Medieval Catholicism in Italy


Hi there,
I’m new here to these forums so I don’t know much nor am I Catholic. However, I find forums are generally a good jump start to meeting people who have information on a variety of topics.

I’m a fiction writer and I’m looking for information regarding Medieval Catholicism from both Catholic and secular sources. I’m not sure which time period I would like to base my piece in just yet, so an overall view of Medieval Catholicism is sufficient. I would like to base the work in Italy, though.

I’m largely concerned with modes and practices, the mores and values of the people, their culture and way of life and how they viewed their theology. So any help in this regard would help.

Thanks. :thumbsup:


Well, St. Francis of Asissi is a good start: the movie, “Brother Sun, Sister Moon” has that pertinent part, where the Young Francis, sees, this Crucifix in a broken down Church and it is likened, a metaphor, that the Catholic Church is suffering from the same general state. This cross of San Damiano, so humble and those eyes and image of Jesus relays a message to him and it could be just something he sensed, I am not aware of the details,** “Francis, rebuild my church.” **

Previously, Francis had in fact, been in the army of the estate/state wars of Italy: but the life of a soldier was not for him.

So, with the famous St. Anthony de Padua being another Franciscan and of course, St. Bonaventure, this orginates in medieval times, oh, and one can not forget St. Clare as well who St. Francis knew.

It really is a good starting place, He seems to be the largest Christian figure historically to me at least after the time of Christ, but lived such a humble life, seeking and trying to be like Christ.


I’d suggest the following books by Regine Pernoud.

Those Terrible Middle Ages: Debunking The Myths
The Crusaders: The Struggle For The Holy Land
Women In The Days Of Cathedrals

She also has written several biographies.


Another period, a little later, is the story about St. Catherine of Sienna. She was the youngest in a family of around 20 children. She was a woman of strong character and personality and actually convinced the Pope, who at that time was in Avignon France, to return the Papacy back to Rome.

She was illiterate at first, but miraculously learned to read and write overnight. She is one of the 33 doctors of the Church.


Thank you for the suggestions. I just ordered the first two from Amazon. They look really good! :thumbsup:


Are those books on Italy? Why are you thanking for the suggestions? You aren’t the original poster. Why the thumbsup in the first and your post? Why did I just use that same emoticon this morning for the first time in sincerity? Mimicking someone?


Lots of questions, but one simple answer. One does not have to be the original poster to benefit from the answer another person provides.


Well, I am sure, amazon thanks you for immediately purchasing those items in a matter of 20 minutes, pointedly ignoring others, may be more to that… but ignore is a good feature here!


I uncertain what you are either saying or implying by this post. But whatever it is, it appears to be both uncharitable and off-topic.


The Catholic Encyclopedia really dishes the dirt on the “bad” popes! Man! No holding back there.

It would be good to be well acquainted with Dante’s Divine Comedy. It is the benchmark of late Mediaeval Italian Catholicism.


‘Italy’ isn’t a concept that medieval ‘Italians’ would have recognized (or even quite a few modern Italians, for that matter) despite Dante’s “bel paese là dove 'l si sona”.

What kind of setting do you envisage?


Thanks everyone for your answers. I’ll be sure to check out the books mentioned, also!

I’m not entirely sure which setting I would like to set the novel in yet, hence the reason I would like to understand medieval Catholicism better. Certainly before the Renaissance.

I guess anywhere between the Dark Ages and the Renaissance. That would be the High Middle Ages, right?


And the reason I say “Italy” is because I want the story to take place in the “pulse” of Catholicism.


In the Middle Ages, the core of Catholic faith was more often France and not what later became known as Italy. For a time, the Papacy had moved to Avignon France because Rome had become too dirty and disease-ridden.

As I mentioned earlier, the story about how an lowly uneducated Italian woman convinced the Pope to move back from France to Rome might make a very interesting historical fiction project.


‘Where’ you are setting it would be very, very important. Like saying ‘I want to set it in the US’ might mean anything between a desert ranch in Nevada to Park Avenue - with large differences culturally and attitudinally!


Exactly. :wink: I know the “when” (well, to an extent), I just want the cultural, moral and political climate to match the vision I have in mind. So that’s why I’m looking for an overview of the period.


Which is why you also need to have a picture of ‘where’. That would determine all sorts of things about the ‘cultural, moral and political climate’ - it would have been dramatically different depending on where you were.


It’s been done! (And done well!)

[ Siege to Heaven: A Novel about Saint Catherine of Siena by Louis De Wohl](“”). Available from Ignatius Books.

I got this for my teenage daughter, and she highly recommended it to her parents. I finished reading it last week. Great stuff!!! :thumbsup:

This would be a good source for the OP - it touches on what was happening in France, Tuscany and Rome during the middle of the 14th Century. Italy as a Kingdom didn’t arrive until after Napoleon.

Good luck!



Thank you! :thumbsup:

This looks pretty cool!


Looks like I’ve got a lot of reading to do! I thank everyone here. I’ll tell you how the project goes along.

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