Touring Medieval Italy on the Web

This week, Dame Aoife takes readers on a tour of Medieval Italy online with annotated links.

Greetings all. Please accept my apologies for the lateness of this missive: The weather here on the East Coast of the US and it's effect on the local plant life's pollen cycle has not been conducive to breathing well and consistently. To quote an unrecalled comedian, "But I'm feeling Muuuuuch better now!"

This week's Links list is about Medieval Italy, by request of one of my readers, my daughter. I hope you enjoy it in the spirit it is offered (that of unceasing curiosity which, if left untreated, has been shown to effect the lifespan of cats :), and will pass it along wherever it will find eager readers. Searching for information about Medieval Italy (which really didn't exist in it's modern form until later in our period of study, except in several over-run but plucky divisions), is a bit like looking for clams on the beach: you know they are there, but it takes a lot of digging to find the good ones.


Labrynth Library: Italian Texts
This is a list of links to Italian sources on the web. The primary sources center around Dante and Bocaccio. Some images can be found at the Columbia University site.

Online Catasto of 1427
Edited by David Herlihy, Christiane Klapisch-Zuber, R. Burr Litchfield and Anthony Molho
(Site Excerpt) The Online Catasto is a World Wide Web searchable database of tax information for the city of Florence in 1427-29. It is based on David Herlihy and Christiane Klapisch-Zuber, Principal Investigators, Census and Property Survey of Florentine Dominions in the Province of Tuscany, 1427-1480.

Sandro Botticelli Image Directory
This site is composed of six gif's of Botticelli's work. Click on a menu item to see it. (Medieval Tuscan Castles)
(Site Excerpt) ....But one can not pass through this land without being aware of Medieval Tuscany. Still visible are the small walled towns which are a testimony to the Middle Ages just as much as its great cities. Castles, fortresses, watch-towers, and town walls appear everywhere; some are well preserved, others are in ruins, but the main remnants are not on the tourist routes. In this site, created to inform people of the existence and preservation state of these testimonies to the medieval era, you will find history, photos, and plans of some of these fortifications.

ORB Online Encyclopedia
Late Medieval Italy
A Guide to Online Resources

Medioevo Italiano
Click the English link at the bottom of the page. This is a portal to Medieval Italy resource site, inlcuding the yahoogroup dedicated to Medieval Italy, which bears the same name as the site.

Albertano of Brescia resource site
(Site Excerpt) This site offers texts and basic bibliographical references to those interested in the works and influences of the thirteenth-century Brescian causidicus , Albertano. Known and used by i.a. Brunetto Latini, John Gower, Peter Idle (Idley), Erhart Gross, Geoffrey Chaucer, Renaut de Louens, Dirc Potter, Heinrich Schlsselfelder (= 'Arigo'), Jan van Boendale, archbishop Pedro Gomez Barroso of Seville, Bono Giamboni, Zucchero Bencivenni, the author of the Fiore di virt, the author of the Cavallero Zifar, Guilhelm Molinier, Christine de Pizan and (arguably) Dante Alighieri, Jacobus von Jterbog (= Jakob von Paradies), Raimund of B�iers, Aegidius Albertinus and Fernando de Rojas, Albertano and his work are often known only vicariously to medi�alists.

Vatican Library Exhibit: Rome Reborn
(Site Excerpt) Rome now is one of the grandest cities in the world. Millions of pilgrims and tourists come every year to admire, and be awed by, its treasures of architecture, art, and history. But is was not always this way. By the fourteenth century, the great ancient city had dwindled to a miserable village. Perhaps 20,000 people clung to the ruins despite the ravages of disease and robber barons. Popes and cardinals had fled to Avignon in southern France. Rome was dwarfed in wealth and power by the great commercial cities and territorial states farther north, from Florence to Venice. In the Renaissance, however, the popes returned to the See of Saint Peter. Popes and cardinals straightened streets, raised bridges across the Tiber, provided hospitals, fountains, and new churches for the public and splendid palaces and gardens for themselves. They drew on all the riches of Renaissance art and architecture to adorn the urban fabric, which they saw as a tangible proof of the power and glory of the church. And they attracted pilgrims from all of Christian Europe, whose alms and living expenses made the city rich once more. The papal curia--the central administration of the church- -became one of the most efficient governments in Europe. Michelangelo and Raphael, Castiglione and Cellini, Giuliano da Sangallo and Domenico Fontana lived and worked in Rome. Architecture, painting, music, and literature flourished. Papal efforts to make Rome the center of a normal Renaissance state, one which could wield military as well as spiritual power, eventually failed, but Rome remained a center of creativity in art and thought until deep into the seventeenth century.

