75893 - History of Institutions and Cultural Heritage in the Middle Ages

Course Unit Page


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

Quality education Sustainable cities

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

Aim of this discipline is to provide the student with a patrimony of knowledge and abilities, able to lead him to understand (with the help of written sources) the formation of the cultural Heritage and of the monumental and documental patrimony, in Italy, Europe and the Whole Mediterranean area. At the end of the course, students must acquire deep knowledge of the political-institutional processes and of the socio-institutional interactions which shaped medieval Europe in its particular identity and historical memory, and they must be able to apply this knowledge to a specific urban or territorial area or to a specific archival and librarian context and to understand the cultural Heritage of an institution. They must be able to communicate the results of a bibliographical research or of a critical analysis of written sources, and to approach the study of new topics on the basis of the knowledge acquired during the course.

Course contents

(14 h.) General overview: Cities and Territories in Italian and European Middle Ages: general characters and regional specificities.

Different typologies of urban settlements. Urban space and sacred space (churches,  monasteries and cemeteries). Cathedrals and public buildings (royal, episcopal and municipal). Civil and ecclesiastical institutions and their heritage (books, archives, monuments). Cathedral schools and Universities.

Written sources: different typologies, and related methods of composition and usage.The construction of Cultural memory by ecclesiastical institutions, laic elites and medieval cities.

2) (16 h.) The development of monastic and conventual institutions: from early medieval monasticism to mendicant orders. Types of religious buildings and community structures. Written sources and archaeological investigations. Some examples: Bobbio, the monasteries of Ravenna, San Vincenzo al Volturno, Cluny, Saint-Denis.

Monastic writings: libri vitae, obituaries and obituaries; hagiographic texts, monastic chronicles; inventories of books and documents.

The role of Benedict of Aniane, Peter the Venerable, Saint Bernard, Suger of Saint-Denis in the organization of the monastic space and cultural memory.

Monastic libraries and their results. Some examples: Camaldoli, Sant'Apollinare in Classe. The friars in the universities. The Observances.


Students must prepare a written paper (10-20 pages), on a topic agreed with the teacher, and at least one volume of their choice from the following:

G. Melville, Le comunità religiose nel Medioevo. Storia e modelli di vita, Brescia, Morcelliana, 2020

Gli spazi della vita comunitaria : atti del Convegno internazionale di studio, Roma-Subiaco, 8-10 giugno 2015, ed. Letizia Ermini Pani, Spoleto 2016 (De re monastica, 5).

F. Marazzi, Le città dei monaci: storia degli spazi che avvicinano a Dio, Milano, Jaca Book, 2015

I castelli della preghiera. Il monachesimo nel pieno medioevo (secoli X-XII), a cura di G.M. Cantarella, Roma, Carocci, 2020

A.M. Rapetti, Storia del monachesimo medievale, Bologna, Il Mulino, 2013

Monastères et espace social : genèse et transformation d'un système de lieux dans l'Occident médiéval, ed. M. Lauwers, Turnhout, Brepols, 2014

Le scritture dei monasteri: atti del 2. Seminario internazionale di studio su I monasteri nell'Alto Medioevo, Roma 9-10 maggio 2002, a cura di F. De Rubeis e W. Pohl, Roma 2003.

The students will be able however to agree with the teacher alternative readings in relation to the chosen topic for the paper. 

The  indication on how to write the thesis are reported in the site of the professor (https://www.unibo.it/sitoweb/raffaele.savigni/contenuti-utili).

Non-attending students should study two books from the list, or other readings agreed with the teacher. 

The course assumes a knowledge of the general outlines of medieval history. Students who have not previously taken a course in Medieval history may acquire basic knowledge using the textbook of A. Zorzi, Manuale di storia medievale, Torino, Utet, 2016 (new edition 2021).

Teaching methods

Analysis of written sources, and discussion of relevant bibliography, with attentions to the content but also to the use of historical methodologies.

Seminar lections and interactive sessions through the forum, with special attention to the reading, analysis and discussion of different historical sources (narrative, documental, archaeological sources). Sources and bibliography will be made available to students during classes and through the website Virtuale, on which students can interact constantly with the teacher.

Assessment methods

Oral examination with discussion of a written paper (10-15 pages). The topic of the paper must be agreed with the teacher, and the paper itself should be submitted at least one week in advance. (https://www.unibo.it/sitoweb/raffaele.savigni/contenuti-utili).

The oral examination will be held after the end of the lessons. It will be oral, and made of three principal questions. The discussion of the paper will be considered as one of the three questions of the final test. The final evaluation will be determined also by class participation, i.e. by interventions and questions of the student during the lessons and through the forum, 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 on Virtuale.

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).

Non-attending students must bring a second volume agreed with the teacher before the end of the course (in addition to the general assignments) and their grades will be high only if they will prove their ability to critically discuss the sources and the bibliography used in the paper, as well as their capacity to connect different texts and contexts, and to answer the question with specific vocabulary.

Teaching tools

Databanks, digital libraries, digital archives, online resources (sources, bibliography).

Seminar lections based on the reading and analysis of historical sources (narrative, documental, monumental, iconographical, cartographical sources). Sources will be listed at the beginning of the course and on the website Virtuale. 

Guidance towards a selective use of the web for scientific purposes.

Students will be guided towards a direct approach to libraries and archives, with the aim of a better contact of primary sources (edited or not).

Office hours

See the website of Raffaele Savigni