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Friday, February 16, 2018

Turin-Paris: A lay Paradiso


In 1609 in Turin, the then capital city of the Duchy of Savoy, G. B. Marino was appointed a Knight of the Order of St. Maurice and St. Lazarus (Ordine dei Santi Maurizio e Lazzaro, or more simply Ordine Mauriziano) -- which had been created by merging two different Orders, named after the respective Saints. He himself will sum up the history of the two Catholic knight organizations in the earliest of his Dicerie sacre, though often reworking and embellishing the historical data, as we might expect of his epoch, and of him. The Order's official website, in Italian, can be visited here.

A novelty in Marino's "sacred orations" is that each of them deals with a subject by using one, only one metaphor, unlike the typical Counter-Reformation sermons, where all sorts of similes, etc., were employed while speaking of any topic. Marino's novelty proved so successful that the Dicerie would be re- and re-printed a lot of times during the 17th century, influencing many Catholic preachers. That is all the more interesting as he was not a priest, and as a layman he could hardly be termed a 'saint.' In 1623 he was even condemned by the Inquisition because of his long poem Adone, that mixes the Christian Sacred and overt eroticism.

The oration in which he thanks the Duke of Savoy, Charles Emmanuel I (Carlo Emanuele, but then spelled Carlo Emanuello), and addresses his fellow Knights, is called Il cielo. A simple word that is not easy to translate because it meant, and means, at the same time "heaven" and "sky, universe." The con/fusion of both concepts was particularly clear e.g. in Dante's Paradiso. To Marino the structure of the universe, the planets, etc., provides a starting point that allows him to exalt the history, mission, and values of the Order of St. Maurice. The editor of the 2014 Italian edition of the Dicerie sacre, E. Ardissino, finds it odd that Marino, who was a friend of Galileo Galilei, kept using an old-fashioned pattern of the cosmos. I however think that this was precisely the point: Marino needed a simple, traditional pattern, familiar to his audience, that would enable him to soar freely and develop his true subject. It was unnecessary to draw allegories from the newly discovered moons of Jupiter. And anyway, as we will see, his view of the universe is more "modern" than it may appear at first sight.