The Century of Growth, 1150–1250

  • J. K. Hyde
Part of the New Studies in Medieval History book series


At first sight, the hundred years from 1150 to 1250 might appear to be an arbitrary division without any clear-cut characteristics to distinguish them from those immediately before and after. The distinctive persona of communal Italy is not easily perceived at this period, for the revival of law and rhetoric centred on Bologna which constitutes its greatest intellectual achievement is highly technical and not easily appreciated. Although Italians played some part in the transmission of Greek and Arabic writings, which were an important element in the twelfth century ‘renaissance’, the literary and intellectual flowering centred on northern France largely bypassed communal Italy and had its counterpart only in the courts of Sicily and the South. Although in architecture there were some notable achievements both in Lombardy and Tuscany, there was nothing to match the glories of early Gothic in northwestern Europe; until the mid-thirteenth century the Italians, on the whole, remained faithful to the romanesque style, though in places the influence of Byzantium was by no means dead. One might say that the art in which the citizens of the Italian communes made the most distinctive contribution was in the art of Christian living; St Francis and his early followers expressed the highest aspirations of their society, not in works of art or literature but in their lives of voluntary poverty and holiness.


Thirteenth Century Fifteenth Century Twelfth Century Italian City Italian Commune 
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© J. K. Hyde 1973

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  • J. K. Hyde

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