Prato: Architecture, Piety, and Political Identity in a Tuscan City-State
By Alick M. McLean
Yale University Press, 2009
This handsome book recounts the historical development of one city republic, Prato in Tuscany, from the eleventh through the fourteenth century. In telling the story of Prato’s origins, construction, and demise, Alick McLean considers the planning, art, architecture, politics, faith, and daily life of Prato and its citizens, showing how major historical events and trends in the Italian middle ages were experienced within the architecture and streetscapes of this particular place.
McLean’s meticulous research is supported by a rich array of stunning new photography, plans, and maps. Together they provide a clear picture of what differentiates Italy’s medieval communes from its ancient cities: the interest in economic growth rather than exclusively centralized military and administrative hegemony. This history of urban form in Prato shows how the commune sought to fashion a democratic version of urban life, one based primarily on rational, systematic, and legislative order, rather than religious belief and private interests, and it examines what happened to that experiment.