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The Charles Singleton Center for the Study of Pre-Modern Europe
The Johns Hopkins University
Gilman Hall 301
Baltimore, MD 21218

Lawrence Principe

Phone (410) 516-5296
Fax (410) 516-7586

Future Events on Pre-Modern Europe at JHU

Charles S. Singleton Center for the Study of Premodern Europe


The Fourth Singleton Distinguished Lecture Series:

Margaret Meserve

University of Notre Dame

Papal Bull: Politics, Propaganda, and Print in Renaissance Rome 

Three lectures held at Homewood, Johns Hopkins University, 19-22 September 2016

Abstract: At the close of the Middle Ages, the papacy controlled the largest, most sophisticated communication apparatus of any state in Europe. Yet the late medieval papacy was also an institution in crisis, facing doctrinal and political challenges from all sides. The fifteenth-century popes deployed various strategies to reinforce their claims to authority – diplomatic, doctrinal, ritual, architectural, and artistic. These lectures will explore how the Renaissance papacy added the new technology of printing to its political armamentarium in the first fifty years after the invention of movable type.

Whether confronting diplomatic threats from neighboring states, or deflecting theological challenges from clerical critics, or proactively asserting the centrality of Rome to Latin Christendom, the Renaissance popes were quick to co-opt the press for some of the first propaganda campaigns of the early modern period. Their use of mass communication grew out of, but sometimes conflicted with older practices of manuscript publication and ritual communication, practices grounded in papal control of particular sacred objects, sites, and routes around the Eternal City. Translating the ritual act of publication to a worldwide stage had its challenges. And there were limits to papal innovation, too, as an institution grounded in tradition wrestled not only with a new medium but with new interlocutors, in new arenas, and before audiences it perceived only dimly.

Monday, 19 September, 5 pm, Gilman 50: “Urbi et Orbi: Landscapes of Publication in Renaissance Rome”

Note: Dinner reception to follow in the Gilman Atrium; RSVP for the reception to by 12 September 2016

Wednesday, 21 September, 5 pm, Sherwood Room, Levering Hall: “Talking Heads: Relics, Rituals, and Diplomacy”

Thursday, 22 September, 5:30 pm, 111 Mergenthaler: “Before Wittenberg: Pamphlet Wars on the Eve of the Reformation”