In the history of Western Civilization, Italy occupies a place of central importance. By virtue of geography, Italy was the crossroads of three major cultural groups: Byzantine, Islamic, and European Christian. Rome was the spiritual center of the Western world, around which the very idea of a unified 'West' gradually coalesced. The papacy at Rome moreover established a model for an efficient central government that rulers across Europe attempted to copy. The first the Christian University in Europe was founded at Bologna. One of the earliest medical schools was founded at Salerno. Italian city-states, particularly Venice and Florence, were not only the economic clearing houses of Europe, but also represented the first medieval experiments in communal government, free from monarchical and even aristocratic control.
In the midst of such vibrant cultural, political, and intellectual activity, the arts flourished in Italy. Guido of Arezzo made significant contributions to the field of musical notation. Bonaventure and Thomas Aquinas redefined theological inquiry. Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio created a literary tradition which influenced writers throughout Europe and which continues to inspire. Cimabue and Giotto painted frescoes whose experimental techniques laid the groundwork for the later achievements of the Renaissance.
Beyond institutions and achievements, medieval Italy boasts some of the most dynamic and influential personalities from the entire medieval era. Gregory VII, the pope who attempted to free the church from ecclesiastical influence, ended his life in exile after his own mercenaries sacked and burned the Eternal City. Frederick II, King of Sicily and eventually Holy Roman Emperor, founded the school of Salerno, liberated Jerusalem, presided over one of the most cosmopolitan and sophisticated courts in all of Europe but died widely suspected of being Antichrist. Francis of Assisi, who founded one of the two great preaching orders of the Middle Ages, through sheer force of personality refashioned European beliefs about money, poverty, the work of Christ, and the mission of the Church. Catherine of Siena, whose extreme asceticism and famous visions transformed her from an eccentric girl of modest birth into an international political figure, redefined the possibilities of Christian mysticism and left an indelible impression on the historical consciousness which continues to repel and fascinate modern audiences.
Italy was, in short, the home of many of medieval Europe's most important social movements, cultural institutions, and dynamic personalities. The artistic, political, intellectual, and religious achievements of Italy established a model for the rest of Europe and continues to shape practices and beliefs today. This year's Spring lecture series will focus on this rich heritage of Medieval Italy's contribution to the Middle Ages and to the modern world.
Monday, 7:00 PM: "A Tale of Two Hundred Cities"
Lester K. Little,
Director, American Academy in Rome, Professor of History at Smith College
Tuesday, 3:30 PM: "Carrying Wine in Northern Italian Cities"
Lester K. Little, Director, American Academy in Rome, Professor of History at Smith College
Tuesday, 7:00 PM:"Dante's Divine Comedy: Poetry, History, Time and Eternity" 3/5/02 Christopher Kleinhenz, Carol Mason Kirk Professor of Italian, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Wednesday, 4:00 PM: "Mulieres Salernitiane: The Medical Practices and Reputation of the Women of Twelfth-Century Salerno" 3/6/02
Monica H. Green, Professor of History, Arizona State University
Wednesday, 7:00 PM: "Giotto and the Arena Chapel: The Invention of Drawing" 3/6/02 Christopher Kleinhenz, Carol Mason Kirk Professor of Italian, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Thursday, 7:00 PM: "The Cappella Palatina in Palermo and the Image of Medieval Italy" 3/7/02
William Tronzo, Professor of Art History, Tulane University
2002 Spring Lecture Series Sponsors
Sponsored by: The University of New Mexico Institute for Medieval Studies in conjunction with the Center for Advanced Studies; College of Arts & Sciences Lecturer's Series; European Studies Program; International Programs; Religious Studies Program; University Honors Program; Women Studies Program; School of Architecture and Planning; the Departments of Art and Art History. Earth and Planetary Sciences. English, Foreign Languages and Literatures, History. Linguistics, Mathematics and Statistics, Music, Philosophy, Physics and Astronomy. Psychology, Spanish and Portuguese: the Bainbridge Memorial Slide Library; the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology; the Fleming Fund; the Luger Fund; the Shapiro and Robertson Fund:and KUNM.
This Lecture Series is supported by the New Mexico Endowment for the Humanities.