Course Unit Page


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

Quality education Gender equality Decent work and economic growth Climate Action

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

Aim of this discipline is to bring students to the knowledge and comprehension of those political, institutional, social, and cultural phenomena which led to the construction of the special identity of Medieval Europe and of its cultural heritage.

Students will learn to understand the principal political-institutional and socio-cultural processes of the Medieval Age; to critically analyze their impact on European civilization in the long period; to apply these elements to the analysis of written sources and to the problems of the preservation and valorization of the material (documental, iconographic and monumental) patrimony.

Course contents


A first module (prof. Raffaele Savigni, 30 h):

1) (2 h.) Methodology of historical research. The concepts of source and document. Schools of historiography. The problem of periodization. The main collections of sources.The new History.

2) (18 h.) General introduction to the history of the Middle Ages: institutions, society, culture. The end of the ancient world. Christianization of the Empire and Migrations of nomadic populations: acculturation processes and beginning of the roman-Germanic kingdoms. The Early and High Middle Ages.

Lombards and Franks: society, institutions, mentality.

Western Europe, Byzantium and Islam.The forming of ethnic and cultural identities in the Middle Ages. Ancient Heritage, Christianization, Germanic culture.

The cult of images and iconoclasm

The Carolingian and Ottonian Empire.Feudality and Signoria. Cavalry. Rural society.

Universality and particularism in the Medieval society. .Man and community. 

Papacy and Empire.Ecclesiastical institutions and Church reform.

Christendom and Islam. Pilgrimages, Missions, holy War and Crusades.

Climate and history. Climate change in the Middle Ages.

The transmission of knowledge: encyclopedias, lapidaries and bestiaries in the Middle Ages.

Case studies (10 h): Past and present. Our relationship with the past.

Historical memory and cultural heritage. THe statues. The medieval fakes.

Re-interpretation and re-use of the antiquity in the Middle Ages. Medievalism and the invention of the Middle Ages.

The relationship of medieval man with otherness.  Conversion and acculturation. Minorities in the Middle Ages.

B - second learning module (26 h), prof.ssa Elisa Tosi Brandi

The second learning module focuses on the analysis of some fundamental themes of the late medieval civilization (12 h)

  • Urban society: social-economical and political-institutional dynamics. Comune and Signoria.
  • The 14th century crisis
  • Western European kingdoms and the formation of the Modern state. Regional states in Italy.
  • The new horizons: geographical discoveries and commercial routes. Humanism and Renaissance.

The main body investigates a specific theme in order to introduce the students to the work, craftsmen and workshops in the late medieval period (10 h)

  • Urban economy
  • Trades and guilds (the organization of work; salary; transmission of knowledge; innovations)
  • Workshops and craftsmen: the cases of woolman, silk maker, dyer, goldsmith, tailor, armorer.

The last part (4 h) concerns the methodology of medieval historical sources with a focus on the material culture, particularly on the “physical, written and represented objects: how to study and interpret them”.

  • Case study 1: Textile restoration: new perspectives for investigation.
  • Case study 2: Iconographic Analysis: art, history and society in some 15th century Italian female portraits




Students must study for section A (prof. R. Savigni):

1) Medieval history handbook of A. Zorzi, Manuale di storia medievale, Torino, Utet, 2016.

2) the sources and teaching materials uploaded to "Virtual";

3) one of the following books or  groups of essays:

a) R. Savigni, Le statue nell’immaginario dell’Occidente latino in eta’ carolingia e postcarolingia (secoli VIII-X), in Statue. Rituali, scienza e magia dalla Tarda Antichità al Rinascimento, a cura di L. Canetti, Firenze, Sismel-edizioni del Galluzzo 2017, pp. 145-168, together with R. Savigni, Volto Santo di Sansepolcro e Volto Santo di Lucca: due statue lignee di Cristo ed un falso documento ritenuto autentico. Per un corretto dialogo tra discipline diverse, in Verità e menzogna nel falso.Truth and Lies in Fakes and Forgeries, a cura di G. Garzia, C. Matteucci, M. Vandini, Bologna, Bononia University Press, 2018, pp. 119-141 e a R. Savigni, Il patrimonio culturale della Chiesa e della città ravennate nei racconti dei viaggiatori e nelle guide per forestieri, «VIAGGIATORI», 2019, Atti di convegni, 2, pp. 151-167, with two other essays chosen from one of these volumes;

b) M. Montesano, Ai margini del Medioevo. Storia culturale dell'alterità, Roma, Carocci, 2021, pp. 25-131;

c) J. Smith, L'Europa dopo Roma: una nuova storia culturale 500-1000, Bologna, Il Mulino, 2008 (reprint 2017).

