This introductory chapter discusses the importance of examining Jacopo da Varagine's writings to learn how he thinks about Christianity. In studying his sermons, author Stefania Bertini Guidetti argues that Jacopo's tendency toward impersonality needs to be balanced against his habit of elaborating ideas and mental associations. His readers past and present, have been struck by his ability to take a few details and spin out a complex web of associations. The chapter agrees that Jacopo thought of himself as an artist, in the sense that he applied his creative talents to his subjects, be they a biblical passage, the life of a saint, or the history of Genoa. It also considers Jacopo mainly as a compiler; learning his habits of selection, along with noting his opinions and factual errors, is the best way to interrogate his works with the purpose of learning about the originality of his mind.
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