Rome in the Early
Middle Ages: Arts
and Culture

Project Status

Ongoing

Short Description

The project addresses the visual culture of the city of Rome between the Vth and the
XIth ct., a period considered as a real 'black hole'; in Roman artistic historiography
starting from Renaissance tradition.
The project is rooted in the city's extraordinary function as a ‘melting pot’, a crossroads
where Goths, Byzantines, Franks, Germans, and Lombards met. In these centuries,
Rome became the setting for one of the most breathtaking experiments in visual
communication, carried out by the Church in sacred and secular spaces, which can
even help us understand the actual dynamics of communication and 'persuasion'.
Considering the scattered, sometimes disappointing, and often outdated literature, this
project aims to fulfil three basic objectives using an interdisciplinary approach (art
history, architecture, archaeology, archaeometry, liturgy, epigraphy). The first goal is to
carry out a complete inventory of the relevant pictorial heritage, preserved or lost,
without which an overall view of the issue is impossible, potentially leading to
incomplete conclusions. The second is to place this knowledge of paintings and
mosaics in a broader context, according to new inquiries into sacred spaces. The third
to put the examined and contextualized paintings and mosaics into a long-term time
frame, from Late Antiquity to the dawn of the Gregorian Reformation, in order to
understand the massive tool of visual communication that the Church continuously
developed. The resulting publications and database are intended to offer a new image
of Rome as a cultural melting pot, at the heart of the creation of post-antique Europe.

painting

mosaic

archaeometry

archaeology

papacy

Rome

Goths

Byzantines

Carolingians

Ottonians