Rome ‘Caput Mundi’: Curia, Cardinals and Courtesans, 1300-1590

This 10-week course kicks off this Thursday (29th September) as part of University of Edinburgh’s Open Studies programme.  I am thrilled to be teaching a course on Rome.  I first visited the city in 1976 (on my way to a summer job at the end of my first year at St Andrews’ University); then four years later, I found myself working there – as a very new researcher – trying to get to grips with, and not to be too overawed by, the Vatican Archives and the wonderful Vatican Library.

I’ll never forget the thrill of walking in through the Porta Sant’Anna and up past the Post Office and through the arch leading into the large Cortile della Biblioteca in front of the library.  Security was not nearly so intrusive then, but you still needed one or more academic letters of introduction to get a reader’s ticket.  Then the library was only open in the mornings and it was good to get there promptly – although there were always the really early-birds whose names appeared the top of the signing-in register every day.

On my first visits to Rome I used to stay at St Brigida’s convent in Piazza Farnese where the nuns were very kind and put up with the occasional lapse when I broke the curfew on a few occasions.   Later the British School of Rome generously helped with funding while I was in the “writing-up” stages of my doctorate.

The little kiosk in the library courtyard provided a very welcome source of mid-morning refreshment.  The excitement of being there never really paled – quite a change from my elevenses arrangements now!

I worked at the Vatican Library and in the Archivio Segreto Vaticano over a period of about eight years roughly (1980-1988), essentially until we moved to Turin early in 1989.   Now that I am teaching again, I think a study visit is long overdue.

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