Pieta To Pisano, Giovanni (Renaissance and Reformation)


A painted or sculpted representation of the Virgin Mary with the body of her son, Jesus Christ. The image, which extols Mary’s emotional sacrifice, was popular in Catholic Europe during the Renaissance. The most famous Pietd is michelangelo’s marble sculpture in St. Peter’s, Rome (1499): the sense of the Virgin’s anguish is enhanced as it shows her physically supporting the body, so mourning her dead son is a physical torment as well as a mental one. The English Catholic tradition of the pieta is best exemplified by the fine work on a church window at Long Melford, Suffolk.

Pieta Michelangelo's first (1498-99) Pieta, which stands in St. Peter's, Rome. When challenged over the youthfulness of the Virgin Mary, in whose arms lies the dead Christ, Michelangelo is said to have replied that chaste women retain their beauty longer than others.

Pieta Michelangelo’s first (1498-99) Pieta, which stands in St. Peter’s, Rome. When challenged over the youthfulness of the Virgin Mary, in whose arms lies the dead Christ, Michelangelo is said to have replied that chaste women retain their beauty longer than others.

Pigafetta, Antonio

(c. 1491-c. 1526) Italian historian Raised in Vicenza by his well-to-do family, Pigafetta is known as the official historian of magellan’s circumnavigation of the world. His journal of the voyage, first published in 1525, is a vivid and detailed account, both flawed and colored by lengthy accounts of Pigafetta’s personal feelings and experiences. The work is of great historical significance and presents particularly valuable accounts of the discovery and passage of the Magellan Straits. Pigafetta also claims to have tried to dissuade Magellan from the battle on Mactan in which Magellan was killed; Pigafetta himself was wounded. Pigafetta’s reports of the voyage earned him a reception at the court of francis i of France in 1523, a meeting that inspired Francis to promote France’s belated entry into the realm of exploration.

Pilgrimage and pilgrimage shrines

In Renaissance Europe the survival of the great pilgrimage shrines of the Middle Ages was closely connected with the degree to which the Roman Catholic Church was able to withstand criticism and reform. Relics (items believed to have been associated with Christ or the Holy Family, such as a splinter from the Cross or the girdle of the Virgin Mary, and the bodily remains of saints) were the focal points of the medieval pilgrimage shrines that had grown up all over Christendom. People traveled both locally and over considerable distances to venerate the relics, either as a means of eliciting supernatural assistance, or as an act of penitence, or to give thanks for benefits received. The Church linked the practice with the system of indulgences, and when both indulgences and relics came under attack from the earliest reformers, pilgrimage too was in the firing line.

In the Middle Ages enterprising pilgrims could cover astonishing amounts of ground; even the Saracen capture of the Holy Land failed to deter the particularly pious and intrepid. As a young man in 1405-06 the life-long Bur-gundian traveler Ghillebert de lannoy made the first of his three journeys to the Holy Land, visiting St. Catherine’s monastery in Sinai, and in 1450 he went to Rome for the jubilee declared that year; his autobiographical Voy-aiges contains the record of all the indulgences he earned by visiting the various holy sites. Chaucer’s Wife of Bath had been to Jerusalem, Santiago de Compostela, and Rome, before heading for Canterbury, a record matched by her redoubtable real-life counterpart, Margery Kempe, who in the early 15 th century notched up Jerusalem, Canterbury, Walsingham, Compostela, and Wilsnack and Aachen in Germany. Higher up the social scale, the pilgrimage of Isabella d’este to visit the relics of St. Mary Magdalene at St.-Maximin-La-Ste.-Baume, Provence, was recorded by her secretary, Mario equicola in De Isabella Estensis iter in Narbonensem Galliam (c. 1517).

