpful chronologies of the Middle Ages. Obviously a labour of love, this site deserves to be bookmarked! http://www.paradoxplace.com/index.htm