In Late Antiquity and the beginning of the Middle Ages, all Italian cities had become small as a result of the crisis of that era. Rome had lost almost all its inhabitants: it went from a million inhabitants at the most prosperous period of the Empire to about 20/30,000 in the centuries of the early Middle Ages. Only Ravenna knew phases of development because it was the capital of the Roman Empire of the West from 402, then capital of the kingdom of the Ostrogoth Theodoric, then of the Byzantine Exarchate and finally seat of the archbishops. Almost all the other Italian cities underwent a phase of dismantling and reduction in the inhabited urban area. Up to the 10th and 11th centuries there have survived few references to the development and structure of spaces dedicated to the celebration of the urban market. However, there are some hints in sources that reveal that for the most part the market took place on Sundays in the neighborhoods of the cathedral church. In fact, the liturgical precept to participate in the celebration of the Mass obligated inhabitants of the city and of the neighboring region to leave their activities and to come to the cathedral or to the rural church. For these reasons the inhabitants took advantage of the suspension of their labors and their movement to carry out also activities of exchange of products in the area of the church, where they had the opportunity to meet buyers. This practice was opposed – not always with success – by the Church, because it transformed the day of rest dedicated to the Lord to a profit-making activity.

Medieval markets in small Italian towns

BOCCHI, FRANCESCA
2007

Abstract

In Late Antiquity and the beginning of the Middle Ages, all Italian cities had become small as a result of the crisis of that era. Rome had lost almost all its inhabitants: it went from a million inhabitants at the most prosperous period of the Empire to about 20/30,000 in the centuries of the early Middle Ages. Only Ravenna knew phases of development because it was the capital of the Roman Empire of the West from 402, then capital of the kingdom of the Ostrogoth Theodoric, then of the Byzantine Exarchate and finally seat of the archbishops. Almost all the other Italian cities underwent a phase of dismantling and reduction in the inhabited urban area. Up to the 10th and 11th centuries there have survived few references to the development and structure of spaces dedicated to the celebration of the urban market. However, there are some hints in sources that reveal that for the most part the market took place on Sundays in the neighborhoods of the cathedral church. In fact, the liturgical precept to participate in the celebration of the Mass obligated inhabitants of the city and of the neighboring region to leave their activities and to come to the cathedral or to the rural church. For these reasons the inhabitants took advantage of the suspension of their labors and their movement to carry out also activities of exchange of products in the area of the church, where they had the opportunity to meet buyers. This practice was opposed – not always with success – by the Church, because it transformed the day of rest dedicated to the Lord to a profit-making activity.
Urban Europe in Comparative Perspective
F. Bocchi
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11585/49907
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