Dr Francesca Dell’Acqua

Dr Francesca Dell’Acqua

Centre for Byzantine, Ottoman and Modern Greek Studies
Marie Curie Fellow

Contact details

Arts Building
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Trained in medieval history of art, archaeology, history, and textual studies, Francesca is interested in the cultural history of late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, in a broad geographical perspective which embraces the Mediterranean basin, Northern Europe and the British Isles. A thorough analysis of material evidence in context is the foundation she believes necessary to explore cultural exchange, knowledge transfer, political interactions, material and immaterial heritages of migration.

Since 2004, while working with Prof. Dr. Gerhard Wolf (Director, Kunsthistorisches Institut/Max-Planck-Institut, Florence) on an exhibition about the Holy Face of Christ or Mandylion of Edessa (Genoa, 2004), she developed a keen interest in the arguments involved in the Byzantine controversy over the production and veneration of sacred images (680–850 ca.). From that, originated the idea of a research project entitled “ICONOPHILIA”, which she will conduct while in Birmingham (2015–17) as Marie Curie Fellow. Having Prof. Leslie Brubaker as mentor, Francesca has been investigating the development and dissemination of the theological matters that affected the policies of the Roman Catholic Church during the Byzantine Iconoclasm, and the “translation” of these theological matters into literary and visual imagery in the early medieval West.

For the purpose of investigating unexplored areas of the medieval cultural history with an interdisciplinary approach, she fosters collaboration with colleagues from different disciplines.

She is active in promoting cultural and student exchanges, and in volunteering, fund-raising and lecturing for non-academic associations engaged in the preservation of cultural heritages.


  • 2014: obtained the Italian habilitation as Associate Professor in History of Medieval Art.
  • 2001: Ph.D. degree in History of Medieval Art, the Scuola Normale Superiore of Pisa, the highest-ranking Italian university, supervisors: Enrico Castelnuovo (Scuola Normale di Pisa), Beat Brenk (Universität Basel-Roma La Sapienza), Adriano Peroni (Università di Firenze).
  • 1996: Laurea (equivalent to a BA+MA degree) in History of Art, the Università di Firenze; supervisors: Adriano Peroni (Università di Firenze), John Mitchell (University of East Anglia, Norwich), and Guido Vannini (Università di Firenze). 


During her BA+MA studies at the universities of Florence and East Anglia (Erasmus Free Mover scheme), Francesca collaborated with the British School at Rome’s archaeological mission at the early medieval monastery of San Vincenzo al Volturno. As a consequence, she focussed her “tesi di laurea” (BA+MA research thesis), her PhD thesis at the Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa, her first edited book (2001), and her first monograph (2003) to the employment of glazed windows and the theology of light in late antique and early medieval architecture, in the West and in the Mediterranean basin. A Summer Fellowship at Dumbarton Oaks-Harvard University (2002) was followed by the participation in the archaeological investigations of the Byzantine site of Amorium, Turkey (2002, 2005, 2006), and by an academic year (2002–03) as post-doc Stipendiatin at the Bibliotheca Hertziana/Max-Planck-Institut in Rome.

Between 2003–04, she workde as Research Assistant to Prof. Dr. Gerhard Wolf, Director of the Kunsthistorisches Institut/Max-Planck-Institut in Florence, and contributed to the exhibition on the Holy Face of Christ or Edessan acheiropoieiton. In this phase, she came across early eighth-century iconophile literature which adopted the Holy Face or Mandylion as one of its main arguments, and got interested in the iconoclastic debate.

Between 2005–15, as Assistant Professor, Francesca taught History of Medieval Art at the Cultural Heritage Department, Università di Salerno, Italy. There, she was responsible for the Erasmus/Internationalisation programmes.

In 2006 at Villa Medici, Rome, she has been awarded the Hahn Prize for art history.

Between 2009–16 she lead an international research group on the Salerno ivories (eleventh-twelfth century) in the context of the medieval Mediterranean, involving scholars in humanities as well as in applied sciences.

Between 2010–11 she has been a member of the research group “The Material Life of Things” coordinated by Dr. Francesco Lucchini at the Courtauld Institute, London.

She held numerous residential fellowships (Dumbarton Oaks; Bibliotheca Hertziana; American Academy in Rome; École Française de Rome; École du Louvre of Paris and the Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti of Venice; Centre for Byzantine, Ottoman, and Modern Greek Studies in Birmingham), and has a large record of research funding (European Commission; Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa; British Academy/Leverhulme Trust; International Center of Medieval Art/Kress Foundation; Corning Museum of Glass).

In 2014 she was habilitated to Associate Professorship.


