Heavenly Supper: The Story of Maria Janis

Fulvio Tomizza, Author, Anne Jacobson Schutte, Translator University of Chicago Press $38 (196p) ISBN 978-0-226-80789-8
In his first book to appear in English, Italian writer Tomizza presents a probing, engrossing, scholarly account of 17th-century spirituality, mysticism, duplicity, crime and punishment during the Venetian Inquisition. Maria Janis, a peasant from the hill country, was observed receiving communion outside of a church. This ``sacrilege'' was reported to the authorities, and she and the priest who administered the sacrament to her were arrested. Supposedly, the bread Janis received in communion was all that she allowed herself to eat each day, and she claimed that she had observed this fast for five years, having renounced all other food as a religious sacrifice. The church tribunal sentenced Father Morali to prison for five years for the crime of consecrating and administering the host outside the confines of a church. Janis, who admitted that her fast was a hoax, was imprisoned for her ``pretense of sanctity,'' then transferred, at her request, to ``the pious establishment of the Mendicanti.'' Tomizza becomes the champion that Janis, who lived in an era of ``religious emulation rather than of authentic mystical fervor,'' lacked; he finds her not ``a shabby impostor'' but, instead, ``a climber on the ladder to paradise.'' (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 12/16/1991
Release date: 12/01/1991
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