The Anointment of Dionisio: Prophecy and Politics in Renaissance Italy

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In 1566 a flamboyant Frenchman who called himself Dionisio Gallo mesmerized crowds of onlookers as he preached in the courtyard of the ducal palace in Venice. Believing he had been anointed by the Virgin, he delivered a message of reform of church and society. Soon he was arrested, tried before the Inquisition, and banished. In The Anointment of Dionisio, Marion Leathers Kuntz tells the bizarre tale of this itinerant preacher, using his story to illuminate the checkered political and religious landscape of Counter-Reformation Europe. No ragged John the Baptist, Dionisio preached in an elegant Latin, demonstrated a command of the intellectual tradition of prophetic writings, dressed so splendidly that many thought him a great prelate, and attracted the devotion of the king of France and a cluster of reform-minded princes and Venetian senators. So powerful was his call for reform that ecclesiastical authorities hesitated to arrest him and seemed confounded when they attempted to interrogate him. Kuntz recounts Dionisio's career with considerable aplomb, making a man who still remains mysterious in many ways come to life. In the end Kuntz gives us a richly layered depiction of the relationship between politics and religious reform during the decade of the Council of Trent. We learn how much prophecy and eschatology, especially when delivered by someone as persuasive, literate, and commanding as Dionisio, could still attract the intelligentsia of France and Italy.