Giovanni Mercurio da Correggio's Appearance in Italy as Seen through the Eyes of an Italian Jew

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Departmental Papers (History)
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Christian Denominations and Sects
Cultural History
European History
History of Religion
Intellectual History
Jewish Studies
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The literary evidence describing the revelation of the strange Christian prophet Giovanni Mercurio da Correggio in the communities of Italy and France at the end of the fifteenth and the beginning of the sixteenth century has been treated with considerable interest by a number of scholars. W.B. McDaniel was the first to publish the existing evidence on this unusual figure, together with the text of a hermetic plague tract attributed to him with an English translation. These sources portray a divinely inspired prophet, together with his wife, five children, and his disciples, making his way as a mendicant through Italy and France. Mercurio sees as his task the reprobation of all the sins of the Catholic Church and Christian peoples. He is empowered with the magical gift of the Supreme Being to prepare an antidote against the horrendous plague.1 He not only gains the loyalty of the uneducated masses who marvel at his wondrous abilities but is surrounded by a select retinue of outstanding scholars who are equally impressed by his prophecy. The latter include Carlo Sosenna, a lecturer at the University of Ferrara and author of a scholastic commentary to one of Mercurio's sonnets; Ludovico Lazzarelly, an avid hermetic who describes Mercurio's appearance in Rome in 1484; and Trithemius, another hermetic and mystic who relates Mercurio's appearance at Lyons at the end of the fifteenth century.2

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At the time of this publication, Dr. Ruderman was affiliated with the University of Maryland, College Park, but he is now a faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania.
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