The Florentine Way of Death

Contributed by OLLI

Dr. Anne Leader, visitng fellow at the University of Virginia’s Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, will present “The Florentine Way of Death” at an OLLI at Auburn Public Lecture on Wednesday, Aug. 18. Her presentation will be held at the Auburn Public Library at  2 p.m. (CST).

Caring for and commemorating the dead is a fundamental human activity, as old, if not older, as human civilization itself. The COVID-19 pandemic has upended cherished burial rituals worldwide and has also renewed interest in the pandemic of 1348 that killed upwards of 60% of Europe’s population. Fourteenth-century authors have become newly relevant as their vivid descriptions of the plague seem ripped from today’s headlines.

Florence, Italy ranked among the largest European cities at the start of the fourteenth century and lost approximately half of her citizens in the summer of 1348, putting great stress on survivors torn between protecting themselves from illness and attending to the sick and dying. Giovanni Boccaccio lamented the abandonment of funeral customs and bemoaned the many who died alone.

Leader will present her award-winning research on burial customs in early Renaissance Florence, providing an overview of the memorial landscape of the city as Boccaccio and his contemporaries knew it and the ways in which Florentines reformed and renewed their interrupted memorial traditions.

Leader is visiting fellow at the University of Virginia’s Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities (IATH) where she is developing Digital Sepoltuario, an interactive website that chronicles the memorial landscape of medieval and Renaissance Florence. She holds a History-Art History BA from Emory University and earned her MA and PhD in the History of Art and Archaeology from the Institute of Fine Arts (NYU).

She was Rush H. Kress Fellow at Villa I Tatti, The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies, where she completed her monograph The Badia of Florence: Art and Observance in a Renaissance Monastery (2012). More recently she edited and contributed to Memorializing the Middle Classes in Medieval and Renaissance Europe (2018), and her work has appeared in several essay collections and exhibition catalogs.

Her articles and reviews can be found in a variety of journals including The Burlington Magazine, The Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Renaissance Quarterly, Renaissance Studies, Speculum, and Studies in Iconography.

The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Auburn University (OLLI at Auburn) hosts its live Public Lecture 2 to 3 p.m.  at the Auburn Public Library. The free program is open to the public. 

OLLI at Auburn is a program of the Office of the Vice President for University Outreach. OLLI administrative offices and select classes are located at the historic Sunny Slope property, 1031  S. College St., Auburn, Alabama. For more information or to learn about becoming a volunteer faculty member, volunteer service assistant or sponsor, contact Barbara Daron, OLLI Program Coordinator, at 334-844-3102, or visit our website at