Reading, Devotion and Religious Print in Early Cinquecento Naples: The Case of Francesco Sovaro’s Christiade
This article analyses a little known Christian epic poem, the Christiade by Francesco Sovaro. Printed in Naples in 1539, the poem is a mosaic of passages from the Gospels offering a synoptic version of the life of Christ. I argue that the Christiade represents not only a literary work, but also a tool for approaching the Gospels and for practicing domestic devotion. The Christiade could either be read in its entirety as a poem, or be perused as a handbook thanks to its paratextual apparatuses (glosse and tavole) which related passages in the poem to the Sunday Gospels. Readers could thus prepare themselves for Mass or meditate upon what they had heard at church. This article explores the Christiade within the context of contemporary Neapolitan culture, with special attention to print industry, book-trade, religious poetry and the questione della lingua. This article also sets the Christiade against the background of the spread of heterodox ideas in mid-Cinquecento Naples, and considers it as a contrast to such ideas.