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“Within The Walls Of Paradise”: Space And Community In The Vita Of Umiliana De’ Cerchi (1219–1246)

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Chapter Summary

Among the greatest figures of Italian civilization is a thirteenth-century woman named Umiliana de Cerchi. Biblioteca Laurenziana-Medicea in Florence, summarizes Umilianas short life into three distinct states: virgin, wife, and widow, and their associated places: her fathers house, her husbands house, and the Cerchi family towerhouse. This chapter provides an analysis of Umilianas spaces and their textual representations, focusing primarily on the space of her widowhood, the family towerhouse. It shows that the earliest vita employed this structure as a substitute for the cloister. The chapter narrates an incident when Umiliana orders the devil, which was in the form of a serpent, to leave her cell upon which the cell was filled with sweet perfume, so that it seemed to be within the walls of Paradise. Umilianas domestic space is thus presented as a religious sanctuary.

Keywords: Biblioteca Laurenziana-Medicea; domestic space; Umiliana de Cerchi; vita



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