The Ten Commandments in Medieval and Early Modern Culture


Over the course of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, as more and more vernacular commentaries on the Decalogue were produced throughout Europe, the moral system of the Ten Commandments gradually became more prominent. The Ten Commandments proved to be a topic from which numerous proponents of pastoral and lay catechesis drew inspiration. God’s commands were discussed and illustrated in sermons and confessor’s manuals, and they spawned new theological and pastoral treatises both Catholic and Reformed. But the Decalogue also served several authors, including Dante, Petrarch, and Christine de Pizan. Unlike the Seven Deadly Sins, the Ten Commandments supported a more positive image of mankind, one that embraced the human potential for introspection and the conscious choice to follow God’s Law.
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Biographical Note

Youri Desplenter, Ph.D. (2004), is Professor of Historical Dutch Literature (Middle Ages) at Ghent University. He has published on Middle Dutch religious literature, including De Bijbel in de Lage Landen. Elf eeuwen van vertalen (Heerenveen: 2015; edited with P. Gillaerts a.o.).

Jürgen Pieters, Ph.D. (2000), is Professor of Literary Theory at Ghent University. He is the author of several books on the methodology of New Historicism and of a recent monograph on Constantijn Huygens: Op zoek naar Huygens. Italiaanse leesnotities (Gent, 2014).

Walter Melion, Ph.D (1988), is Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Art History at Emory University in Atlanta. He has published extensively on Dutch and Flemish art and art theory of the 16th and 17th centuries, including The Meditative Art: Studies in the Northern Devotional Print, 1550-1625 (Philadelphia: 2009).

Table of contents

Acknowledgments Notes on the Editors Notes on the Contributors List of Illustrations Introduction: Exploring the Decalogue in Late Medieval and Early Modern CultureYouri Desplenter and Jürgen Pieters 1 The Ten Commandments in the Medieval Schools: Conformity or Diversity?Lesley Smith 2 ‘Ché se potuto aveste veder tutto / mestier non era parturir Maria’: Dante on the Decalogue as a Means to SalvationLuca Gili 3 Fit For A Prince: The Ten Alternative Commandments in Christine de Pizan’s Epistre OtheaCharlotte E. Cooper 4 Loving Neighbor Before God: The First Commandment in Early Modern Lyric PoetryGregory P. Haake 5 The Ten Commandments and Pastoral Care in Late-Medieval and Early Modern Europe: An Inquiry into Expectations and OutcomesRobert J. Bast 6 The Ten Commandments in the Thirteenth-Century Pastoral Manual Qui bene presuntGreti Dinkova-Bruun 7 Morals from a Mystical Cook: Jan van Leeuwen and the Ten CommandmentsYouri Desplenter 8 Latin Mnemonic Verses Combining the Ten Commandments with the Ten Plagues of Egypt Transmitted in Late Medieval BohemiaLucie Doležalová 9 The Ten Commandments in Preaching in Late Medieval Poland: ‘Sermo de praeceptis’ from Ms. 3022 at the National Library in WarsawKrzysztof Bracha 10 The Law Illuminated: Biblical Illustrations of the Commandments in Lutheran CatechismsHenk van den Belt 11 Man and God: The First Three Commandments in the Polish Catholic Catechisms of the 1560s–1570sWaldemar Kowalski Index Nominum


All interested in the religious and artistic developments in the culture of late-medieval Western Europe (13th-15th centuries), especially in religious or literary writings.


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