Knighthood in later medieval Italy

Knighthood in later medieval Italy

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Knighthood in later medieval Italy

Trevor Dean

Europe and Italy: Studies in honour of Giorgio Chittolini, Firenze University Press (2011)


Italian knighthood has not attracted much scholarly attention either in Italy or in the Anglo-Saxon academy. There was, for example, no article on Italy in the five volumes of annual conference proceedings entitled The Ideals and Practice of Medieval Knighthood, which ranged over England, France and Germany. And there is no entry for “chivalry” or “knighthood” in Medieval Italy: An Encyclopedia. That Italy could have anything significant or relevant to contribute to the study of knighthood seems not to be generally expected. There have been exceptions. Four out of thirteen chapters in Sidney Anglo’s edited volume, Chivalry in the Renaissance, were devoted to Italy, but only one of these, Cecil Clough’s Chivalry and magnificence in the Golden Age of the Renaissance, really seems to grasp the topic head-on; but even he admits that «chivalry in the Italian Renaissance has remained neglected», and devotes most of his essay to those «manifestations of chivalry… associated with combat, such as tournaments and jousts.

Another exception is Maurice Keen, who fully acknowledges in an early chapter of his book Chivalry that the Italian nobility, though urban, was not alien to landowning, chivalry or the values of seigneurial aristocracy, that Italian knights went through «the same kinds of rituals as their northern compeers», and that chivalric literature was as readily taken up in Italy as in Germany. These views are clearly dependent on the work of Philip Jones. Even Jones had first to clear the ground of lingering ideas that Italy and chivalry were incompatible: «for all the influence of… merchandising… it would be grossly wrong to visualize the nobility of communal Italy as somehow forming at any stage an alien species, a race apart, among the aristocracies of Europe.

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