Title

Sortilegio: Cola Rienzi and the Blasphemy of documentation

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

1-1-1997

Abstract

Cola Rienzi, the 14th century notary and usurper who briefly resurrected the Roman Republic during the Avignon Papacy, is an important figure in the history of professional writing. The son of an unlettered country innkeeper, Cola combined a passion for classical rhetoric and literature with extensive training in legal documentation to create and sustain a messianic regime. By imitating Ancient Roman memos and reports in his written edicts, Cola convinced the people that he was their tribune and savior. The aristocrats and clerics chafing under Cola's authority, however, considered these documents sortilegio, sheer witchcraft. When Rienzi's edicts became increasingly selfserving and grandiloquent, the mob, sickened by his megalomania, tore him to pieces. Although he was posthumously declared anathema by the Church - partly for having invented the fountain pen - Cola's legislative reforms, and his revolutionary use of the classics to reshape administrative writing, helped pave the way for Renaissance Humanism.

Publication Name

Journal of Technical Writing and Communication

Volume Number

27

First Page

225

Last Page

235

Issue Number

3

DOI

10.2190/NXRU-68RQ-32P5-V1BC

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