98786 - Text and Image in the Middle Ages (1)

Academic Year 2023/2024

  • Teaching Mode: Traditional lectures
  • Campus: Bologna
  • Corso: First cycle degree programme (L) in Drama, Art and Music Studies (cod. 5821)

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course students will: know the main ways written texts were visualized through material images in the Western Middle Ages from the fourth to the fifteenth century; learn to critically analyze artworks in connection to some pivotal texts (Bible, lives of saints, liturgy, theology, classical and vernacular literature, scientific texts) and to place them in the right chronological and geographical coordinates, so as to highlight their relations with the artistic trends and the religious, political and cultural concerns of the time; gain linguistic and communication skills in the field of art history.

Course contents

The course will provide an introductory survey to the main forms of manuscript illumination in the western Middle Ages (e.g. "papyrus style"; figure, inhabited, and historiated initials; full-page miniatures and vignettes), with regards to some particularly important texts as the Bible, the liturgical and scholastic books, alongside showing the interactions with other visual media.

The following topics will be discussed in class:

  • The role of crafted image in the western Middle Ages.
  • From scroll to codex: the "papyrus style".
  • From scroll to codex: full-page miniatures and vignettes.
  • The birth and development of the illuminated initial: decorated, zoomorphic, anthropomorphic, figure, inhabited, and historiated initials.
  • The illumination of the Bible.
  • The illumination of liturgical books.
  • The illumination of literary and scholastic books.



Attending students should prepare the following readings in addition to the notes taken in class and the lecture PPTS:

1. Baschet, Jean. 1996. "Immagine." In Enciclopedia dell'Arte Medievale, vol. 7, 335-342. Rome: Treccani. Accessed June 26, 2023. https://www.treccani.it/enciclopedia/immagine_%28Enciclopedia-dell%27-Arte-Medievale%29/.

2. Pächt, Otto. 1986. Book Illumination in the Middle Ages: An Introduction (1984), English translation. London, Oxford, and New York: Harvey Miller, Oxford: Oxford University Press (and later editions).

3. Ambrogio M. Piazzoni, ed. 2017. Bibbia. Immagini e scrittura nella Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, with the collaboration of Francesca M. Manzari. Milan: Jaca Book, Vatican: Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana (and later editions), esp. 114-251.


Non-attending students should also prepare as substitutive readings for the notes taken in class and the lecture PPTS the following entries of the Enciclopedia dell'Arte Medievale Treccani:

Teaching methods

Frontal and partecipative teaching lessons, supported by PPT images, visits to collections in Bologna and/or other Italian cities.

Assessment methods

Oral exam: attending students should discuss one of the PPT slides presented in class without captions and examine the listed readings; non-attending students should deal with the listed readings. 

Teaching tools

PPT presentations.

Office hours

See the website of Gianluca Del Monaco


Quality education Partnerships for the goals

This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.