Book Series Sermo, vol. 12

From Words to Deeds

The Effectiveness of Preaching in the Late Middle Ages

Maria Giuseppina Muzzarelli (ed)

  • Pages: 252 p.
  • Size:156 x 234 mm
  • Illustrations:2 b/w, 2 tables b/w.
  • Language(s):English, French
  • Publication Year:2014

  • ISBN: 978-2-503-54925-5
  • Hardback
  • Available
  • ISBN: 978-2-503-55006-0
  • E-book
  • Available

An exploration of the performance, pragmatics, and effects of medieval preaching.


"(...) Muzzarelli's excellent collection of essays (...) provides us with outstanding insights into the reciprocal relationship between a preacher and his listeners (...). Notwithstanding the wealth of publications on medieval sermons, this book is among the first attempts to consider both the techniques and oratorical features of preaching as well as its impact on the collective mentality of the period as articulated in civic legislation and moral norms. (...) the articles are impressive in the breadth of their scholarship, in the various lenses they engage to examine the theatrical aspects of preaching and in their evaluation of the sermons' impact on the lives of their listeners." (Nirit Ben-Aryeh Debby, in: The Medieval Review, 15.05.33)

"Der von Maria Giuseppina Muzzarelli herausgegebene Sammelband und die Einleitung, die die Heterogenität der Beiträge zusammenzuführen versteht, leisten einen wichtigen Beitrag zur Schließung der Forschungslücken über die vormoderne Predigt." (simon Falch, in: Sehepunkte, 15/6, 2015)

“I vari contributi fanno luce su una molteplicita di aspetti e temi che allargano il quadro di ricerche entro le quali il tema originario e stato sviluppato. Resta al lettore l’ impressione di un volume la cui eterogeneita rende la lettura scorrevole, stimolante, fertile per ulteriori ricerche ed arricchimenti. ” (Giovanna Stefanelli, in Studi Medievali, 57/2, 2016, p. 885)

"This collection of twelve essays constitutes a (...) valuable contribution to the study of “the nexus between words and deeds in the field of homiletics” (1), exploring the concrete and social consequences of sermons.” (Marjorie Burghart, in Religious Studies Review, 42/4, 2016, p. 297)


Preaching is a method of exhorting the practice of virtues and the performance of one’s duties. If people are not moved to act, preachers become obsolete. Because of this, preachers in the Middle Ages understood the importance of ensuring that their words were heeded and disseminated.

The focus of this volume is the relationship, whether direct or indirect, between what was preached and what was achieved. The articles in this collection present a range of studies, from the thirteenth to the sixteenth century and, while focused on Italy, also give a broad European perspective.

The volume investigates both the tools employed by preachers and the pragmatic aims and outcomes of their sermons. It does this by exploring the various oratorical and gesticular techniques employed by preachers, as well as their methods of preparing themselves to deliver their message and preparing their audiences to receive it. Furthermore, the volume considers both hypothetical and concrete relationships between preachers’ words and civic policies and the behaviours of groups or individual citizens, as well as the question of how and when words were translated into actions.


From Words to Deeds: Reflections on the Efficacy and Effects of Preaching — MARIA GIUSEPPINA MUZZARELLI

I. Efficacious Words

Faire en disant. Aspects performatifs de la prédication à l’automne du Moyen Âge — LETIZIA PELLEGRINI

From Ears to Hand, from Hand to Heart; Writing and Internalising Preaching in Fifteenth-Century Florence — SHUNJI OGURO

‘We Have Made It for Learning’. The Fifteenth-Century Florentine Religious Play Lazero ricco e Lazero povero  as a Sermon in the Form of Theatre — PIETRO DELCORNO

The Challenges of Chiara of Rimini: from Deeds to Words — ELISA TOSI BRANDI

II. Effects on Society

Mendicant Preachers as Disseminators of Anti-Jewish Literary Topoi: the Case of Luca da Bitonto — JUSSI HANSKA

Effects of Synodal Preaching at the Councils of Constance, Pavia-Siena and Basel — ALBERTO CADILI

Preaching, Magic and Witchcraft: a Feedback Effect? — MARINA MONTESANO

Preaching Peace in Fifteenth-Century Italian Cities: Bernardino da Feltre — YOKO KIMURA

III. Words and Deeds: Franciscan Exemplars

Franciscan Preaching in Germany and the Low Countries c. 1450-1550 — BERT ROEST

Biographies of the Franciscan Observance: Texts Narrating the Deeds — IPPOLITA CHECCOLI

When Words Alone Are Not Enough: A Franciscan Preacher Facing a Reluctant Audience in Fifteenth-Century Italy — MARA IORIATTI

Francesco Panigarola and “i frutti delle prediche” — FABIO GIUNTA