By the early fourteenth century, the city of Florence had
emerged as an economic power in Tuscany, surpassing even Siena,
which had previously been the banking center of the region. In the
space of fifty years, during the lifetime of Dante Alighieri,
1265-1321, Florence had transformed itself from a political and
economic backwater-scarcely keeping pace with its Tuscan
neighbors-to one of the richest and most influential places on the
continent. While many historians have focused on the role of the
city's bankers and merchants in achieving these rapid
transformations, in Florence and Its Church in the Age of
Dante, George W. Dameron emphasizes the place of
ecclesiastical institutions, communities, and religious traditions.
While by no means the only factors to explain Florentine ascension,
no account of this period is complete without considering the
contributions of the institutional church.
In Florence, economic realities and spiritual yearnings intersected
in mysterious ways. A busy grain market on a site where a church
once stood, for instance, remained a sacred place where many
gathered to sing and pray before a painted image of the Virgin
Mary, as well as to conduct business. At the same time, religious
communities contributed directly to the economic development of the
diocese in the areas of food production, fiscal affairs, and urban
development, while they also provided institutional leadership and
spiritual guidance during a time of profound uncertainty.
Addressing such issues as systems of patronage and jurisdictional
rights, Dameron portrays the working of the rural and urban church
in all of its complexity. Florence and Its Church in the Age of
Dante fills a major gap in scholarship and will be of
particular interest to medievalists, church historians, and
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