Lorenzo Giustiniani and the Politics of Obedience: Church and State in Fifteenth-Century Venice

Date of Award

July 2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Dennis Romano


Giustiniani, Patriarch, Venice

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities


Because of a life-changing encounter with God, Lorenzo Giustiniani (1381-1456) embarked on a religiously devout path and joined a group of men who founded a community of reformers of mostly Venetian patrician men. They named themselves the Secular Canons of San Giorgio in Alga after the monastery and island in the Venetian lagoon that eventually became their permanent residence. The Secular Canons of San Giorgio in Alga, led by men who would go on to hold the highest positions in the church, molded many of Giustiniani’s views on the church and determined his career path throughout his life. In 1433, he was promoted to the Venetian episcopacy because he represented and exemplified the secular canons’ ideals and mission. In 1451, Pope Nicholas V abolished the patriarchate of Grado and the bishopric of Castello (Venice) and created the patriarchate of Venice. Nicholas named Giustiniani the first Patriarch of Venice. Giustiniani adhered to the tenets of the devotio moderna religious movement that stressed individual devotion and focused on Eucharistic piety; consequently, he not only lived his life, but also ran the diocese and later the patriarchate according to the devotio moderna model. He proved his commitment and allegiance to the secular canons, Venice, the church, and God by practicing time and time again the virtues of obedience and humility. Yet, during a time when Venice and the papacy were frequently at odds, Giustiniani saw no contradiction in his obedience to both.


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