The notion of the Renaissance as a ‘secular age’ is to be challenged by three University of Cambridge researchers after securing €2.3m funding from the European Research Council.

Our pooled knowledge and expertise are key to this project.

Abigail Brundin

The ground-breaking interdisciplinary project ‘Domestic Devotions: The Place of Piety in the Italian Renaissance Home’ will aim to demonstrate that religion played a key role in attending to the needs of the laity, and explore the period 1400-1600 as an age of spiritual - not just cultural and artistic - revitalisation.

The project is one of only two projects from the Humanities and Social Sciences to be awarded ERC ‘Synergy’ funding, and the only project to be led by an exclusively female team. The competition for ERC funding attracted more than 700 applications, only 1.5 per cent of which were retained for funding.

By bringing together the study of books, buildings, objects, spaces, images and archives, the researchers aim to show how religion functioned behind the doors of the Renaissance home.

Devotions, from routine prayers to extraordinary religious experiences such as miracles or exorcisms, frequently took place within the home and were specifically shaped to meet the everyday demands of domestic life.

The three principal investigators, Abigail Brundin (from the Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages), Deborah Howard (Architecture and History of Art) and Mary Laven (History) offer a rare combination of expertise and experience across several disciplines.

The project moves beyond traditional research on the Renaissance in other ways. Firstly, it breaks away from the ‘golden triangle’ of Venice, Florence and Rome in order to investigate practices of piety in three highly significant yet under-explored zones: Naples and its environs; the Marche in central Italy; and the Venetian mainland. Secondly, it rejects the standard focus on Renaissance elites in order to develop an understanding of domestic devotion across a wide social spectrum.

Abigail Brundin said: “Our pooled knowledge and expertise are key to this project, which, in the way of arts and humanities research, gains its strength and vitality from the bringing together of people, and the opportunity to arrive at a 360-degree view of a research question that alone we could never achieve.”

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Licence. If you use this content on your site please link back to this page.