Medieval Italy
(Site Excerpt) Byzantine dominion was however short-lived. In 568AD a new Barbarian invasion brought the Lombards of Alboin to Italy. They reached as far as the southern regions and built a large kingdom, with its capital at Pavia, which was to last for over two hundred years (774AD). Italy was now incapable of taking an independent political initiative and after the Lombards had to submit to another European people. The Franks descended into Italy to support the pope against the Lombards. With the victory of Charlemagne over the Lombard Desiderius, Italy was to remain for over two centuries (774AD) in the orbit of the Carolingian dynasty, which had substituted the Lombards in the Kingdom of Italy.

The Chivalric Epic in Medieval Italy Book Review
(Site Excerpt) The Chivalric Epic in Medieval Italy offers a new interpretation of the role of one of the most popular literary traditions in northern Italian medieval culture. Whereas most previous studies describe these epics as either inferior copies of their aristocratic French models or as representations of a bourgeois ethos, Juliann Vitullo shows how the epics contributed to discourses of social power. Emphasizing issues of orality, literacy, and identity, she challenges the notion that late medieval Italian society uniformly adopted humanistic models of bourgeois individualism.

Warfare in Medieval Italy (from Eleventh to Fifteenth Centuries) A bibliography
A comprehensive bibliography woth several types of materials listed.

The Very Model of a Medieval General:
A Website Dedicated to the Career of Matilda of Tuscany
(Site Excerpt) Matilda of Tuscany is one of the few women whose place in history rests on military accomplishments. The details of her career have to be gleaned from sources such as monastic chronicles, saints' lives and polemics that were not intended to record military actions in a logical or systematic manner. Despite their deficiencies by modern standards, these sources allow a reconstruction of the measures taken by Matilda of Tuscany on the pope's behalf when used in conjunction with other tools, especially maps, and a working knowledge of the now-accepted paradigms of medieval warfare.

The Battle at the Hill of Death
(Note: Site contains an image of the original MS with a striking illustration of battle. Site Excerpt) What links the beautiful Tuscan town of Sienna with Dante's vision of hell? The answer lies in an act of treachery that decided the course of the bloodiest battle in medieval Italian history. In the thirteenth century, Italy as we know it today did not exist. In the South, the Kingdom of Sicily (which incorporated most of southern Italy) was ruled by King Manfred, the illegitimate son of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II. Central Italy was under the nominal rule of the Pope, who vied with the Emperor for the hearts and minds of Christian Europe. But the north of Italy was a fractious and shifting collection of city states, ruled by petty tyrants and warlords and dominated by the competing interests of Pope and Emperor. In 1260, the town of Sienna, in northern Italy, was prosperous as never before. Sienna's fortune was an accident of geography, for it straddled the great Francigene Road, the major highway that lead from Rome northward toward the heart of the Holy Roman Empire. The taxes reaped from merchants that travelled the Francigene Road had spawned a mercantile industry that made it the envy of its neighbours, an envy that spawned a fierce rivalry with neighbouring Florence. And in the fragmented politics of thirteenth century Italy, such commercial rivalry could easily flare into bitter warfare.

Booklist: Medieval Italian History

The Sforza Hours
(Site Excerpt) The Sforza Hours, is one of the British Library's outstanding Renaissance treasures. The manuscript was commissioned about 1490 for Bona of Savoy, widow of Galeazzo Sforza, Duke of Milan. It was decorated by Giovan Pietro Birago, a leading Milanese illuminator much favoured by the ducal court, whose style reflects familiarity with the work of Mantegna and Leonardo da Vinci. Even before work on the book was finished, a number of major illustrated pages had been stolen from Birago's workshop and the Hours remained incomplete for more than quarter of a century until it passed into the hands of Margaret of Austria, Regent of the Netherlands and Bona's niece by marriage. In 1519-20 she arranged for the missing pages to be supplied by her own court painter, Gerard Horenbout, one of the most celebrated Flemish book painters of the day.

