The Art of Executing Well offers a disturbing picture of what went on behind the scenes at executions in Renaissance Italy. Companies of patrician laymen consoled the condemned during the dark night before an execution, whispered prayers into his ear as he marched through the streets on the way to the scaffold, and stood by him right up to the moment of death. Only in Italy did ''companies of death'' offer professionals, merchants, and political leaders an intimate experience with the horrors of judicial executions. This fascinating volume, which conveys all the psychological and spiritual intensity of these dramatic personal encounters between the condemned and the political figures who supported capital punishment, suggests why, long before other Europeans Italian elites became skeptical of the benefits of judicial executions, Tuscany was the first European state to abolish capital punishment. --Edward Muir
[Terpstra] has identified and brought important primary texts to a wider audience. The volume will hopefully spur more scholars to study how public executions shaped Italian religious life and perhaps changed early modern attitudes toward crime and punishment. --David D Andrea, Renaissance Quarterly, Spring 2009
This excellent book quite belies the very series title under which it was published. Indeed, the included essays regarding the elaborate rituals by which criminals were put to death in Italy from the fourteenth through the eighteenth centuries, and especially the contemporaneous manuals instructing volunteer laybrothers in how to comfort the condemned and convince them to accept and even appreciate their fate, indicate remarkably just how medieval still were the judicial systems of that so-called age of cultural enlightenment. --Catholic Historical Review
About the Author
Nicholas Terpstra, professor of history at the University of Toronto, is a historian of early modern social history in Italy whose work has focused on the intersection of religion and politics, and particularly confraternities, charitable institutions, and the networks of care available to marginal populations. He has written many articles and is the author of Abandoned Children of the Italian Renaissance: Orphan Care in Florence and Bologna (2005) and Lay Confraternities and Civic Religion in Renaissance Bologna (1995), which was awarded the Howard Marraro Prize of the Society for Italian Historical Studies.