Book Series Medieval Church Studies, vol. 20

The Works of Mercy in Italian Medieval Art (c.1050-c.1400)

Federico Botana

  • Pages: 256 p.
  • Size:156 x 234 mm
  • Illustrations:110 b/w, 12 col.
  • Language(s):English, Latin, Italian
  • Publication Year:2012

  • ISBN: 978-2-503-53623-1
  • Hardback
  • Available

This book rediscovers a forgotten theme in medieval art, providing a vivid and original account of medieval society. 


This is the first monograph on the medieval Italian representations of the corporal and spiritual Works of Mercy, the fourteen basic categories of almsdeeds conceived by the scholastics. This is a genuinely interdisciplinary study: Federico Botana has painstakingly dissected frescoes, panel paintings, miniatures, and sculptures of the Works of Mercy to shed new light on fundamental aspects of medieval society. These depictions reveal how communities took care of their needy, in some instances beyond what can be gleaned in written sources. Most of all, they contribute to our understanding of medieval confraternal piety. For Church reformers and the Mendicant Orders, the Works of Mercy served to rally Christians against heresy. For Christians, performing the Works was a means of communion with Christ, opening the door to salvation. Botana’s discoveries demonstrate the essential importance of the Works of Mercy in the late Middle Ages, and suggest that depictions of the theme would have been far more common than previously thought.


Dr Federico Botana is a Visiting Lecturer at the Courtauld Institute. His research interests include medieval Italian painting, sculpture and illuminated manuscripts. He has recently completed a monograph on the representation of the Works of Mercy in medieval Italy (forthcoming), and is currently researching didactic illustrations in fifteenth-century Tuscan vernacular manuscripts.


List of Illustrations





Chapter 1. An introduction to the Works of Mercy

Chapter 2. The Res Pauperum

Chapter 3. Teaching Mercy

Chapter 4. Performing Mercy

Chapter 5. Visions of Society

Chapter 6. Attaining Salvation

Chapter 7. The Afterlife of the Works of Mercy

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