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Cities of God: The Religion of the Italian Communes, 1125-1325 Paperback – January 23, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

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“Using a wealth of evidence drawn from civic and ecclesiastical statues, tithe lists, saints’ lives, art, and architecture, Thompson reminds us that the urban environment was densely packed with expressions of orthodox religion. . . . This book is a stunning achievement. Not only is it a masterful study of the Italian church and lay religion, it calls into question prevailing views of communal society and challenges us to rethink the way we apply terms like ‘secular’ and ‘religious’ to medieval society.”

—David Foote, American Historical Review



“Thompson’s stimulating and well-researched volume fills an important gap in our understanding of lived religion in the Italian Middle Ages. His style is fluid and often entertaining, and he skillfully balances comprehensiveness with evocative detail. It deserves to be widely read and debated.”

—Frances Andrews, University of St. Andrews



“This brilliant, innovative, challenging, and often surprising book lays out every conceivable aspect of the religious lives of citizens of the medieval Italian commune. It is also a fascinating exposition of the unexpected ways in which civic communes of central and northern Italy from the late twelfth to the early fourteenth century were indeed Cities of God.”

—William Bowsky, History: Reviews of New Books



“Augustine Thompson’s immensely scholarly work has enormous implications for our understanding of the western political legacy. He has successfully shown that the most democratic, the most participatory strand in the Italian civic republican legacy was a specifically Catholic one that was not at all neopagan nor secular in the modern sense. This demonstration should further disturb our lingering tendency to narrate the story of the last one thousand years as one in which forces of ‘progress’ gradually banish the gothic shadows.”

—John Milbank, Research Professor of Religion, Politics and Ethics, University of Nottingham



“Augustine Thompson’s Cities of God provides a valuable overview of the religious lives of ordinary lay people in the towns of northern Italy during the central Middle Ages.”

—Maureen C. Miller, Ecclesiastical History

About the Author

Augustine Thompson, O.P. is Professor of Religious Studies and History at the University of Virginia. He is the author of Revival Preachers and Politics in Thirteenth-Century Italy (1992) and, with James Gordley, Gratian: The Treatise on Laws with the Ordinary Gloss (1993).
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 520 pages
  • Publisher: Penn State University Press; New edition edition (January 23, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0271029099
  • ISBN-13: 978-0271029092
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,611,784 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By D. Miller on October 23, 2007
Thompson's work is a great study of medieval Italian communes which revises previous assumptions about their poltical and religious character. Rather than early democracies which separated religious practices from local government, Thompson argues persuasively that civic and religious concerns were completely interwoven. The book provides a well researched and deeply detailed study of the daily lives of the lay people of the communes and the significant role of religious beliefs which permeated both their spiritual and civic activities. Thompson focuses primarily on the urban populations of cities which exercised actual or de facto autonomy from the empire.
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It is a rare book that, having read it, one wonders why it was not written sooner. This is such a book. Thompson surveys religious faith and customs in 12th to 14th century Italy, looking at typical practices and beliefs. The book focuses primarily on the upper classes, perhaps due to a dearth of materials about other urban residents.
Like the author, this reader looks forward to similar books about medieval faith in England, France, and other parts of medieval Europe. This reviewer is moderately well-read in medieval history, but found new insights in nearly every chapter of this book.
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