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Katherine M. Bentz

“Prelates, Health, and the Villa in Renaissance Rome”

Katherine M. Bentz

Saint Anselm College, Garden and Landscape Studies Fellow

Bentz studies the sumptuous villas built by popes and cardinals around Rome during the seemingly austere period of the Counter-Reformation. These elaborate gardens provided prelates with luxury and prestige, but within the context of sixteenth-century medical practice, they were also considered to be places for the salubrious recreation essential for healthy living. Maintaining good health was a political imperative for churchmen, for disease could threaten the stability of the Church during a politically fraught time. By examining villas within the culture of preventative medicine in late Renaissance Italy, Bentz shows how ideas about health and hygiene shaped villa design and use, and offers a new perspective on how early modern society conceived of relationships between bodies, health, and the built environment.

Katherine M. Bentz is associate professor of art history and chair of the Fine Arts Department at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire. Her research focuses on urbanism, landscape and garden history, and antiquities collections in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Rome. She has received fellowships from institutions such as the National Endowment for the Humanities, Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, the Getty Research Institute, the Mellon Foundation and Columbia University, and the Kress Foundation. From 2013 to 2014, she was Rush H. Kress Fellow at the Villa I Tatti, the Harvard Center for Italian Renaissance Studies in Florence. In 2016, Bentz received the Landscape History Essay Prize from the Landscape History Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians for her article “The Afterlife of the Cesi Garden: Family Identity, Politics, and Memory in Early Modern Rome” (JSAH, 2013).