Authors of medieval Holy Land pilgrimage narratives include: the Tuscans Lionardo Frescobaldi, Giorgio Gucci, and Simone Sigoli who visited in 1384; several of the international band of pilgrims who took ship from Venice in 1458 (accounts by six of them were collected and edited by Rosamund Mitchell in The Spring Voyage, 1965); Friar Felix Fabri, who wrote up his 1480-83 pilgrimage for the benefit of his fellow friars in Germany; and the 67-year-old Milanese churchman Pietro Casola, who made his pilgrimage in 1494 and left one of the most detailed descriptions of the Holy Places. William Wey, one of the pilgrims in Mitchell’s collection, made the pilgrimage to Santiago in addition to his two journeys to the east. The capture of the Holy Land by the Ottoman Turks and the onset of the Reformation meant that one of the last recorded Englishmen to make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem via Venice was Sir Richard Torkington in 1517. Rome remained a major draw for pilgrims, particularly in a so-called Holy Year, or jubilee, when the pope offered a special indulgence to those who visited the chief pilgrim churches of the city. Instituted in 1300, the jubilee was proclaimed every 25 years from 1470 onwards, and its benefits were later expanded to cover churches and local shrines worldwide.

In attacking relics, the early 16th-century critics of what they saw as blatant abuses and absurdities in the Church were attacking pilgrimage at its heart. erasmus wrote a satire on the subject, A Pilgrimage for Religion’s Sake (1526). Among the reformers, luther sarcastically remarked how strange it was that the bodies of no fewer than 18 apostles were buried in Germany when Christ had contented himself with a mere 12; he also specifically attacked pilgrimages in his An den christlichen Adel deutscher Nation (1520). calvin weighed in with a treatise on relics that ridiculed the proliferation of dubious items; if the Virgin had been a wet-nurse throughout her life she could scarcely have produced enough milk to fill all the phials of the purported substance venerated across Europe. Even supposing a particular relic to be genuine, it was Calvin’s opinion that veneration of it distracted the laity from the true Christian path by seeming to offer a shortcut to holiness which could only properly be attained by following the Gospels. The general consensus among reformers was that the Church was at fault in both encouraging superstition among the gullible and then profiting financially from their credulity.

As the Reformation spread, pilgrimage shrines, along with other Catholic institutions in newly Protestant lands, became targets for iconoclasm. Calvinists were particularly zealous in their destruction of the material expressions of Roman Catholic piety—or, as they saw it, "popish superstition." In Britain, the dissolution of the monasteries, was slightly different in that it was primarily instigated by the monarch for political ends and its purpose was plunder, not godliness, but the effect was the same: all the great pilgrimage shrines (Thomas a Becket’s in Canterbury cathedral, of Our Lady at Walsingham, of the Holy Blood at Hailes Abbey) were destroyed along with the religious houses associated with them. Pilgrimages were specifically targeted in henry viii’s royal injunctions of 1538, with the clergy instructed to preach against "wandering to pilgrimages, offering of money, candles, or tapers to images or relics, or kissing or licking the same.".

In the Catholic lands the practice of pilgrimage continued and played its part in the growth of popular piety fostered by the Council of trent and the counter-reformation. However, even here new Catholic pilgrimage locations came gradually to focus less on bodily relics and more on miraculous happenings such as a vision (very often of the Virgin Mary) or the finding of a concealed holy statue or painting. For instance, a Spanish Dominican, Narciso Camos, visited the major Marian shrines of Catalonia in 1651-53, and noted that out of 182 shrines 117 had foundation legends involving the miraculous discovery of an image.

Pilgrimage of Grace (1536-37)

A rebellion provoked by Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries and the attempts of Thomas cromwell, the king’s chief minister, to increase control of the north of England. The revolt was supported by the nobility of the northern counties. The most serious rising was led by the lawyer Robert Aske who seized York with 9,000 insurgents. The rebels’ demands included the return of England to papal obedience and a parliament free from royal influence. The uprising was crushed in the early months of1537 and around 250 men, including Aske, were subsequently executed.

Pilgrim Fathers

The usual modern name for the English founders of the colony of Plymouth, Massachusetts, who sailed for the New World in the Mayflower in September 1620. As members of the more strictly Calvinistic wing of the English Church (see puritans), they were opposed to current ecclesiastical and political trends in England, which they saw as tending toward "popery."

