Instructions on Delivering a Service

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Page 6

There are many ways that this manuscript assisted preachers with the delivery of their sermons, as seen in the notes that fill many of the margins. This assistance comes in the form of jokes, stories, or exempla drawn from the local culture. For example, exempla in this manuscript were taken from classical antiquity—one exemplum utilizes the imprisonment of Socrates to teach a lesson on patience—which would have appealed to Italians of the humanist school of thought (this manuscript was written in fifteenth-century northern Italy). Other exempla are centred around stories of Jewish people that had converted to Christianity, such as St. Helena.

Many of these directional aids were written in Italian; this would have made the sermons much more engaging for the audience and allowed laypeople of lower social standing to better understand these religious speeches and the meaning behind them. Presenting parts or all of the sermons in the vernacular also would have made the gatherings for these sermons much larger; this is what the Church would have wanted, as their goal was to indoctrinate people through these speeches and promote orthodox belief through the sermons of the Franciscans.

This paints a very clear picture of the large social divide between the Church and the commoner during the Middle Ages; however, it also demonstrates the ways in which the Church tried to bridge this divide and reach the laity in effective ways. The medieval commoner typically was not able to read or write, and thus the preachers' attempts to engage their audience can be seen as a way to promote inclusivity rather than a form of belittlement.

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