Email: tommaso.zerbi@ed.ac.uk

Programme: Architecture - PhD/MPhil/MSc by Research

Start date: September 2016

Mode of study: Full time

Research title: Dreaming of the Middle Ages: Architecture, Neo-Medievalism, and the House of Savoy in Italy, 1814-1900

—I waked one morning in the beginning of last June from a dream, of which all I could recover was, that I had thought myself in an ancient castle. H.W.


Tommaso is an architectural historian and Neo-Medievalist invested in fostering an Italian Neo-Medieval discourse in the architectural historiography. His background in classical studies and his two lauree con lode at the faculty of Architecture of the Politecnico di Milano matured his interests towards the phenomena of Revivalism, in its architectural, artistic and cultural impact during the Romantic Era, and in the long nineteenth century. He is now pursuing a Ph.D. in Architectural History at the University of Edinburgh, where he is also collaborating as a tutor. His dissertation—awarded the 2018 scholarship from Il Circolo Associazione Culturale—focuses on the relation between Neo-Medievalism and the Royal House of Savoy (“Dreaming of the Middle Ages: Architecture, Neo-Medievalism, and the House of Savoy in Italy, 1814-1900”).  Prior to beginning his Ph.D., thanks to the collaboration with FAI (Fondo Ambiente Italiano) and Soprintendenze di Milano, Tommaso researched on the Langobardic castrum of Castelseprio and Torba (UNESCO Heritage from 2011), and he was involved in projects with the International Center for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property, and the International Council of Museums.

 

 

Tommaso's research examines the revival of medieval forms of architecture in nineteenth-century Italy and their relationship with the political fortunes and patronage of the House of Savoy. It endeavours to establish the extent of this relationship, its objectives and outcomes, and its connection to the broader context of Italian Neo-Medievalism. This reconnection to the past assumed a particular role for members of the Savoy family, who passed from being kings of Sardinia to kings of a united Italy during the course of the nineteenth century. By examining how five Savoyard kings ‘dreamed of the Middle Ages’—that is, how they idealised the memory of the past to change the present, or tried to escape from it—the study aims to grasp not only their different personalities and ambitions, but also how the monarchs reflected the political and cultural conditions that marked Italy from the time of the Restoration to the post-union era. The study, by focusing the analysis on a single but important family of patrons, who, in a unique way, supported the movement throughout the entire century, enables an examination of Italian Neo-Medievalism in a chronologically continuous manner, thus establishing a longue durée framework in which to understand better Neo-Medieval discourse during the nineteenth-century.