In addition to the medieval history handbook (A. Zorzi, Manuale di storia medievale, Torino, Utet, 2016) students are required to know:

  • Storia del lavoro in Italia. Il Medioevo. Dalla dipendenza personale al lavoro contrattato, a cura di F. Franceschi, Roma, Castelvecchi, 2017: Introduzione e i saggi di Degrassi, Tognetti, Franceschi, Costantini.

Furthermore a volume chosen from those listed below:

Tessuto e ricchezza a Firenze nel Trecento. Lana, seta, pittura, a cura di C. Hollberg, catalogo della mostra (Firenze, 5 dicembre2017-18 marzo 2018, Firenze, Giunti, 2018

E. Tosi Brandi, L’arte del sarto nel Medioevo. Quando la moda diventa un mestiere, Bologna, il Mulino, 2017

M. Vignola, Armature e armorari nella Milano medievale. Storia di famiglie, signa, magli e acciaio, Alessandria, Edizioni dell’Orso, 2017

M. Pastoureau, Medioevo simbolico, Roma-Bari, Laterza, 2016, il solo capitolo su “Il colore”: pp. 101-192, together with P. Guarducci, Tintori e tinture nella Firenze medievale (secc. XIII-XV), Firenze, Polistampa, 2005.

The students will present, before the exam, a paper (approximately ten pages) on a topic agreed with the professors.

Teaching methods

Frontal lessons during which various historical sources will be presented and discussed (sources will be made available in Italian translation, by the teacher or on the web), together with the related literature.

Assessment methods

At the beginning of the course there will be an entrance test to verify the initial knowledge and skills of the students attending. An intermediate test, given after half of course, will allow the learning process to be monitored.

The final exam will take place after the end of the lessons with both teachers. It will be oral, and made of three principal questions.The students will present, before the exam, a paper (approximately ten pages) on a topic agreed with the professor. The paper must be submitted before the exam, and should contain a list of the principal sources and bibliography used. The paper discussion will be considered as one of the three questions of the final test. Instructions on writing the essay are posted on the teacher's website (https://www.unibo.it/sitoweb/raffaele.savigni/contenuti-utili).

The final evaluation will be determined also by class participation, i.e. by interventions and questions of the student during the lessons, as well as attendance to seminars, conferences, and lectures about Middle Ages organized or suggested by the teacher.

The student, to pass the examination, must prove his knowledge of the principal topics of the course, his ability to identify the principal socio-economic, cultural and institutional processes of the Middle Ages, and his awareness of the characteristics of a number of medieval sources, that he has to use and discuss critically (at least in their Italian translation). The list of sources, provided in class by the teacher, is available at https://iol.unibo.it/course/view.php?id=23553 .

To obtain high marks, students should demonstrate good knowledge of specific vocabulary (in Latin too, if necessary); ability to easily move through different topics and sources, and to connect them logically; ability to critically compare different sources on the same topic.

Students unable to describe the principal topics, or to correctly place in space and time major historical events, will not pass the examination.

Minimum requirement to pass the exam is the generic knowledge of principal topics (even without use of appropriate vocabulary).

Teaching tools

During frontal lessons, students will be guided by the teacher through the reading and discussion of written sources, and towards a selective use of the web for scientific purposes.

The teacher will use different sources from different typologies (all of them will be translated during classes), part of which are available on the net.

Open access online portals:

Reti medievali: http://www.rm.unina.it/


Power point presentations.

Office hours

See the website of Raffaele Savigni

See the website of Elisa Tosi Brandi