Pilon, Germain

(1537-1590) French sculptor Born in Paris, Pilon was the son of a sculptor and specialized in monumental tombs executed in an elongated mannerist style. He was heavily influenced by primaticcio, with whom he worked on a monument for Henry II (c. 1560; Louvre, Paris), as well as by Domenico del Bar-biere and Pierre bontemps. His later works were executed in the more fluid naturalistic manner of pontormo and michelangelo, as seen in his finest piece, the tomb (1563-70) for Henry II and his wife Catherine de’ Medici. As sculptor royal from 1568, Pilon also served in the post of controller of the mint and produced many notable portrait medals as well as busts of the French royal family. Other works include a bronze figure of Rene de Birague (1583-85; Louvre), a contribution to the tomb of Francis I at St.-Denis, an Annunciation in the Chapelle de la Vierge at Valmont, a statue of the Virgin in Notre-Dame-de-la-Couture, Le Mans (1571), and a bronze bust of Charles IX (Wallace Collection, London).

Pinto, Fernao Mendes

(1510-1583) Portuguese writer and adventurer

Born near Coimbra, Pinto enjoyed a lifetime of varied and pioneering activity. He sailed for Goa in 1537, and there after lived as a soldier, pirate, and merchant, working from East Africa to Japan. In 21 years he was captured 13 times, enslaved 17 times, and shipwrecked on several occasions.

Pinto’s voyages to Indo-China opened new trade markets for Europeans, although his greed caused the Chinese to torture him after he robbed a sacred tomb at Calempluy. After escaping from China, he became one of the first Europeans to visit Japan. He later met St. francis xavier and subsequently became a Jesuit novice. However, he was un-suited to the life of the Jesuits and returned to Portugal (1558), where he married and settled in Almada to compose his famous book. Pinto’s life story, the Peregrinaqao, was not published until 1614. He had done so much that the book was considered a fantasy (the possible reason for the delay in publication), but it is now acknowledged as thorough and accurate, if somewhat embellished by fanciful first-person escapades. Whatever the doubts about its strict veracity, it was hugely popular and in the course of the 17th century was translated into Spanish, French, Dutch, English, and German.

Pinturicchio, Bernardo, il (Bernardino di Betto)

(c. 1454-1513) Italian painter

Pinturicchio was a native of Perugia. Among his earliest work are two panels in a series depicting the miracles of St. Bernardino of Siena (c. 1473; Galleria Nazionale dell’ Umbria, Perugia). In the early 1480s Pinturicchio accompanied perugino to Rome and collaborated with him on two frescoes in the Sistine Chapel, but he also became a member of the painters’ guild in Perugia (1481) and executed work there, including a number of decorative Madonnas of a type for which he became famous.

He was also much in demand as a painter of frescoes, and examples of his work in this genre survive in several towns in Umbria. His first major independent commission however was in Rome: the cycle on St. Bernardino of Siena in the Bufalini chapel in Sta. Maria in Aracoeli (c. 148590). Cardinal Giuliano della rovere (later Pope julius ii) commissioned him soon afterwards to decorate part of the Palazzo Colonna, and della Rovere patronage continued in commissions for decorations for chapels in Sta. Maria del Popolo, Rome. Pope Innocent VIII was another patron, but Pinturicchio’s work for him on the Belvedere at the Vatican is almost entirely lost. Innocent Vlll’s successor, alexander vi, employed Pinturicchio on the great decorative scheme for the Borgia apartments in the Vatican (1492-95). Outside Rome, Pinturicchio worked in the 1490s on frescoes in the Eroli chapel in the cathedral at Spoleto (1497). One of his best paintings also dates from this period, the Madonna and Saints altarpiece for a Peru-gian church (1495; Galleria Nazionale dell’ Umbria).

In the early 1500s Pinturicchio was at work in Siena. One of his most successful decorative schemes is the cycle of frescoes (1502-07) in the Piccolomini library there; 10 scenes from the life of Pope pius ii are placed in attractive architectural settings and peopled with varied and graceful figures (see Plate XII). At about the same time he also painted frescoes in the chapel of St. John the Baptist in the cathedral and in about 1509 he decorated the Palazzo del Magnifico (his paintings from there are now dispersed, with a number in the Metropolitan Museum, New York). In 1507 he paid a final visit to Rome to decorate the choir of Sta. Maria del Popolo for his old patron, Julius II. He continued his prolific output right up to his death in Siena.