The Art of Manuscript Illumination (In Italy)
(This site is richly illustrated with examples of Italian Illumination. Site Excerpt:) The decorated initial emerged as an accentuated or emphasized first letter of script, providing a marker for the reader's eye in an otherwise unbroken line of text. Initials mark the beginnings of books or chapters and, in this way, offer a visual gateway into the more important parts of a book's text. Such initials became the focus of exceptional decoration clearly to draw attention and to help classify the priorities of the text. Familiar images within an initial's decoration (called historiated initials) further assisted in explaining the text visually. In an era when books contained no page numbers, decorated letters made a text easier to find. Large decorated letters also enhanced a manuscript visually by providing a look of great luxury, often sought by the book's owner.

History for Kids: High Middle Ages Italy

Italian Renaissance Persona
(Site Excerpt) Rinaldo Moretto de Brescia is the name of one of my secondary personas. It allows me the excuse to wear the Italian garb that I like. I am fortunate to have a wonderful Lady-wife who loves to make clothes for me. Check out her wonderful work on one set of my Italian garb made of white satin and blue leather, by clicking here. If you have an interest in developing an Italian name and/or persona, check out the following links:

Family Portrait: The Medici of Florence
(Site Excerpt) Chapter 1: THE FIRST MEDICI IN FLORENCE, ITALY The Founder of the Medici fortune was Giovanni, son of Averardo (also colled Bicci). He belonged to the Cafaggiolo branch of the family and he occupied the highest position in the popular party. There he worked prudently and silently, in accordance with his mild, affable character. The Medici policy was always aimed at encouraging democratic aspirations, but the basic intention of the family was to turn those aspirations to their own advantage and to exploit them into their own interest. Giovanni was a skillful banker, intelligent businessman, thoughtful and reserved. He didn't distinguish himself in dress or lifestyle. He lived simply in the serene peace of his family. Giovanni didn't like to be involved with public appointments, but he accepted to be "Priore" (prior) in Florence for three times.

Stefan's Florilegium: Clothing of Medieval and Renaissance Italy
This collection of messages from various email lists deals witht he subject of clothing in Medieval and Renaissance Italy.

Italian Illumination from the Bodelian Library collection

Distinguishing Characteristics of Medieval Italian Heraldry
1997 Louis Mendola
(Site Excerpt) Were the observer to view the oldest Italian coats of arms depicted in medieval rolls and seals, or engraved in relief on the walls of castles and other structures during the Middle Ages, he would encounter designs remarkably simpler than the ornate Renaissance and Baroque imagery identified with Italian armory today. During the Longobard, Norman, Swabian and Angevin domination of much of what is now Italy, Italian coats of arms were not too different from those encountered in France, England or elsewhere. Something resembling the "heater" shield, as opposed to the squarish escutcheon (scudo sannitico) seen in most Italian achievements today, was usually employed in these early representations, and most of the charges were not rendered too differently from those seen in the coat armor in use outside Italy. None of this is surprising or unexpected if one considers the origins of the peoples who ruled Italy when heraldry was introduced.

The Battle of San Romano Cycle
(Note that there are photo images of artwork. Site Excerpt:) Florence and its neighbour Siena had long been rivals when, in 1432, the Sienese formed an alliance with the powerful Duke of Milan against Florence. The Sienese mercenary army, under the command of the condottiere Bernadino della Ciarda, won a number of successes against the Florentines. In the face of these losses the Florentines replaced one condottiere commander, Micheletto da Cotignola, with another, Niccol�da Tolentino. The latter rapidly turned the tables on the Sienese. On 1 June 1432 Tolentino and a handful of cavalry were surprised by della Ciarda and his troops near the Tower of San Romano. Despite being vastly outnumbered Tolentino and his men fought on for eight hours. They were finally relieved by the main Florentine force under Cotignola and the Sienese were put to flight.

Modern Political Map of Italy in about 1050

Aila's Atlas of the early Italian Renaissance
Menu items are: Early Modern Italian States and Early Modern Italian Cities. A drop-down menu provides a comprehensive list of in-depth articles to read.