2016–17: seminars in the MA/MRes programme in Medieval Studies, University of Birmingham.

Postgraduate supervision

Francesca supervises MA/MRes and PhD dissertations in late antique, early medieval and Byzantine cultural history, investigated through visual arts and material culture (metalwork, enamels, glass, gem symbolism, stucco), circulation of ideas, visual rhetoric, visual thinking, mental-literary-visual images, development of iconic mentality.


In the past few years Francesca started to work on the western response to Byzantine iconoclasm or controversy over sacred images. Supported by a Marie Curie Fellowship, her project “ICONOPHILIA” addresses the following topics: the Incarnation as the main argument in the Iconophile discourse, between Byzantium and Rome; the cult of Mary in Rome and in central Italy; Christ and Mary in the arts of seventh and eighth-century Rome and central Italy; the theological debate and the iconophile florilegia (collections of texts) in early medieval Rome; the pseudo-apostolical auctoritas of Dionysius the Areopagite and iconophile arguments; iconophile monasticism: ideas and writings from the Holy Land, to Crete, to Rome; eastern and western Marian homilies as vehicles of iconophile theology, from the theological debate, to the dissemination of doctrinal positions also in the West. By taking into account the origins and developments of Marian and Christological iconography between ca. 680–850 in Rome and central Italy, the project will shed light on the reasons why the West opted once and for all for an “iconophile turn.” In fact, the analysis of works of art will be useful in demonstrating how theological concepts developed during the monothelite (640–680 ca.) and the iconoclast controversies (730–843 ca.) were absorbed by western authors, how they were disseminated and translated into visual renderings, and how the latter contributed to reinforce old or spread new theological ideas.

Related to the topics of “ICONOPHILIA” are small, collaborative projects Francesca has recently conceived. One is on the knowledge of ps.-Dionysius in the West before the Carolingian translations, and his eventual influence in the conception and production of visual images. With scholars she convened at the International Congress of Byzantine Studies, Belgrade, 2016, she established a research group on the theological and visual implications of the Hypapante, i.e. the Presentation in the Temple of Christ Child, between East and West.

In September 2016 she launched, in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Birmingham Daniel Reynolds, Henry Chapman, Mike Robinson,  the project “At the crossroads of empires: the Longobard church of Saint'Ambrogio at Montecorvino, Italy,” thanks to a British Academy/Leverhulme Trust, Small Research Grant. This project will investigate the early medieval rural church of Sant’Ambrogio, discovered in the late 1970s near Salerno, the former capital of southern Langobardia (Italy), as it offers a uniquely preserved case for investigating the relationship between local churches and lordship, local and trans-regional economies, pilgrimage routes, monastic settlements, medieval architecture and mural painting, and responses to the theological debate on sacred images. The local community, occasionally engaged into the promotion activities related to the site, will benefit from a deeper investigation of its history. This project will champion a more  organised exploitation of this site which might facilitate its inclusion in the cultural heritage association “Longobard Ways”, and the UNESCO World Heritage list “Italia Langobardorum.”

Other activities

  • member, selecting committee, applications to associate professorships in the Serra Húnter Programme (the Government of Catalonia and the consortium of Catalan universities).
  • member, selecting committee, applications to Scientific Projects of National Importance (PRIN), Italian Ministery of University and Research (MIUR).
  • member, selecting committee, proposals for ERC Starting Grants 2016, European Research Council, panel Culture and Cultural Production (SH5).
  • member, selecting committee, applications to “PISCOPIA GRANTS” (a Marie Curie COFUND Programme), Università di Padova.



  • Iconophilia: Religion, Politics and the Arts in Early Medieval Italy (monograph in preparation)
  • The Salerno Ivories. Objects, Histories, Contexts, Berlin, Dietrich Reimer Verlag GmbH | Gebr. Mann Verlag | Deutscher Verlag für Kunstwissenschaft, 2016 (edited book with A. Cutler, H. L. Kessler, A. Shalem, G. Wolf)
  • Gli avori medievali di Amalfi e Salerno. Vademecum, Quaderni del Centro di Cultura e Storia Amalfitana 8 - Opere e Territorio: Vademecum 1, Amalfi, Centro di Cultura e Storia Amalfitana, 2015 (edited book with A. Cupolo, P. Pirrone)
  • The “Amalfi” and the “Salerno” Ivories and the Arts in the Medieval Mediterranean. A Notebook from the Workshop Convened in Amalfi (December 10-13, 2009) by Francesca Dell’Acqua, Herbert L. Kessler, Avinoam Shalem and Gerhard Wolf, Quaderni del Centro di Cultura e Storia Amalfitana 5, Amalfi, Centro di Cultura e Storia Amalfitana, 2011 (edited book)
  • “Illuminando colorat”. La vetrata tra la tarda Antichità e l’alto Medioevo attraverso le fonti e l’archeologia. Con Presentazione di Enrico Castelnuovo. Studi e Ricerche di Archeologia e  Storia dell’Arte, 4. Collana diretta da L. Pani Ermini e A. Peroni, Spoleto, Centro Italiano di Studi per l'Altomedioevo, 2003 (monograph)
  • La vetrata in Occidente dal IV all’XI secolo. Atti delle giornate di studi, Lucca, Villa Bottini, 23-24-25 Settembre 1999, Il colore nel Medioevo. Arte Simbolo Tecnica. Collana di studi sul colore 3, Lucca, Istituto Storico Lucchese-Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa-Corpus Vitrearum Medii Aevi Italia, 2001 (edited book with R. Silva)

