Academic Year 2023/2024 - Teacher: Lucia ARCIFA

Expected Learning Outcomes

The course aims to provide basic knowledge of the debate on Christian and medieval archaeology and the main problems of archaeological research; to reflect on the methods of constructing the archaeological source and on the complexity of the processes of historical reconstruction starting from the use of archaeological sources in comparison with documentary sources; in particular, the course aims to provide basic knowledge on the main monumental contexts, on the architectural heritage and on the themes of figurative culture in relation to the development and organisation of Christian communities and to the phenomena of transformation in late antiquity. The major themes of the formation of medieval landscapes will also be considered, with particular reference to the transformations of rural and urban contexts in medieval Italy: the birth of the village, the encastellation, the formation of the medieval city.

Guided visits to the catacombs of Syracuse and the main monuments of Christian Catania are planned.

Course Structure

Frontal classroom teaching and visits to monuments and archaeological sites (36h); to complete the frontal teaching, 3CFU will be dedicated to workshop activities: starting from a chosen monument/archaeological site of the medieval area, students will try out communication, valorisation and promotion techniques of the chosen monument through the use of multimedia tools.

Required Prerequisites

A basic knowledge of the main cultural and chronological junctures in medieval history with particular reference to the late antique and early medieval phases is preferable.

Attendance of Lessons


Detailed Course Content

Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages: periodization, historiographical debate and historical profile
Christian archaeology and medieval archaeology: history of studies and perspectives of research in Italy.
Archaeology and material culture: the construction of the archaeological datum
The late antique formal language. The birth of early Christian art.
Christian cemeteries. Development of the catacombs. The cult of martyrs
From the domus ecclesiae to the Christian basilica.
The civitas christiana: urban transformations between late antiquity and the early Middle Ages. City and suburb
The rural landscape in Italy. The role of the monasteries
The incastellation

Textbook Information


1. R. Francovich, D. Manacorda (a cura di), Dizionario di archeologia, Bari 2000, s.v. Cultura materiale,

Medioevo, Archeologia e storia dell’arte, pp. 99-104; 305-318.

Storia degli studi

2. F. W. Deichmann, Archeologia cristiana, Roma, L’Erma di Bretschneider, cap. II-V, pp. 21-70.

3. P. Delogu, R. Francovich, R. Hodges, Archeologia Medievale (dossier), “Archeo” 77 (1991), pp. 52-101.

Arte paleocristina (pittura scultura)

4. R. Bianchi Bandinelli, Roma. La fine dell’arte antica, Milano 1970, pp. 1- 83.

Le catacombe

5. V. Fiocchi Nicolai, Origini e sviluppo delle catacombe romane, in V. Fiocchi Nicolai, F. Bisconti, D.

Mazzoleni, Le catacombe cristiane di Roma. Origini, sviluppo, apparati decorativi, documentazione

epigrafica, Regesburg 1998, pp. 6-69

L’architettura: la nascita dell’edificio religioso

6. A. Chavarria Arnau, Archeologia delle chiese. Dalle origini all’anno Mille, Roma 2014, pp. 11-153

Forme insediative tra tardo antico e alto medioevo. Città, campagne, castelli

7. A. Augenti, Archeologia dell’Italia medievale, Roma Bari 2016, pp. 4-184; 276-284

8.A. Vanoli, La Sicilia musulmana, Bologna 2012

9. L. Arcifa, La città nel Medioevo:sviluppo urbano e dominio territoriale, in L. Scalisi (a cura di), Catania:

L'identità urbana dall'Antichità al Settecento, Catania, 2009, pp. 72-111.

10.A. Bagnera, From a small town to a capital: the urban evolution of Islamic Palermo (9th-mid 11th

century), in A. Nef (ed.), A Companion to medieval Palermo. The history of a Mediterranean City from 600

to 1500, Leiden – Boston 2013, pp. 61-88.

11. L. Arcifa, Trasformazioni urbane nell'altomedioevo siciliano. Uno status quaestionis, in Paesaggi

urbani tardoantichi. Casi a confronto, Atti delle VIII Giornate Gregoriane Bari 2016, pp. 31-40

Learning Assessment

Learning Assessment Procedures

Final oral examination. For the assessment of the examination, account will be taken of the candidate's command of the content and skills acquired, linguistic accuracy and lexical propriety, as well as his or her ability to argue.

Examples of frequently asked questions and / or exercises

Origin and development of the catacombs

The cult of the martyr

The burials ad santos

Images of Christians in the catacombs

Characteristics of late antique art