Urban Panegyric and the Rise of the “Mediterranean City” in the Twelfth Century

Dr. Anna Gutgarts

Leiden University Library, MS Voss. Lat. f. 31, fol. 175v-176r

The urbanization thrust that swept across Western Europe in the central Middle Ages, along changes in intellectual and theological attitudes, sparked a renewed interest in the genre of urban panegyric. This genre, prevalent already in the Greco- Roman world,   underwent   significant   changes when it was embraced by twelfth-century Christian authors, who skillfully wove urban panegyric into their chronicles, world histories and encyclopedias. Particularly interesting are manuscripts containing diverse texts related to the First and Second Crusade that reflect the intricate ways in which urban panegyric was applied to the newly conquered regions, as part of the expanding frontiers of Latin Christendom in the medieval Mediterranean.

The present talk will argue that contemporary adaptations of urban panegyric played a significant role in the formulation of a new comprehensive program for the physical, social and religious transformation of the Mediterranean in the twelfth century, shaping both local and cross-Mediterranean identities. Admittedly, this was a transformative century in the history of the medieval Mediterranean, marked by significant shifts in institutional, ecclesiastical, economic, and social environments, as well as in the formation of new types of inter-cultural encounters. My examination of this textual tradition, hitherto studied primarily in a western European context, touches upon broader historical and historiographical questions. I shall examine urban panegyric vis-à-vis the physical transformation of urban environments, and the new social configurations that emerged in the cities of the Mediterranean during this period. Finally, I will use this prism to challenge prevalent East-West historiographical categories and divisions in the study of the medieval Mediterranean.

Thursday, November 4, 2021.


Room #146, New Library Wing,

University of Haifa