This dissertation explores the phenomenon of civic cults dedicated to contemporary laymen and women in the late medieval Italian communes. While hundreds of contemporary lay people were venerated in the Italian communes between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries, I focus upon a number of saints for whom the most primary sources survive: Ranieri of Pisa (d. 1160), Omobono of Cremona (d. 1197), Raimondo 'Palmerio' of Piacenza (d. 1200), Andrea of Siena (d. 1251), Zita of Lucca (d. 1278), Pier 'Pettinaio' of Siena (d. 1289), and Margaret of Cortona (d. 1297). Although most of these lay saints were never officially canonized by the Roman church, their local cults gave them a place within a pantheon of civic protectors and patrons that had previously been dominated by biblical figures and early Christian martyrs.
In order to explore both the phenomenon and function of lay sanctity in the Italian communes, I have mined a wide variety of sources, including vitae (or saints' lives), miracle collections, communal deliberations and statutes attesting to the support and growth of lay saints' cults, and the physical remains of the churches, altars, tombs, paintings, and sculptures created to memorialize these saints.
The first cults of lay saints appear alongside the development of independent communal governments in the twelfth century and reached their height during popolo-run communes in the late thirteenth-century. My work shows that the cults of these new civic patrons, who had been midwives, goldsmiths, domestic servants, merchants, and artisans, emphasized aspects of lay life that were most at odds with a saintly life: familial relationships, the decision to remain active and involved in the city, and work. Moreover, I argue that from their first appearance, the cults dedicated to urban laymen and women presented two models of the perfected lay life: one focused on the transformation of an individual life and the other concerned with the reform of a civic society. I show how between roughly 1250 and 1300, when popolo factions (political parties made up of a city's merchant and artisan elite) dominated communal governments, the civic cults of contemporary lay inhabitants rely on both models. The cults of lay saints in popolo-run communes emphasize how these pious inhabitants had transformed their own lives through prayer and penance at the same time as they had rehabilitated their civic communities through charity. Moreover, I show that by mining both models of lay sanctity, lay saints' patrons were able to construct cults that responded to and reflected their own civic and religious contexts. Finally, I conclude by looking at how Supra montem, a 1289 papal bull calling for Franciscan supervision of lay penitents, changed the terms of urban lay sanctity, emphasizing a lay saint's religious affiliation and internal spiritual development over his or her civic identity and involvement.