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INTRODUCTION by Alison Fleming

Margery Kempe arrived in Rome in August, 1415. She traveled to Rome from Venice, via Assisi, after her pilgrimage to Jerusalem. She remained in Rome through Easter of the following year. Kempe clearly names many places she visited in Rome, particularly churches (especially notable considering the amount of time which elapsed between the actual pilgrimage and her dictation of the Book). However, her descriptions of what she saw are generally abbreviated. Her purpose, of course, is not to provide a travelerís account, but rather, a pilgrimís account. Her third person narration concentrates on her actions, visions and experiences.

In order to recreate the Rome of Margery Kempe, we can examine Medieval and Renaissance guidebooks to the city. The earliest written guide to the city is the Mirabilia urbis Romae, most likely an account recorded by a canon of St. Peterís in the 12th century. Closer to Kempeís time, the advent of the Renaissance inspired a number of men to write new guides, many focusing on the ancient ruins of the city, once again in vogue. These guides include Leon Battista Albertiís Descriptio urbis Romae, written around 1433, and Flavio Biondoís Roma instaurata, written in 1444 and published in 1481. More guidebooks were written in the 16th century, including those by Francesco Albertini, Andrea Fulvio, Bartolomeo Marliano and Andrea Palladio. We may also consider guides written by English travelers, in an attempt to see the city through the eyes of the foreigner that Kempe was. These guides include accounts written by John Capgrave, who most likely visited the city during the 1450 Jubilee, and William Brewyn, who visited Rome in 1477.  See Bibliography

Modern guidebooks to Rome, and secondary sources, reveal that all of the places mentioned by Kempe are still extant. Almost all have undergone substantial modification. There are, however, at least some objects or structural parts that remain from Kempeís day. There are also other churches, such as Santa Maria in Aracoeli, that have undergone little transformation since the 15th century. We may use them as models for the churches that Kempe visited. Through a combination of architectural and artistic remnants, nearly contemporary written descriptions, and paintings, drawings and prints picturing Rome, we may attempt to recreate the Rome of Margery Kempe.