Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2015

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



This dissertation argues that as the composition of Rome's ruling group shifted over the fourteenth century its members sought reliable, autonomous mechanisms for strengthening the cohesion of their elite community. For these they turned to various kinds of pious giving, ways of generating kin-like ties by means of circulating wealth within the sphere of economic action made available by the logic of purgatory. Their efforts succeeded in creating a ruling group marked by strong ties of social solidarity. Over time, these strategies also had the cumulative effect of shifting the attitudes of the political elite toward the commune itself. Rather than seeing the commune as the primary example of a rightly ordered Christian society, in the way common in communal ideology, they increasingly saw that right order embodied in their own autonomous social networks. As the commune ceased to be an object of contention among Rome's political elite, it ceased to be the primary locus of that elite's political identity and legitimacy and its preservation ceased to be a priority in way it had been before. The result was that when Boniface IX took control of the city in 1398 the local elite was no longer inclined to fight for communal autonomy, as they had as recently as the late 1340s. Thus, understanding the ways religion and the social order were entwined with one another in fourteenth-century Rome enables us to better understand its political history.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Daniel Bornstein

Committee Members

Mark G Pegg, Christine Johnson, Michael Sherberg, Ronald G Musto


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