Montaigne Abroad: Religion and Development in the Context of the Reformation
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Montaigne?s journey from Bordeaux to Rome in 1580-1581 not only contributed to the formation of the second edition of Montaigne?s famous Essays, but also provides a notable contemporary description of civic life in sixteenth-century Europe. In the context of religious turmoil in France, Montaigne actively observed the role of religion on civic life in areas of religious diversity and in Italy, the bastion of Catholicism and of Papal power. Montaigne?s observations of Roman antiquity and his experiences with religious life in Rome also project a contrasting explanation of Rome in the Renaissance. While the Rome of antiquity promoted humanist appeal in intellectuals of the sixteenth century, the papal court remained the center of religious conservatism and corruption. Rome, the ?defunct capital of an illustrious empire? was once again the object of veneration and study, although the effect of intellectual recognition was diluted by the presence of stagnant and conservative church leadership in the Pontificate of Gregory XIII. Montaigne?s travel journal relates religious and cultural interest in cities such as Basel, Augsburg, Innsbruck, Verona and Venice. The Journal provides a frank analysis of the impact of Reformation on civic life and of the reaction from the seat of Catholicism. Montaigne?s positive experiences in German and Swiss territories and his slightly less favorable depiction of contemporary Rome highlight the contrast between cultural and religious development in areas of the Reformation and the religious conservatism still present in sixteenth-century Italy.