MultiSession History, Society, and the Sacred in the Middle Ages, Part 1: Thinking about the City

AHA Session 146
Medieval Academy of America 3
Saturday, January 8, 2011: 9:00 AM-11:00 AM
Simmons Room (Marriott Boston Copley Place)
Susanna A. Throop, Ursinus College

Session Abstract

This session will be linked with another session, co-sponsored by the Medieval Academy of America, entitled “History, Society, and the Sacred in the Middle Ages II: Thinking about the End.”  Our session, the first of the two, will investigate the conference theme, “History, Society, and the Sacred,” within the medieval urban landscape. Each paper considers the ways that different lay and religious communities thought about their cities, influenced each other, and sometimes found themselves in conflict over core questions of identity. Thus, all four papers pertain directly to the way that local historical memory and sacred identities shaped civic society.

The session consists of four twenty-minute papers. The first two papers focus on how monasteries introduced new religious and secular discourses  into surrounding towns, while the second set of papers explore how new identities introduced by civic and religious leaders created urban conflict.  David Perry will begin the session with a paper on the role played by the leading monastery of Venice, San Giorgio Maggiore, in a larger process of transformation of civic identity and historical memory in the city.  Rabia Gregory will follow this paper with an analogous study of the way that enthusiastic mysticism in late medieval convents in the towns along the Rhine reached the laity and shaped their devotional practices through the printing of vernacular devotional material. Next, Fabrizio Titone offers a paper focusing on the relationship between lay groups and sacred spaces in the late medieval Sicily, examining how lay urban associations used sacred places and civic religion practices to include or exclude various groups for political gain.  Finally, Carrie Beneš will conclude the session with a paper on the conflict between the fourteenth- and fifteenth-century papal administration and the commune of Rome over the city's traditional SPQR emblem.

Together, these papers speak to the power of local history, political memory, and sacred communities over the development of societies. The session will be of interest to urban and religious historians of all time periods, and will engage the AHA’s wider membership in discussions of the formation and contestation over group identity.