Through the Lens of Faith. Optics and Preaching in Dante's Tuscany

When and Where

Friday, November 24, 2023 2:30 pm to 4:30 pm
3rd Floor
Lillian Massey
125 Queen's Park


Francesca Galli, Universität Zürich, Università della Svizzera italiana


Research Presentation 
"Through the Lens of Faith. Optics and Preaching in Dante's Tuscany" Francesca Galli, Universität Zürich, Università della Svizzera italiana

It is widely recognized that medieval preaching played a crucial role in popularizing and disseminating optical science. While a select few authors and works have received considerable attention from scholars, a comprehensive analysis of the presence and utilization of optics in medieval sermons is still lacking. This presentation delves into homilies and treatises, mostly unpublished, authored by mendicant friars active in Tuscany during Dante's era (1270-1320). A close examination of these texts offers valuable insights into how optical knowledge was adapted and integrated into preaching practices within a context highly relevant to the art and literature of the time. Moreover, this case study can serve as a model for exploring other contexts and as a foundation for broader research. 

Francesca Galli currently holds a position as postdoctoral researcher at the University of Zürich (Seminar für Griechische und Lateinische Philologie), leading as PI a four-year research project funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (Ambizione Grant PZ00P1_201935). This project focuses on the dissemination of medieval optics and its manifold applications beyond the confines of science. In addition, she serves as a teaching fellow in Medieval Literature and Philology, as well as in Digital Humanities and Medieval Studies at Università della Svizzera italiana (USI) in Lugano. Since 2020, she has also been actively involved in the Italian government-supported PRIN project titled "Books and Readers in Florence from the 13th to the 15th Century: The Library of Santa Croce," under the guidance of Prof. A. Pegoretti (Roma Tre University).
Francesca's research, marked by a strongly interdisciplinary approach, centers on exploring the intricate interplay between medieval science, particularly optics, and the coeval literature and imagery. Her PhD dissertation (USI, 2016) led to the publication of her first monograph, a new edition of Bartolomeo da Bologna’s De luce, featuring a thorough introduction about the author and the Franciscan theology of light (Micrologus Library, SISMEL, 2021).  
At present, she is collaborating with A. Pegoretti and V. Albi on the edition of Servasanto da Faenza’s Dialogus. Additionally, in partnership with L. Lička and M. Mantovani, she is preparing the publication of the proceedings from the conference “Sight and Light in the Late Middle Ages” held at KU Leuven (June 2023).



125 Queen's Park