Art for Salvation: The Friars and their Patronage in Central Italy, c.1230-1450

  • Begins: Tuesday 16 November 2021
    Until: Tuesday 14 December 2021
  • Lettsom House, First Floor, 11 Chandos Street, London W1G 9EB (NB: There is no lift in this building)
  • Lecturer: Dr John Renner

During the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries the cities of central Italy were transformed by the building of ever-larger churches for new religious orders: the mendicant friars. St Dominic died in Bologna in 1221, St Francis in Assisi in 1226. The orders they founded spread rapidly all over Europe, joined soon by others: the Augustinian Hermits, the Carmelites, the Servites – many of them with female branches and lay associations as well. The churches and convents they built required decoration, with altarpieces of unprecedented size and sophistication, and fresco cycles of a hitherto unimagined realism narrating the biblical stories and the lives of contemporary saints in ways designed to convince and to move viewers.

This course explores the art created by and for the friars in their heartland, central Italy, from the foundation of the orders in the thirteenth century to the flowering of the Renaissance in the fifteenth – a period famed for its artistic innovation and creativity. The lectures seek to elucidate the causal links between the beliefs and ambitions of the friars, on the one hand, and the works of some of the greatest names in western art, such as Cimabue, Giotto and Fra Angelico, on the other.


Week 1  Paupers to Patrons: The Coming of the Friars
Week 2  The Friars and their Artists in the Thirteenth Century
Week 3  Friars, Nuns and the Laity: The Uses of Religious Art
Week 4  The Great Mendicant Churches of Tuscany in the Fourteenth Century
Week 5  Into the Renaissance: Art for the Friars in the Early Fifteenth Century


Dr John Renner is an Associate Lecturer at The Courtauld Institute of Art. He studied in Oxford, London and Florence and, after a career in journalism and broadcasting, took his PhD at The Courtauld, where he now teaches Italian art of the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance. He is also a Visiting Lecturer at the V&A Museum.

Members only

Now in progress

Book places

Keeping you safe

The wellbeing and peace of mind of our members is paramount as we begin to return to live events. All our venues are operating in accordance with current covid-secure recommendations. It is no longer mandatory to wear masks in public indoor spaces and it is at participants’ discretion at our live events.

If government regulations or recommendations change we will respond accordingly and inform members of any necessary changes.