The Bianchi of 1399 in Central Italy

Making Devotion Local


Providing new insights into the Bianchi devotions, a medieval popular religious revival which responded to an outbreak of plague at the turn of the fifteenth century, this book takes a comparative, local and regional approach to the Bianchi, challenging traditional presentations of the movement as homogeneous whole.
Combining a rich collection of textual, visual, and material sources, the study focuses on the two Tuscan towns of Lucca and Pistoia. Alexandra R.A. Lee demonstrates how the Bianchi processions in central Italy were moulded by secular and ecclesiastical authorities and shaped by local traditions as they attempted to prevent an epidemic.

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Alexandra R.A. Lee, Ph.D. (2017), University College London, teaches at that university. She has published articles on religious confraternities and the Bianchi of 1399.
List of Figures, Maps and Tables
List of Abbreviations
Transcription, Translation and Digitized Manuscripts

 1 Nomenclature
 2 Popular Religion and Civic Religion
 3 Popular Religious Revivals
 4 Book Outline

1 Politics and Plague
 1 Politics
 2 Plague
 3 The Moria dei Bianchi

2 Origin Stories
 1 The Tre Pani Story
  1.1 Protagonists
   1.1.1 The Witness
   1.1.2 Christ
   1.1.3 The Virgin
 1.2 Narrative Variation
 1.3 Images
 2 The Book Story
 3 Capperledis’ Tale
 4 Location of Origins

3 Continuing Momentum
 1 Origin Story Recapitulations
 2 The Madonna Dell’oliva
 3 Melica
 4 Visions at Cigoli
 5 Smaller Scale Visions

4 Regulations for a Revival
 1 Realising the Regulations: Wearing White
 1.1 Adornments
 2 Bianchi Practices

5 Lay Religious Practices
1 Singing and Praying
 1.1 Stabat Mater: The Bianchi “Theme Tune”
 1.2 Misericordia Etterno Iddio and Misericordia Virgine Pia
 1.3 Vernacular Bianchi Laude
 1.4 Latin Bianchi Laude
 1.5 Praying
 1.6 How to Sing During the Bianchi Devotions

 2 Self-flagellation
  2.1 Tuscany
  2.2 Umbria
  2.3 The Symbolic Use of Self-Flagellation

6 Civic Religion and Religious Spaces
 1 Civic Religion
 2 Religious Confraternities
 3 Pilgrimage and Processions
 4 Processional Order
 5 Processional Routes
 6 Preaching and the Role of the Church

7 Civic Religion and Communal Support
 1 Crossing Thresholds
 2 Leaders
 3 Provisions
 4 Peacemaking
 5 Images and Objects of Peacemaking
 6 Prisons
 7 The Bianchi and Civic Religion

8 Legacy
 1 Rome: The End of the Devotions?
 2 Jubilee 1400
 3 Commemoration in Tuscany: Crucifixes and Confraternities
 4 Commemoration in Umbria and Lazio


Appendix: Bianchi Laude Incipits
Index of Subjects

All interested in the history of medieval and Renaissance Italy and Europe, civic religion, popular religion, processions, devotional practices, visions, peacemaking, plagues, self-flagellation, religious singing and religious revivals.
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