Selected articles and book chapters

  • The Carbunculus (Red Garnet) and the Double Nature of Christ in the Early Medieval West, in Matter and Materiality in the Study of Medieval Art, “Konsthistorisk tidskrift / Journal of Art History,” L. Liepe, K. Kollandsrud (eds.), forthcoming.
  • Mary as «scala caelestis» in Eighth and Ninth Century Italy, in The Reception of the Mother of God in Byzantium: Marian Narratives in Texts and Images, M. B. Cunningham, T. Arentzen (eds.), Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, forthcoming.
  • «Nihil mihi Plato … contulit». Ambrogio Autperto, il rifiuto di Platone e l’eco dell’Iconoclasmo bizantino, in I. Pagani, F. Santi (eds.), Il secolo di Carlo Magno. Istituzioni, letterature e cultura del tempo carolingio, Florence, SISMEL - Edizioni del Galluzzo, 2016, 233–57. 
  • The Hidden Sides of the Salerno Ivories. Hypotheses about the original Object, Program, and Cultural Milieu, in F. Dell’Acqua, A. Cutler, H. L. Kessler, A. Shalem, G. Wolf (eds.), The Salerno Ivories. Objects, Histories, Contexts, Berlin, Dietrich Reimer Verlag GmbH | Gebr. Mann Verlag | Deutscher Verlag für Kunstwissenschaft, 2016, 211–39.
  • The Five Senses and the Knowledge of God. The ‘Magdalene and Thomas’ Plaque in the Salerno Ivories, in E. Palazzo (ed.), Les Cinq Sens au Moyen Âge, Paris, Les Editions du Cerf, 2016, 235–83.
  • Plaster Transennae and the Shaping of Light in Byzantium, in S. Balcon-Berry, B. Boissavit-Camus, P. Chevalier (eds.), La mémoire des pierres. Mélanges d'archéologie, d'art et d'histoire en l'honneur de Christian Sapin. Bibliothèque de l'Antiquité Tardive-BAT 29, Turnhout, Brepols, 2016, vol. 2, 337–47. 
  • Porta coeli: the Annunciation as Threshold of Salvation, in I. Foletti, H. L. Kessler (eds.), Many Romes. Studiesin Honor of Hans Belting, “Convivium,” II.1 (2015),  pp. 102-25.
  • L’auctoritas dello pseudo-Dionigi e Sugerio di Saint-Denis, in “Studi Medievali”, 3° s., LV/1 (2014), pp. 189-213.
  • Il mito dell’eroe classico, la ‘rinascenza’ macedone e la cassetta a rosette di Cava, in M. Galante, G. Zanichelli, G. Vitolo (eds.), Riforma della Chiesa, esperienze monastiche e poteri locali. La Badia di Cava e le sue dipendenze nel Mezzogiorno dei secoli XI-XII. Millennio Medievale 99, Florence, SISMEL, 2014, pp. 339-53.
  • Ambrogio Autperto e la Cripta di Epifanio nella storia dell’arte medievale. In F. Marazzi (ed.), La cripta dell'abate Epifanio a San Vincenzo al Volturno. Cento anni di studi e ricerche. Studi Vulturnensi 3, Cerro a Volturno, Volturnia Edizioni, 2013, pp. 27-47.
  • Il fuoco, le vetrate delle origini e la mistica medievale. In Il fuoco nell’alto medioevo. LX Settimana di Studio (Spoleto, 12-18 Aprile 2012), Spoleto, Centro di Studi sull’Altomedioevo, 2013, pp. 557-97.
  • Constantinople 1453: the Patriarch Gennadios, Mehmet the II and the Serpent Column in the Hippodrome, inM. De Giorgi, A. Hoffmann, N. Suthor (eds.), Synergies in Visual Culture / Bildkulturen im Dialog, Munich, Wilhelm Fink, 2013, pp. 325-38.
  • The Fall of the Idol on the Frame of the Genoa Mandylion: a Narrative on/of the Borders, in B. Crostini Lappin, S. La Porta (eds.), Negotiating Co-Existence: Communities, Culture and Convivencia in Byzantine Society. Bochumer Altertumswissenschaftliches Colloquium 96, Trier, WVT Wissenschaftlicher Verlag, Trier, 2013, pp. 143-73.  
