The Renaissance papacy grounded its claims to authority in ancient tradition – apostolic succession, martyrs’ bones and apostles’ tombs, venerable icons and relics, time-honored rituals, processions, and liturgies. In fact, many of these traditions dated back only a few centuries or even less, and the Quattrocento popes were assiduous in creating even newer ones – often intended to support their own political or ecclesiastical agendas. This paper explores how popes, curialists, clerics, and scholars used the new technology of print to codify and publicize newly invented institutions as though they had existed since time immemorial. From diplomatic ceremonies like the ambassadorial obedience, to the cult of new relics and saints, to indulgences to promote sacred institutions and projects, print lent antiquity and authority to papal innovations both within the city and abroad in the wider world.
Margaret Meserve is Associate Professor of History and Fabiano Chair of Italian Studies in the College of Arts and Letters. She studies the intersection of humanism and politics in 15th century Italy, especially in papal Rome. She has published widely on Italian humanist history-writing, travel literature, and book culture and is currently writing a book on papal use of the press in the Renaissance