Translated by Thomas Renna, Ph.D., and Shannon Larson
Franciscan Institute Publications announces the September 26, 2012, release of The Life and Miracles of St. Margaret of Cortona (1247 – 1297) translated into English by Thomas Renna, Ph.D., and Shannon Larson.
Saint Margaret of Cortona is called the light of the Third Order of Francis. This is the theme of the most extensive biography of any Franciscan Tertiary in the Middle Ages. Margaret’s extraordinary career brings the historian closer to the early development of the Franciscans and the Order of Penance; it tells us much about how women saints were described, and about how civic cults of saints emerged. Another window, although a smaller one, opens to the tensions between the Franciscan Community and the Spiritual Franciscans before the split prior to Pope John XXII. Indeed it could be said that we know more about Margaret of Cortona than about any woman of 13th century Italy, with the exception of Clare of Assisi and Clare of Montefalco. This edition is translated from the critical Latin edition by Fortunato Iozzelli, O.F.M., of The Life of Saint Margaret of Cortona by Fra Giunta Bevegnati. The original translation by Thomas Renna has been edited by Shannon Larson.
Thomas Renna, Ph.D., is professor of history at Saginaw Valley State University, Saginaw, Mich. Renna teaches history of the Middle Ages, Ancient Rome, Renaissance, France, and ancient and modern Middle East. He has an undergraduate degree in history from the University of Scranton, a master’s of medieval history from the University of Nebraska and a Ph.D. in medieval history from Brown University. Renna has published three books and 120 journal articles on various medieval topics. He also has given 160 paper presentations at conferences in the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Middle East. Renna has received numerous awards and fellowships for scholarship and teaching.
Shannon Larson has a bachelor’s degree from Northwestern College, where she studied Egyptian, Jewish and Church history and biblical studies. She has a master’s degree in medieval history from Marquette University. There, she specialized in crime and justice. Larson’s research has focused on the intersection of rape and virginity in medieval discursive contexts, and on British and Continental jurisprudence. She is an independent scholar and works part time at an historical society.
The poignant life of Margaret of Cortona offers a profound avenue to explore the rich complexity of Franciscan spirituality with special focus on the Lay Franciscan experience and with insights into the Franciscan tradition as a whole. This accessible translation of the vita of Margaret of Cortona will be beneficial to both students and scholars interested in the Franciscan tradition, and to people with a devotional attraction to Franciscan spirituality. This volume will be indispensable reading in Franciscan studies for decades. – Darleen Pryds, Associate Professor of History and Spirituality, Franciscan School of Theology, Graduate Theological Union
Thomas Renna’s English translation of Fra Giunta Bevegnati’s 1308 Life of Saint Margaret of Cortona (1247-1293) is a treasure trove of early Franciscan history primarily drawing from her canonization proceedings, the penitential movement, popular legend, and the cult of women’s saints. It is based on Fra Fortunato Iozzelli’s 1997 critical Latin edition. Renna’s translation preserves the colloquial flavor and emotional force of Margaret’s dialogues as well as their historical accuracy. Renna is careful to point out that numerous mythical elements about Margaret’s penitential practices eventually became integrated into her Legenda.
Between 1272-1289 Margaret turned to the Friars Minor, including her biographer, Fra Guinta, for spiritual advice. Known for her severe penances, she became Cortona’s most public citizen. She died in 1293 in the commune of Cortona which built a church for her remains that became a popular pilgrimage site. A rich oral tradition continued to surround Margaret until her canonization in 1728. Fra Giunta’s life of Margaret is peppered with vignettes relevant to the development of the Third Order of Saint Francis. – Ingrid J. Peterson, O.S.F., Rochester, MN
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