was one of the most cultured and important voices in Italian historiography, author of fundamental books translated all over the world on St. Francis of Assisi.
The Middle Ages, with its spirituality and its materiality, was the field of investigation of the historian Chiara Frugoni, a scholar of great international prestige who passed away at the age of 82. One of the most cultured and important voices in Italian historiography leaves us with her, author of fundamental books translated all over the world on Saint Francis of Assisi, whose message and relationship with the institutions of his time she had investigated with extreme attention. . You had also paid a lot of attention to art, to the figurative testimonies from that past time, in the profound conviction that the image speaks, that through iconography we are transmitted by our ancestors messages and indications that for the historian are of a exceptional importance.
Born in Pisa on February 4, 1940, Chiara Frugoni was the daughter of the medievalist Arsenio, so it can be said that she inherited the subject of her studies from her father. But she with him she had had a problematic relationship in many ways, which had caused her strong insecurities: intimate topics she had written about at an advanced age in the autobiographical book Even the stars must separate (Feltrinelli, 2013). She said she had learned honesty and a sense of duty from her father. But at the cost of great unhappiness. Chiara Frugoni had gone to school with the nuns, who for her had been, she remembered, a school of atheism for their incredible rigidity and bigoted obsessions.
She graduated in 1964 at the Sapienza University of Rome and in 1974 she moved to university teaching. Between 1980 and 1988 she had taught Medieval History at the University of Pisa, then moved to the University of Rome Tor Vergata, from which she resigned in 2000. In 1965 Chiara Frugoni married the art historian Salvatore Settis, with whom he had three children. In her second marriage she had joined Donato Cioli in 1991.
His first book, released in 1978, was about the figure of a great military leader and the influence he had exercised with his exploits in subsequent history: The fortune of Alexander the Great from antiquity to the Middle Ages (The New Italy). But then Chiara Frugoni had dedicated herself with excellent results to the figure of a character at the antipodes of the Macedonian ruler like the poor man of Assisi. Many of her books on that subject, all of high scientific caliber: Francis and the invention of the stigmata (Einaudi, 1993); Life of a man: Francis of Assisi (Einaudi, 1995); The stories of St. Francis (Einaudi, 2010); Story of Chiara and Francesco (Einaudi, 2011). He especially admired in him the commitment to give substance to the message of the Gospel, without the fear of putting himself in contrast with the society of his time, including the official ecclesiastical institutions, to the point of inaugurating a first draft of dialogue between the different religions in a era dominated by intolerance.
Another important merit of Chiara Frugoni was, moreover, that of helping to free the Middle Ages from the stereotyped and erroneous image of a dark period, of the retreat of civilization. One of her books, Middle Ages on the nose (Laterza, 2001) dedicated precisely to the progress that humanity had made in those centuries also in terms of the most minute but significant inventions, such as glasses and buttons. Also noteworthy is his attention to widespread feelings and female figures, whose contribution he had enhanced with precious volumes and very rich in illustrations published by the Mill: Medieval fears (2020) e Medieval women (2021).