The Mystical Dimension of Michelangelo’s Writings

Michelangelo, DelugeThe Mystical Dimension of Michelangelo’s Writings

Sarah Rolfe Prodan

University of Toronto: Doctor of Philosophy Department of Italian Studies (2011)


This dissertation examines the spiritual poetry of Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564) in light of three distinct but related contexts: Italian Evangelism of the Catholic Reformation, the Italian lauda tradition, and Renaissance Augustinianism. After reviewing the reception and critical history of Michelangelo‟s poetry, chapter one presents the anthropological approach of the present study as an effective means of illuminating the poet‟s spiritual verses by considering what they may have meant – collectively and individually – to the poet himself.

Chapter two analyzes Michelangelo‟s lyrics inspired by Vittoria Colonna with respect to the Spirituali of the Ecclesia viterbiensis in general and to the Beneficio di Cristo and personal letters of Vittoria Colonna in particular. It shows that the portrayal of Vittoria Colonna in this poetry as an instrument of grace effecting Michelangelo‟s spiritual refashioning, rebirth, and renewal reflects a theology of the Holy Spirit that was dear to the Italian Evangelical community and central to their self-perception.


The third chapter presents the Italian lauda tradition and its mystical verses addressing Christ and the Holy Spirit as an inspiration for Michelangelo who, in a later spiritual sonnet, borrowed directly from one of Lorenzo de‟ Medici‟s laude. This chapter shows how Michelangelo‟s verse is informed by a long, popular Christian tradition in the vernacular.

The discussion in chapter four centres on Dante‟s Commedia and on the Augustinian allegoreses that permeate Landino‟s Comento to the grand epic. These two works, it is argued, constitute sources as important as Petrarch‟s Canzoniere for Michelangelo‟s Augustinian vision of a mystico-moral ascent through conversion.


Click here to read this thesis from University of Toronto