Accessibility statement

Period Band A
Curatorial Rating: unrated

Eccentric Cities: Art, Politics and Trade in Italy 1100-1400

Tutor: Emanuele Lugli


This survey course chronicles the dazzling rise to power of Italian cities from the twelfth to the early fifteenth century. Politically, it details the struggle between the communes (Italy's city-republics) and the German emperors, the rise of the 'signori', the Italian contribution to the crusades, the establishment of the court and the unprecedented network that Italian merchants developed across the Mediterranean Sea.

Artistically, it explores the transformations from devotional icons to large secular frescos, and from wooden crucifixes to the papal sculptural tombs of the Trecento. The seminar will provide detailed analysis of the work of Nicola Pisano, Simone Martini, Giotto, Ambrogio Lorenzetti, and Vitale da Bologna, among others. Contrary to similar surveys, it also situates the Italian peninsula within the larger Mediterranean and European artistic milieu. Italy, after all, did not grow in isolation but in continuous exchange with its geographical surroundings.

We'll then see how Venice appropriated Syrian rock-crystal ewers, Pisa employed a Greek architect for its enormous cathedral and Sicily developed a multi-lingual culture that produced Palermo's original Palatine Chapel.


By the end of the module, students should have:

  • acquired a familiarity with some of the key works of medieval Italy
  • obtained a basic understanding of key historical and cultural phenomena of medieval Southern Europe and the Mediterranean Region
  • developed a critical attitude towards texts, historical evidence, buildings and the nature of artefacts
  • improved their writing and presentation skills

Preliminary Reading

  • White, Art and Architecture in Italy, 1250-1400
  • Baxandall, Giotto and the Orators
  • Hoffman, Late Antique and Medieval Art ofthe Mediterranean World
  • Thompson, Cities of God: The Religion of the Italian Communes, 1125–1325
  • Waley, The Italian City Republics
  • Cannon, Art, Politics, and Civic Religion in Central Italy, 1261-1352
  • Frugoni, A Distant City

San Gimignano

Module code HOA00059I