The Mendicant Revolution

Fall 2012, Fall 2014

Caroline Bruzelius


This course examines the impact of two new religious orders, the Franciscans and Dominicans (mendicant friars), on cities, architecture, literature, painting and sculpture.

In the early 13th century, two men, Francis and Dominic, started religious movements that had a profound impact on the world. Although their institutions were different in many ways, they shared some common goals: outreach to the public through public sermons aimed at converting heretics, a spiritual vocation dedicated to imitating the poverty of Christ and the Apostles, and a focus on people living in cities. This became a profoundly urban movement, engaging with laymen in the public spaces of cities (squares, piazzas, markets) as well as in the private spaces of homes. Because of their public role, friars became immensely popular and influenced many aspects of late medieval life. Their use of imagery in painting and sculpture initiated new trends in the representation of sacred themes, for example. The importance of sermons as a mode of outreach to the public led to the invention of new types of texts, such as concordances, popularizing saint’s lives. They created a new type of urban convent for their communities that were often flanked by public piazzas for preaching.


Related Projects

Mapping and Modeling Religious Communities in Medieval Europe

Great Houses Make Not Men Holy: Mendicant Architecture in Medieval Oxford