Mundus Archetypus: Three-Faced Trinity and Heterodoxy in 16th-Century Naples

José Gabriel Alegría, M.A.

The current project seeks to delve deep into the history of an unorthodox motif which spread between the early renaissance until the mid of the XVIII century, from Rome to Lima, Perú: that of the Holy Trinity depicted as a three-faced entity. This image acquired an immense negative polyvalence as it became associated with the devil, was forbidden by two popes, in 1628 and yet again in 1745, and was subsequently identified with indigenous gods (or the perceived idolatries) of India and the Spanish America. Yet the propagation of this image in both worlds, Old and New, through the medium of printed sources, before its prohibition, happened due to the initiative of a renaissance intellectual elite that during the XV and XVI was open to the assimilation of elements from the classical world as well as Jewish esoteric tradition, as proving the philosophical truth of Christianity. In this proposal, we would like to focus on how these affiliations were present among specific theologians, noblemen, poets, and printers active between Rome and Naples in the second half of the XVI century.

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