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The Art of Medieval Urbanism examines the role of monumental sculpture and architecture in the medieval cityscape, offering a pathbreaking interpretation of the relationships among art, architecture, and the history of urbanism. In the first study of its kind, Robert Maxwell shifts attention away from the great Gothic cities of the later Middle Ages to focus on the urban context of art making in the earlier Romanesque era.

Maxwell concentrates on Parthenay, a flourishing town in eleventh- and twelfth-century Aquitaine. Exploring Parthenay’s exceptionally well-preserved structures, the author charts two centuries of urban development in southwestern France. Drawing on the methods of historical anthropology, Maxwell brings the monumental arts into dialogue with courtly romance literature, the iconography of seals and coins, history writing, and contemporary mythologies of place to show how the urban experience inflected the invention of history, aristocratic self-fashioning, and urban identity. Maxwell’s interdisciplinary approach shows that medieval urbanism should be understood as a fabric of constructed identities of history, self, and place grounded in the monumental arts. The Art of Medieval Urbanism offers a fresh model for urban studies and proposes a new approach to the study of medieval art by restoring an urban dimension to our view of Romanesque production.