A Companion to Medieval and Early Modern Confraternities


After the State and the Church, the most well organized membership system of medieval and early modern Europe was the confraternity. In cities, towns, and villages it would have been difficult for someone not to be a member of a confraternity, the recipient of its charity, or aware of its presence in the community. In A Companion to Medieval and Early Modern Confraternities, Konrad Eisenbichler brings together an international group of scholars to examine confraternities from various perspectives: their origins and development, their devotional practices, their charitable activities, and their contributions to literature, music, and art. The result is a picture of confraternities as important venues for the acquisition of spiritual riches, material wealth, and social capital.

Contributors to this volume: Alyssa Abraham, Davide Adamoli, Christopher F. Black, Dominika Burdzy, David D’Andrea, Konrad Eisenbichler, Anna Esposito, Federica Francesconi, Marina Gazzini, Jonathan Glixon, Colm Lennon, William R. Levin, Murdo J. MacLeod, Nerida Newbigin, Dylan Reid, Gervase Rosser, Nicholas Terpstra, Paul Trio, Anne-Laure Van Bruaene, Beata Wojciechowska, and Danilo Zardin.

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Konrad Eisenbichler (University of Toronto) works on the intersection of literature, politics, and religion in Renaissance Italy, with a special focus in how this intersection operates within early modern confraternities.
“Konrad Eisenbichler has brought together a team of scholars that details the development and strength of confraternity studies as well as showcases the lacunae in scholarship in certain aspects of confraternity studies. A Companion to Medieval and Early Modern Confraternities provides a guide to scholars interested in the study of the religious practices of the laity, the social assistance provided by confraternities, and the arts they sponsored. As a whole, it illustrates the richness and complexity of premodern confraternities and the many opportunities still open for further research. Scholars of medieval and early modern European culture will find this volume particularly useful for its detailed introduction to confraternity studies and its array of articles on various aspects of premodern lay religious associations."
Nilab Ferozan, McMaster University. In Confraternitas, Vol. 31, No. 1 (2020), pp. 52–53.

“This is an excellent volume. […] Any student of confraternities will profit from reading this book.”
D. Henry Dieterich, in: The Medieval Review, 21.01.10.

“The essays in this volume reveal the undeniable centrality of confraternities between the fourteenth and eighteenth centuries. Each contribution raises possibilities for further research. Early modern political and legal history might benefit from considering confraternal influence on statutory law.”
Bianca Lopez, Southern Methodist University. In: Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme, Vol. 43, No. 2 (Spring 2020), pp. 371–373.

“A brief review cannot do full justice to such a rich collection about the growing field of confraternity studies as approached from so many perspectives. Even with this rich tapestry, almost every chapter ends by suggesting areas for further research.”
Kenneth Jorgensen, Albertus Magnus College. In: Renaissance Quarterly, Vol. 73, No. 3 (Fall 2020), pp. 1085–1087 (doi:10.1017/rqx.2020.183)

“Confraternity studies have grown tremendously in the last thirty years and A Companion to Medieval and Early Modern Confraternities reflects the depth and width of that growth […]. The team of scholars brought together by Konrad Eisenbichler for this volume highlights the strength and maturity of the scholarship of confraternity studies. A Companion to Medieval and Early Modern Confraternities provides an important guide into this important field of research.”
Mark A. Lewis, S.J., Pontifical Gregorian University (Rome). In: Journal of Jesuit Studies, Vol. 6, No. 4 (2019), pp. 707–710 (doi:10.1163/22141332-00604007-04)
List of Illustrations
Notes on Contributors

1 Introduction: A World of Confraternities
Konrad Eisenbichler

Part 1: Birth and Development

2 Confraternities as Such, and as a Template for Guilds in the Low Countries during the Medieval and the Early Modern Period
Paul Trio
3 Change and Continuity: Eucharistic Confraternities in Ticino and Switzerland before and after Trent
Davide Adamoli
4 The Development of Confraternities in Central Europe in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Period
Beata Wojciechowska

Part 2: Devotion and Prayer

5 The Ethics of Confraternities
Gervase Rosser
6 “A Single Body”: Eucharistic Piety and Confraternities of the Body of Christ in Sixteenth-Century Italy: Texts, Images, and Devotion
Danilo Zardin
7 Confraternities and the Inquisition: For and Against
Christopher F. Black

Part 3: Good Works

8 Guides for a Good Life: The Sermons of Albertano da Brescia and other Instructions for Citizens and Believers in Italian Medieval Confraternities
Marina Gazzini
9 Cities of God or Structures of Superstition: Medieval Confraternities and Charitable Hospitals in the Early Modern World
David D’Andrea
10 Confraternities in Late Medieval Ireland: The Evolution of Chantry Colleges
Colm Lennon

11 Confraternities and Capital Punishment: Charity, Culture, and Civic Religion in the Communal and Confessional Age
Nicholas Terpstra

Part 4: Confraternities in a Transcultural World

12 National Confraternities in Rome and Italy in the Late Middle Ages and Early Modern Period: Identity, Representation, Charity
Anna Esposito
13 At the Crossroads of Cultures: The Orthodox Confraternities of Central and Eastern Europe from the 16th to the 18th Century
Dominika Burdzy
14 Confraternities in Colonial New Spain: Mexico and Central America
Murdo J. MacLeod
15 The Generative Space of Jewish Confraternities in Medieval and Early Modern Europe
Federica Francesconi

Part 5: Arts and Letters

16 Singing Praises to God: Confraternities and Music
Jonathan Glixon
17 Serio Ludere: Confraternities and Drama in Central Italy, 1400–1600
Nerida Newbigin
18 Faith on Stage: The Chambers of Rhetoric and Civic Religion in the Low Countries, 1400–1700
Anne-Laure Van Bruaene
19 Confraternities and Poetry: The Francophone Puys
Dylan Reid
20 Iconography, Spectacle, and Notions of Corporate Identity: The Form and Function of Art in Early Modern Confraternities
Alyssa Abraham
21 Art as Confraternal Documentation: Homeless Children and the Florentine Misericordia in the Trecento
William R. Levin
All interested in medieval and early modern history, religion, charity, literature, and society. Keywords: medieval, Renaissance, religion, devotion, piety, charity, sociability, sodalities, guilds, corporations, brotherhoods, comforting, Catholic, Orthodox, Jewish
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