00938 - History of Christianity

Course Unit Page


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

Good health and well-being Quality education Gender equality Reduced inequalities

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

The course aims to provide the indispensable foundations for a knowledge of the ecclesiastical and religious history of Europe in its most original and dynamic aspects (doctrines, institutions, rituals, vectors and communication processes) and in relation to other major religious cultures of the ancient and medieval world until the evangelization of the New World. At the end of the course, the student will possess the methodological tools for the proper evaluation and critical use of Italian and European cultural heritage regarding archaeology, history, art, literature, archives and libraries , especially in relation to the crucial role of production and documentary-monumental transmission played by ecclesiastical institutions and major religious orders.

Course contents

The course will be divided into two teaching modules, each of thirty hours. They will be taught, respectively, by the main lecturer (Prof. Luigi Canetti) and Prof. Donatella Tronca.

The first teaching module will offer a critical and methodological introduction to some of the main issues regarding the history of ancient and medieval Christianity.

The second module will focus on the relationship between Christianity and performance. In broad terms, this subject includes the dynamics related to dance, gesture, Christian rites, and the regulatory measures of inclusion and exclusion implemented by the ecclesiastical authorities between Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages.

The module will be divided into three parts. The first of these will reconstruct the main features of performative and choreutic dynamics in the Ancient Greek world. The chief object of study will be Plato’s works, which offered the main foundation adopted by the Fathers of the Church to construct a Christian theory of performance and an anthropology of choreutic gesture.

The second part will instead focus on the Roman view of performance, especially during the Imperial Age. It will offer in-depth analysis of legislative sources – such as those that branded all performers with infamy – and social dynamics.

The third and final part will reconstruct the theoretical framework available to Christian authors and analyse the Imperial pantomimes they saw when they judged performances. The interweaving of these dynamics led to the development of the main Christian theory of representation, namely that all forms of performance were forbidden to Christians. The characteristic duplicity of performative practices was not allowed as man was already an actor and dancer on the world stage in the presence of God.

This theory had major repercussions throughout the Middle Ages in theological and legislative terms, influencing the mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion in the societas christiana.


A) Handbooks (only the chapters indicated here for each of the following volumes):

Storia del cristianesimo, I. L'età antica (secoli I-VII), a cura di E. Prinzivalli, Roma, Carocci, 2015: chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 14, 15.

Storia del cristianesimo, II. L'età medievale (secoli VIII-XV), a cura di M. Benedetti, Roma, Carocci, 2015: chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 11, 12, 14, 16.

Alternatively, one of the following handbooks can be chosen:

G. L. Potestà - G. Vian, Storia del cristianesimo, n. ed. Bologna, il Mulino, 2014;

R. Rusconi, Storia del cristianesimo e delle Chiese. Dalle origini ai giorni nostri, Brescia, Morcelliana, 2019.


B) Reading list (second teaching module):

In-depth knowledge of the following sections of these monographs is required:

L. Lugaresi, Il teatro di Dio. Il problema degli spettacoli nel cristianesimo antico (II-IV secolo), Brescia, Morcelliana, 2008, pp. 377-462 (cap. IV: «Tertulliano e la fondazione del discorso cristiano sugli spettacoli. Sviluppi dell’eredità tertullianea in ambito latino fino agli inizi del IV secolo»)

V. Neri, I marginali nell’Occidente tardoantico. Poveri, ‘infames’ e criminali nella nascente società cristiana, Bari, Edipuglia, 1998, pp. 198-287 (cap. IV: «Le professioni infamanti e le professioni proibite»)


Teaching methods

The traditional lecture format will be supported by texts and images, which will be shown and made available online to students on the Virtual Learning Environment of the University website.

On this page, students will also have specific sections dedicated to learning how to research sources, edited by Prof. Donatella Tronca (teaching tutor and course teacher).

Assessment methods

Class attendance is recommended to achieve a good result. All those who cannot attend the course for demonstrable reasons of work are required to agree their syllabus in advance during the lecturer’s office hours.

The oral examination will be held at the end of the course, and it will assess:

- basic knowledge relating to the course program (the assessment is carried out on the basis of the materials examined in class and the texts indicated in the program);

- the ability to understand the problems faced during the lectures;

- knowledge of the discipline in its historical development;

- the ability to frame the sources examined in class in their context, and to discuss them critically;

- the quality of oral expression and the ability to construct a logical-argumentative type of speech.

For students attending the course, the examination consists of checking the knowledge acquired during the course, above all the sources and other materials progressively uploaded on the website Virtual Learning Environment. In addition, they are required to know the general outlines of the history of ancient and medieval Christianity on the basis of one of the Handbooks recommended in Section A of the "Reading/Bibliography".

For non-attending students, in addition to in-depth knowledge of one of the Handbooks (point A in the "Reading/Bibliography"), they are also obliged to make a critical reading of a monograph or a collection of essays to be agreed with the lecturer during office hours.

The final evaluation will follow these criteria:

- insufficient grade: lack of basic knowledge and inability to produce a correct interpretation of the texts and / or problems;

- sufficient grade: possession of basic knowledge; mainly correct interpretation, but carried out with imprecision and little autonomy;

- good grade: possession of intermediate level knowledge; fully correct interpretation, but not always precise and autonomous;

- excellent grade: possession of high level knowledge; interpretation of problems not only correct but conducted with autonomy and precision. Excellent oral expression skills.

To apply for the thesis, it is necessary to have presented for the examination a final paper on a topic defined together with the lecturer. It is also highly recommended to register on the website and take part in the workshops of the Laboratorio sulle fonti per la ricerca storica organised by Prof. Donatella Tronca.

As the timeframe for drafting a thesis needs to be carefully calculated, arrangements should be made with the lecturer well in advance: at least six months for a three-year degree and at least a year for a master’s degree. The most appropriate graduation session will be suggested by the lecturer on the basis of the work done.

Teaching tools

The main teaching support tools, which will be illustrated in class and on the Virtuale course page, are available at the Campus Central Library (Palazzo Corradini) and at the website AlmaRe - the Library of Bibliographic and Documentary Electronic Resources of the University of Bologna.

Office hours

See the website of Luigi Canetti

See the website of Donatella Tronca