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City and Cosmos The Medieval World in Urban Form by Keith D. Lilley

City and Cosmos The Medieval World in Urban Form


City and Cosmos The Medieval World in Urban Form by Keith D. Lilley

City and Cosmos is an exploration of what 'the city' represented in the medieval imagination. Keith D. Lilley shows that, to the medieval mind, the city was not merely a collection of houses, it was an idea rich in Christian symbolism and cosmological meaning. Drawing upon original accounts, illustrations and maps from across medieval Europe, and on science, religion, art, literature, drama and architecture of the Latin West, City and Cosmos offers an innovative interpretation of how medieval Christians saw their urban worlds. Linking together textual and visual evidence, it examines how the city was understood simultaneously as a body' writ large and as a scaled-down version of the cosmos, each sharing common spatial forms and functional ordering. Crossing traditional subject boundaries, City and Cosmos will appeal to a wide range of medievalists working in history, archaeology, philology, philosophy and theology. It will also help students of architecture, urban planning, art history and human geography to re-evaluate the material and imagined forms of European towns and cities. The idea it propounds that cities have deep meaning in the human imagination will also give the book wide appeal to those interested in urbanism and urban life.


City and Cosmos provides an exciting bird's-eye view of urban life in the Middle Ages, when the urban body was connected with the body of Christ, and city, cosmos and man were seen to be linked through sacred geometry and harmonic proportion. Keith Lilley's compelling account is a reminder that for many medieval Christians, the city was a reflection of God's beauty and presence in the world, a physical manifestation of the beauty of the body of the universe created by God, and a model of the world to come. - Alessandro Scafi It is a pleasure, as a literary scholar, to follow Lilley's assertion of the influence of medieval root-two geometric principles and their intersection with Classical cosmological thought, Christian scriptures, and the social practices of exclusion and pageantry on the formation of medieval urban spaces. Richly illustrative and drawing on an impressive array of textual, cartographic, and material evidence, Lilley's City and Cosmos is a significant contribution to the emerging interdisciplinary field of social geography, critical theory, and textual study. Lilley's expansive scholarship establishes the deeply symbolic connection between medieval conceptions of body, city, and cosmos and the way in which the very streets mark this habitus of thought. - Meg Roland, Associate Professor of English

About the Author

Keith D. Lilley is Senior Lecturer in Human Geography, Queen's University, Belfast. He is the author of many books and articles, including Urban Life in the Middle Ages, 1000-1450 (2002).

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Book Info

Publication date

1st May 2009


Keith D. Lilley

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Reaktion Books


248 pages


European history

Urban communities
Human geography



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