Not by Faith Alone: Vittoria Colonna, Michelangelo and Reginald Pole and the Evangelical Movement in Sixteenth Century Italy
Dunn, Christopher Allan
Collins, Michael J
NOT BY FAITH ALONE: VITTORIA COLONNA, MICHELANGELO AND REGINALDPOLE AND THE EVANGELICAL MOVEMENT IN SIXTEENTH CENTURY ITALYA ThesisSubmitted to the Faculty of The School of Continuing Studies and ofThe Graduate School of Arts and Sciencesin partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree ofMaster of Arts in Liberal StudiesChristopher Allan Dunn, J.D.Georgetown University Washington, D.C. March 19, 2014NOT BY FAITH ALONE: VITTORIA COLONNA, MICHELANGELO AND REGINALD POLE AND THE EVANGELICAL MOVEMENTIN SIXTEENTH CENTURY ITALYChristopher Allan Dunn, J.D. MALS Mentor: Michael Collins, Ph.D.ABSTRACTBeginning in the 1530's, groups of scholars, poets, artists and Catholic Church prelates cametogether in Italy in a series of salons and group meetings to try to move themselves and the Churchtoward a concept of faith that was centered on the individual's personal relationship to God andgrounded in the gospels rather than upon Church tradition. The most prominent of these groups wasknown as the spirituali, or spiritual ones, and it included among its members some of the mostrenowned and celebrated people of the age. And yet, despite the fame, standing and unrivaledaccess to power ofits members, the group failed utterly to achieve any of its goals. By 1560 all of the spiritualiwere either dead, in exile, or imprisoned by the Roman Inquisition, and their ideas had beencompletely repudiated by the Church. The question arises: how could such a "conspiracy of geniuses"have failed so abjectly?To answer the question, this paper examines the careers of three of the spirituali's most prominentmembers, Vittoria Colonna, Michelangelo and Reginald Pole. Beginning with an examination of theprecepts of the group's guiding theologian, Juan de Valdés, I examine how each of these threeindividuals sought to advance Valdés' precepts in their works. Valdesian tenets can be found inVittoria Colonna's poetry, Michelangelo's late-ii-paintings, and Reginald Pole's books. All three sought, as well, to promote their ideas throughsalons and informal gatherings, and in Reginald Pole's case, through his participation in theCouncil of Trent.In analyzing why they failed, the paper applies the analytical framework established by MortonDeutsch in his book, The Resolution of Conflict. Deutsch divides conflicts into two types:"constructive" conflicts, in which all the participants achieve some or all of their goals, and"destructive" conflicts, in which only one side or neither achieves its goals. He identifies thecharacteristics of both the participants and the conflict itself which determine whether a conflictis likely to prove constructive or destructive.Applying Deutsch's framework to the efforts of Colonna, Michelangelo and Pole, I conclude that thespirituali failed for three reasons. First, their idiosyncratic, "artistic" personalities weresuch that they were incapable of reaching out to those who opposed their views, especially if theirantagonists possessed more doctrinaire, bureaucratic or practical attitudes. Second, theiraristocratic backgrounds impeded their ability to work with or gain support from those they viewedas less educated or cultured than they were. Finally, the very tenets of their philosophy -fundamentally based on a personal relationship with God - allowed them to recoil from conflict oreven negotiation with those whose views differed from theirs, effectively withdrawing into theirown personal circles and abandoning the struggle to promote their views.