A point Professor Burton made in class, how sermons were viewed by the current society, caught my interest. While introducing the sermons as pieces of literature and of rhetorical significance, he mentioned that most scholars at the time were focused on religious writing. I did a little more research on the culture surrounding sermons and preaching to better understand the context and impact these two sermons could have had.
What first startled me was the number of preachers at the time of the reformation and their role in society. There were thousands of preachers in Florence at the time of the reformation and they were largely viewed as entertainment (Howard 1). Preachers existed as varying levels of legitimacy. A preacher would rise in influence and wealth completely dependent on his popularity. His salary was dependent on what the church and his audience believed his work to be worth (Howard 4). Thus a preacher giving a sermon, deserving enough attention to be recorded must have built his reputation over a long period of time and would have been well-known in the community.
Given the social popularity of attending sermons, the fame of the preachers and the sensitivity and timeliness of the subject matter, I think it is safe to assume that these sermons would have reached a lot of people and had significant influence. Peter Howard addressed the genius of these men in “The Impact of Preaching in Renaissance Florance.”
“In thinking about the effectiveness of the pulpit oratory, and the way in which the pulpit ‘conversed’ with society too much emphasis is placed on the individual preacher. The perspective of the convent school also suggests that the voice of the prominent preacher from the pulpit was only the articulation of what was being debated more generally within the studia of the city and disseminated more broadly by work-a-day preachers around the city”(Howard 12).
What is so genius about these sermons is less the subject matter and more the rhetorical presentation. It seems that if many preachers were all trying to communicate similar messages it would be your skill at presentation and persuasion would bring you recognition and a salary.
Howard, Peter. "The Impact of Preaching in Renaissance Florence: Fra Niccolò Da Pisa at San Lorenzo." The Impact of Preaching in Renaissance Florence: Fra Niccolò Da Pisa at San Lorenzo. Monash University, Australia, 2004. Web. 16 Sept. 2015. <http://www.academia.edu/4424995/The_Impact_of_Preaching_in_Renaissance_Florence_Fra_Niccol%C3%B2_da_Pisa_at_San_Lorenzo>.