Venice as the Polity of Mercy: Guilds, Confraternities, and the Social Order, c. 1250-c. 1650
Published: January 2019© 2019
496 Pages, 6.10 x 9.10 x 1.60 in
This study re-examines Venice’s political economy from the viewpoint of its ordinary people or popolani who, despite the commonly held view that they were excluded from political life by the nobility or nobili, actually organized and ran for themselves hundreds of corporations within the city-state. Mercy was central to this popolani’s Christian values and those who offered mercy to their fellow men and women in temporary hardship were investing in the expectation of reciprocity in their own time of need. Beginning by tracing a formative linking of religion, economy, and polity from the thirteenth to the fifteenth centuries, Venice as the Polity of Mercy then chronicles the collapse of this triad during the struggles between church and state in the mid-sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, followed by a revitalizing reconnection of economy and polity within a different religious climate after the plague of 1630. As such, Richard Mackenney’s book offers up a revitalized image of Renaissance Venetian society as dynamic rather than static, as well as a new understanding of the city’s significance through a reconfiguration of its history and artwork.
List of Figures
List of Tables and Appendices
Introduction: Economy, Polity, and Religion, c. 1250–c. 1650
The Venetian Popolo: Anonymous or Autonomous?
The Spectrum of Representation
The Sources and Their Scope
The Stones of Venice
1 Venice as Mercantile System, c. 1250–c. 1300
2 Proliferation and Punctuation, c. 1300–c. 1500
The Confraternities of Venice
Before the Black Death, 1300–48
The Impact of the Plague
From the Black Death to the Bianchi, 1348–99
The Bianchi, 1399
The Franciscan Revival and Social Change, c. 1400–c. 1450
Plague and Patronage, c. 1450–c. 1500
The Vision of the Polity
3 Who Were the Venetians, c. 1500–c. 1600?
Metropolis and Cosmopolis
Rooms at the Inns, 1530–1
L’arte dei fabbri
Strands of Identity
"Quel ramo del lago di Como"
The Tale of "Il Medeghino"
4 Officers and Office in the Mercers’ Guild, c. 1450–c. 1600
A Little Republic?
Arte dei marzeri and Scuola di San Teodoro
Officers and Members
Oligarchs or Plutocrats? A Test Case
5 Monuments to Mercy, c. 1500–c. 1600
Arti and Scuole in the Sixteenth Century
The Scuole del Venerabile
The Scuole and the Stones of Venice
The Wider Network
6 The Venetians and the Confessional State, c. 1550–c. 1600
The Autonomy of the Venetian Laity
The Agencies of the Confessional State
The Inquisition and the Venetian Laity
The Visitation of 1581
Venice and the Defence of Political Absolutism
Tintoretto and the Last Fight
Conclusion: A Final Realignment of Economy, Polity, and Religion? c. 1600–c. 1700
Morbidity in an Age of Decline: The Suffragi
An Envoi: Decadence or Shift?
List of Abbreviations
"Mackenney certainly makes his case regarding the activity and agency of subordinate classes long treated as disenfranchised […] as the key to tracing […] inequality. The case is made stronger by his clear mastery of the archives."Nicholas Terpstra, University of Toronto, University of Toronto Quarterly: Letters in Canada 2018
"Venice as the Polity of Mercy challenges the persistent image of Venice as a patrician dominated, top-down, hierarchical regime. The central question of Venetian history is how to explain its unusual stability and lack of the riots, regime changes, and civil and factional struggles that characterized other Renaissance states. Richard Mackenny offers a new and persuasive answer to that old question by challenging the idea that patricians controlled popular life through strict oversight of popular institutions such as confraternities."Monique O’Connell, Dept. of History, Wake Forest University
"Mackenney links his analysis of institutions and behaviour to the physical spaces of the city, showing how political and social relationships were deeply affected by the places where people lived, worked, and worshipped. This is one of the most important and ground-breaking aspects of Venice as the Polity of Mercy."Alison Smith, Department of History, Wagner College