Petrarch, Freud and others observed that to walk through Rome, stroll down its streets, and pause in a piazza is to be enveloped in history. But people typically pass through the city without considering it as a totality of topography, architecture, and human history—like hiking a landscape without understanding its geology and ecology. How best to make sense of Rome’s history? This challenge is particularly pressing for the medieval city, much of which has been significantly altered or destroyed. Such loss has generally impeded our understanding of the ephemeral network of human relations that enlivened medieval Rome (ca. 400 to 1400).
The advent of digital, data-driven approaches and increasingly powerful mapping tools can help make sense of such complex, historically rich built environments. In order to explore the nexus between the physical and social fabrics of the medieval city in a diachronic fashion, we are assembling evidence onto a historically and topographically accurate new map and arranging affiliated metadata onto an accompanying geodatabase. Centered at Dartmouth College, the University of Oregon, Oregon State University, and Stanford University, “Mapping Medieval Rome” is a robust platform being created by an interdisciplinary workshop of art historians, architects and digital designers.
This is a work in progress.