City and Cosmos
The Medieval World in Urban Form
Distributed for Reaktion Books
In City and Cosmos, Keith D. Lilley argues that the medieval mind considered the city truly a microcosm: much more than a collection of houses, a city also represented a scaled-down version of the very order and organization of the cosmos. Drawing upon a wide variety of sources, including original accounts, visual art, science, literature, and architectural history, City and Cosmos offers an innovative interpretation of how medieval Christians infused their urban surroundings with meaning.
Lilley combines both visual and textual evidence to demonstrate how the city carried Christian cosmological meaning and symbolism, sharing common spatial forms and functional ordering. City and Cosmos will not only appeal to a diverse range of scholars studying medieval history, archaeology, philosophy, and theology; but it will also find a broad audience in architecture, urban planning, and art history. With more of the world’s population inhabiting cities than ever before, this original perspective on urban order and culture will prove increasingly valuable to anyone wishing to better understand the role of the city in society.
"Keith Lilley's excellent new book takes as its theme the idea of the city as it was played out, performed and remediated in medieval culture . . . The book, like the urban forms it describes, is impressively far-reaching, beautifully designed and richly illustrated."—Urban History
"The virtue of Lilley’s book is that it makes us seriously consider the relationship between the city where medieval people lived and the city of God that they imagined . . . this book would make an excellent reference textbook for graduate students as well as scholars unfamiliar with the field."–Imago Mundi
"An important look at how the 'urban city' of the Middle Ages is connected to God's hierarchical arrangement of the universe and the city's place within this ordering . . . Lilley has achieved his goal of providing a new perspective on understanding the city's cultural and material construct . . . This book would make an excellent foundation on which to form a course on the cities of the Middle Ages, due to the fact that it contains so many diverse aspects that can be studied in an interdisciplinary fashion and its relatively inexpensive price. The book is well illustrated throughout, giving Lilley the ability to enhance his readers' understanding by providing visual references and he does a good job of using illustrations as evidence for his points."–Medieval Review
"Reference to detailed mapping of a number of medieval cities has enabled Keith Lilley to challenge traditional functional views of the city and to suggest that equally important to its inhabitants was its cosmological symbolism . . . Due to the interdisciplinary nature of this book, its arguments making use of scientific, artistic, religious and dramatic material, it is likely to be of use to students of all these areas, as well as to historians and cartographers, offering as it does a new perspective on medieval urbanism."–Society of Cartographers Bulletin
"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, The Warburg Institute, University of London
"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, Marylhurst University