Vittoria della Rovere’s Spiritual Philanthropy1
Spiritual philanthropy was a key means by which elite women like Vittoria della Rovere expressed their authority and identity. As Grand Duchess, Vittoria was expected to demonstrate leadership and act as an exemplar in both religious devotion and social charitable work (opere pie). The Grand Duchess’s administration of Tuscany’s charitable and educational institutions and her pious good works—in effect taking on the authoritative function of a magnanimous and benevolent Prince—contributed not only to the wellbeing of the Florentine citizens but also to local state formation, bolstering her own and the Medici court’s authoritative position. This chapter will examine the Grand Duchess’s charity work and her protection of women and children and nuns and her building of religious institutions, as well as her establishment of female colleges such as at La Quiete and Il Conventino, the first of its kind for poor girls in Florence.