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Between Body and Soul: Cultural Change and ReligiousTtransformations during the Reformation (2/2)

Panel Chair: Alessandra Celati | Tuesday, August 25, 1:30-3 p.m. | LG 1 120

Aware of the osmosis between cultural historical frameworks and religious dynamics, we aim to put the Protestant Reformation in context. Renaissance culture reshaped the conception of science in a way which was to become ripe with the rise of the Scientific Revolution, and Italy was the torchbearer of this phenomenon, being also quite a peculiar context from the point of view of the religious Reformation. Bearing this in mind and taking into account the sixteenth century confessional entrenchment, our complementary papers will focus on Italy, highlighting the way a certain culture of the body intertwined with the religious discourse. Considering the strong interrelation between body and soul in early modern Christian culture, we aim to suggest original research perspectives: focusing on medicine as a pioneering field of analysis, we intend to examine the religious transformations that occurred during the age of the Reformation.

Manuela Bragagnolo

Physiognomy, Medicine and Religion in Late Renaissance Italy: The “Natural Physiognomy” (Fisionomia Naturale) by Giovanni Ingegneri († 1600)

This paper analyses the links between physiognomy, medicine and religion in the late sixteenth century. It focuses on “Natural Physiognomy” (Fisionomia Naturale) by Giovanni Ingegneri, who was a jurist educated in medicine in Padua, and also the Bishop of Capodistria from 1576 to 1600. Ingegneri’s Fisionomia links clearly the study of the soul to the study of the body. Trying to legitimize an art considered suspect by the Catholic Church, due to its connections to astrology, the bishop moves it to medicine, giving a detailed explication, grounded on tempers and humours theory as well as on anatomy, of each physical thing related to inner moral and intellectual inclinations. In my paper I will look at the interest in physiognomy within the ecclesiastical hierarchy, as an instrument to reach the human soul. I will also consider the religious implications of connecting moral and intellectual inclinations to tempers and anatomical structures.

Achille Olivieri

From Nicolo Bucella to Prospero Alpino: Heretical Currents and Medical Reformation in Sixteenth Century Padua

Following the general theme of the multiple panel, my paper will precisely focus on two case-studies of Italian physicians, Niccolò Bucella and Prospero Alpino. In the late sixteenth century, they were well-known for their medical skills, respectively in anatomy and botany. They had the chance to achieve a long, successful work and religious experience abroad. Taking into consideration these characters, I aim to move from Padua, capital of the medical and philosophical reformation, to a wider European context. While so doing, I will show the way in which physicians’ tendency to build up argumentations, grounded on questioning authorities, could end up developing libertine religious views. Finally, I will discuss which connections occurred between the study of nature and the abandonment of traditional religious beliefs.

Cristiano Rocchio

Medicine of the Body, Medicine of the Soul: a Contribution on Erasmus’ Works

My paper deals with Erasmus’ idea of medicine and religion, expressed in the works: Encomium medicinae; Epistulae Beati Rhenani; Inquisitio. In the first work, he praises medicine, acclaiming physicians’ tasks and social relevance. On the other hand, in the second, Erasmus illustrates medicine in its daily dimension, criticising the ignorance of many contemporaneous doctors, who did not match his ideal image. In this text, he describes Jesus Christ as a medical doctor able to heal both the soul and the body. In the Inquisitio, Erasmus analyses the grounds of Christian faith shared by Catholicism and Lutheranism. Targeting Italy and, in particular, Rome - the corrupted seat of the Papacy - he criticizes superstitious practices and any exterior aspects of Catholic devotion, disparaging the rising religious conflict. Finally, just like a physician, he encourages interreligious dialogue as a healthy activity, lashing out against confessional tensions perceived as a disease.


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