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A French King and a Magic Ring: The Girolami and a Relic of St. Zenobius in Renaissance Florence*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 November 2018

Sally J. Cornelison*
Virginia Tech


In 1482, the episcopal ring of St. Zenobius, patron of the Florentine see, was sent from Florence to France in the hope that it would cure the ailing King Louis XI. This secondary relic belonged to the Girolami, a banking and mercantile family that claimed to be related to the saint. The present study examines the use of St. Zenobius’ ring as a means of international and local diplomatic exchange. In addition, it traces the history of the Girolami's patronage of St. Zenobius’ cult and relics, places it within the context of contemporary devotional practices, and discusses the advantages and disadvantages of the patronage of privately-owned relics in Renaissance

Copyright © Renaissance Society of America 2002

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I first presented this study in February of 1998 at the 86th annual College Art Association Conference in Toronto. It is derived from my Ph.D. dissertation; see Cornelison, 1998. I wish to thank Joanna Cannon, Michael Hirst, Caroline Elam, and my anonymous readers for their helpful suggestions for its improvement. Scott B. Montgomery, Darken Pryds, Marian Mollin, and Jane Aiken provided further invaluable comments and criticisms. I am especially indebted to F.W. Kent, Nicolai Rubinstein, and Michael Mallett for sharing with me their insights into Lorenzo de'Medici's role in sending St. Zenobius’ ring to Louis XI of France. Michael Rocke and Gino Corti kindly helped with the transcription of the documents upon which this study is based. All translations are my own. The following abbreviations are used in this article: ASF = Archivio di Stato, Firenze; BMLF = Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Firenze; BNF = Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, Firenze; MAP = Archivio Mediceo Avanti il Principato; Pupilli = Archivio Magistrato dei Pupilli Avanti il Principato.


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