Pirckheimer, Caritas

(1467-1532) German nun, humanist, letter writer, and poet

Sister of the humanist Willibald pirckheimer, she was well educated and took religious vows as a Franciscan nun at age 16, entering a convent in Nuremberg. Here she became one of the outstanding female scholars of 16th-century Germany, thanks to her correspondence (in Latin) with intellectuals of the day who supported reform within the Church. In 1503, having been elevated to abbess, she wrote a history of her convent. As a staunch Roman Catholic, she held out against the tide of Protestantism sweeping across Germany, but her beleaguered order rapidly disintegrated. Her spiritual testimony of the battle to preserve her faith and religious practice is her Den-wurdigkeiten (1524-28), which is also a valuable account of the intellectual debates concerning the Reformation in contemporary Nuremberg.

Pirckheimer, Willibald

(1470-1530) German humanist Pirckheimer was born at Eichstatt into a wealthy Nuremberg commercial family with scholarly interests. His sister Caritas pirckheimer was also renowned for her learning. He was sent to Padua and Pavia to study law, but showed more interest in Greek, philosophy, the sciences, and other subjects. From his return in 1495 until 1523 he was a Nuremberg city councilor, and he led a contingent from Nuremberg in the Swiss war of 1499. This experience resulted in his vivid historial account of the war, Bellum Hel-veticum, not published until 1610.

A renowned scholar, Pirckheimer edited Greek and Latin works and made many translations from Greek into Latin and from Greek and Latin into German. At the request of Emperor Maximilian I, he translated the Hiero-glyphica of the Egyptian Horapollo from Greek into Latin, with illustrations by his lifelong friend Albrecht durer. This work introduced German scholars to egyptian studies. In recognition of this and other imperial commissions, Pirckheimer was appointed imperial councilor. His wealth enabled him to build up one of the largest private libraries in Germany, to collect ancient coins, and to hold open house for other scholars. He corresponded with many other humanists, including celtis, erasmus, von hutten, melanchthon, and reuchlin.


A city state on the River Arno in Tuscany, central Italy. Pisa was a Roman colony from 180 bce and by the late Middle Ages it was a major Tuscan city state, with a population of about 40,000 in 1300. Despite the destruction of its fleet by Genoa (1284), Pisa continued as a major port during the period of the Renaissance. Even after silting blocked the passage of laden galleys up the Arno, Pisa maintained its sea trade by using the nearby port of Livorno, which was linked to Pisa by a canal. Tanning, textiles, and the manufacture of soap and hats also brought prosperity to the city.

Political feuds weakened Pisa and brought about its annexation by Florence in 1406. During the wars of Italy Pisa declared its independence (1495), but it was soon reconquered by Florence (1509) after the Pisan war. Despite public works and the reopening of the university of Pisa (1543) by cosimo i de’ medici, Pisa suffered economic and cultural decline during the 16th century. After the pisano family of sculptors in the 13th and early 14th centuries Pisa produced no great artists, but it was the birthplace of Galilei galileo, who studied and taught at the university of Pisa before going to Padua.

The romanesque Duomo and Gothic baptistery contain important sculptures by Niccolo and Giovanni Pisano, and the campanile ("Leaning Tower") is a famous landmark, completed in the mid-14th century. It stands 59 meters (194 ft) high and by the 1980s was some 5 meters (17 ft) out of the perpendicular. Work to prevent the tower from falling over was completed in 2001. vasari designed the church of San Stefano dei Cavalieri (1565-69) and modernized the Palazzo dei Cavalieri for the Knights of St. Stephen, an order founded (1561) by Cosimo I. Several Renaissance palazzi, the university courtyard (1550), and the Logge di Banchi (1603-05) also survive, despite the damage suffered by Pisa in World War II, in which the Camposanto (cemetery) was wrecked, with the loss of many antique, medieval, and Renaissance monuments and frescoes. Its botanic garden (c. 1543) is considered to be the oldest in Europe.

