Selection of Content

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This particular book of sermons was compiled by Italian preacher Antonio da Vercelli, a member of the Franciscan order. The sermons of this collection were known as Quadragesimal Sermons, which meant that these sermons were meant to be read during the time of Lent, one of the most significant periods of religious observance for Christians. The Psalms used in the services for Lent would have been selected extremely carefully. Only twenty-four of the sixty-one Psalms were chosen; thus, the ones that were chosen would have been done so for good reason.

Whether it was because they would have been easily understood by children, or because they reflected the Franciscan ideals of da Vercelli, each psalm had a reason to be included. Furthermore, many of the Psalms that were included would have reflected the central tenants of Lent, which included fasting and refraining from vice and pleasure to cleanse one’s self physically and spiritually. Psalms that provide a message of overcoming physical and mental strain in the name of the Lord would have resonated with the sermons audience, as they would have been taking part in Lent themselves. The choice of Psalms was central in maintaining audience interest; if the wrong Psalms were chosen, the preacher risked losing the attention of the crowd and not imparting his message effectively. This reflects how preachers had to consider their audience when selecting their sermons, demonstrating that medieval sermons were not just religious in nature but social exchanges as well.

Da Vercelli also quotes many noteworthy Franciscan authors and authoritative figures within his sermons, such as Alexander Halensis, Richardus of Mediavilla, and Hieronymus. These references would have bolstered his arguments and lent them credibility. Additionally, more vulgar authors were also quoted, such as Aristotle and Cicero. This reflects the humanistic education of many of the mendicants of medieval Italy, as well as the interest in classical antiquity and humanism that was prevalent among much of the Italian laity. 

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