Pisa, Council of (1409)

A Church council convened at Pisa to deal with the situation arising from the great schism—the existence of two popes, at that time Gregory XII at Rome and Benedict XIII at Avignon. The council deposed both and elected Alexander V, who resided at Bologna, but the others refused to submit. It was not until the Council of constance that Gregory abdicated, and the other claimants were deposed. It is consistent to regard Gregory as the only lawful pope till his abdication, and his deposition by the prelates at Pisa as unlawful. The Pisan council’s further resolution to reform ecclesiastical abuses was not effective.

Pisanello (Antonio Pisano)

(c. 1395-c. 1455) Italian painter and medalist

After training in Verona, probably under Stefano da Zevio, Pisanello collaborated with gentile da Fabriano on frescoes at the doge’s palace in Venice (1415-20) and at the Lateran Basilica in Rome (1431-32), all now destroyed. The only surviving fresco cycles by Pisanello are the Annunciation (1423-24; San Fermo, Verona) and the St. George and the Princess (c. 1437-38; Sta. Anastasia, Verona), in both of which fantasy and fact are combined in the International Gothic style favored by Gentile da Fabriano. Richness of detail characterizes other works such as the Vision of St. Eustace and the Madonna with SS. Anthony and George (both National Gallery, London), but Pisanello’s best works, for which he was most celebrated in his day, were his portrait medals. Drawing upon similar works produced in antiquity, Pisanello made the finest and most delicate medals of his period for several of the contemporary ruling families, notably for alfonso i of Naples, for whom he executed a whole series (see numismatics). He also painted a number of striking portraits, including those of Margherita Gonzaga (c. 1438; Louvre, Paris) and Leonello d’Este (c. 1440; Accademia Carrara, Bergamo). Pisanello’s keen sense of observation also shows itself in the Vallardi Codex (Louvre), an important collection of animal studies and miscellaneous sketches.

Pisano, Andrea (Andrea da Pontedera)

(c. 1290-c. 1348) Italian sculptor

Born in Pontedera and possibly trained in Pisa, Pisano is first recorded through his commission (1329) for a pair of bronze doors for the south portal of the baptistery of Florence cathedral. Consisting of 20 scenes from the life of St. John the Baptist and depictions of eight Virtues, the doors were decorated in the Italian Gothic style practiced by giotto and influenced ghiberti’s baptistery doors of 50 years later. In 1337 Pisano succeeded Giotto as the chief architect of the campanile of Florence cathedral and executed several marble panel reliefs; statues of David and Solomon there have also been attributed to him. In all these works, and the few others sometimes credited to him, Pisano demonstrates his artistic restraint and debt to Giotto. He died while master of works at Orvieto cathedral, and his son Nino (died ?1368), noted by his contemporaries as a goldsmith, architect, and sculptor, succeeded him there. Nino produced a number of freestanding life-size marble sculptures of sacred subjects.

Pisano, Giovanni

(c. 1250-c. 1314) Italian sculptor and architect

The son of Niccolo pisano, Giovanni was born in Pisa and was trained by his father, whom he assisted from the mid-1260s, first with the Sienese pulpit and later with the great fountain in Perugia. Before 1284 Giovanni produced a series of monumental figures of saints and prophets for the exterior of the Pisan baptistery, and after this date he worked in Siena on the lower part of the facade of the cathedral. This great Gothic sculptural scheme was designed to glorify the Virgin Mary.

Giovanni also contributed to the cathedral of San Cer-bone at Massa Marittima (1287) and carved pulpits for the church of Sant’ Andrea at Pistoia (1301) and Pisa cathedral (1302-10). He executed several sculptures on the Madonna and Child theme, among them a small ivory in the sacristy of Pisa cathedral, a majestic standing Madonna in the arena chapel, Padua (c. 1305), and the Madonna della Cintola (c. 1312) in Prato cathedral. His last known commission (1313) was for the tomb of Margaret of Brabant (died 1311), wife of Emperor Henry VII, in the former church of San Francesco, Genoa; a portrait head from this tomb survives in the Palazzo Bianco, Genoa. Widely acknowledged as the greatest Italian sculptor of his day and occupying a position comparable to that of giotto in painting, Giovanni Pisano exercised a profound influence on later trecento artists in his integration of classical and Gothic elements.

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