  • Borders of Experimentalism: Glass in the Frame of the Genoa Mandylion, in C. Entwistle, L. James (eds.), New Light on Old Glass: Recent Research on Byzantine Glass and Mosaics, British Museum Research Publication, London, British Museum Press, 2013, pp. 234-41.
  • Les cinq sens et la connaissance de Dieu. Marie-Madeleine et Thomas dans les Ivoires de Salerne, in“Cahiers de civilisation médiévale”, 55, 2012, pp. 571-598.
  • Glasfliesen, in S. Gai, K. H. Krüger, B. Thier (Hrsg.), Die Klosterkirche Corvey Band 1.1 Geschichte und Archäologie. Denkmalpflege und Forschung in Westfalen Band 43.1.1, Darmstadt, Philipp von Zabern, 2012, pp. 415-35.
  • Carlomagno, la conversione dei Sassoni e il Westwerk di Corvey, in R. Fiorillo, C. M. Lambert (eds.), Medioevo letto, scavato, rivalutato. Studi in onore di Paolo Peduto. Medioevo scavato VII –Schola Salernitana, Florence, All’Insegna del Giglio, 2012, pp. 157-72.
  • Craft Production in Early Western Monasticism: Rules, Spaces, Products, in H. Dey, E. Fentress (eds.), Western Monasticism Ante Litteram: The Spaces of Monastic Observance in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages. Disciplina Monastica 7, Turnhout, Brepols, 2011, pp. 297-322.
  • The Christ from San Vincenzo al Volturno (9th c.): Another Instance of «Christ’s Dazzling Face», in S. Trümpler (ed.), The Single Stained-Glass Panel. XXIV. International Colloquium of the Corpus Vitrearum (Zurich, 30th of June -4th of July 2008), Bern, Peter Lang AG, 2010, pp. 11-22.
  • Entre fantaisie et archéologie : la connaissance des vitraux médiévaux au cours des deux derniers siècles, in S. Balcon, F. Perrot, C. Sapin (eds.), Le verre à vitre et l’archéologie de la fin de l’Antiquité au XIIe siècle. Premières approches et perspectives, Auxerre, Centre d’études médiévales, 2009, pp. 15-20.
  • «Il grande foglio del mare»: gli avori di Salerno e il Mediterraneo medievale, in “Rassegna Storica Salernitana”, L/2 (2008), pp. 103-24.
  • Il Medioevo in USA e “The Year 1200” (New York, 1970), in E. Castelnuovo, A. Monciatti (eds.), Medioevo/Medioevi. Un secolo di mostre d’arte medievale, Pisa, Edizioni della Normale, 2008, pp. 331-63.
  • “…nisi ipse Daedalus…nisi Beseleel secundus”.L’attività artistica presso il monastero di San Vincenzo al Volturno in età carolingia, in F. De Rubeis, F. Marazzi (eds.), I monasteri nell’alto medioevo. Topografia e strutture degli insediamenti monastici fra l’eta’ carolingia e l’eta’ della Riforma (secoli VIII-XII). Il caso di San Vincenzo al Volturno a confronto con le esperienze italiane ed europee, Rome, Viella, 2008, pp. 289-308.
  • Between Nature and Art: “Transparent Streams of a New Liquid”, in “RES-Anthropology and Aesthetics”, LIII-LIV (2008), pp. 93-103.
  • Enhancing Luxury Through Stained Glass, from Asia Minor to Italy,in “Dumbarton Oaks Papers”, LIX (2005), pp. 193-211.
  • F. Dell’Acqua, I. C. Freestone, Early Medieval Glass from Brescia, Cividale and Salerno, Italy: Composition and Affinities. In D. Ferrari (ed.), Il vetro nell’alto Medioevo.Attidell’VIII Giornata di Studi del Comitato Nazionale Italiano dell’A.I.V.H.-C.I.S.A.M., Spoleto, 20-21 Aprile 2002, Imola, Editrice La Mandragora, 2006, pp. 65-75.
  • Glass and Natural Light in the Shaping of Sacred Space in the Latin West and in the Byzantine East, in A. M. Lidov(ed.), Hierotopy. The creation of sacred spaces in Byzantium and Medieval Russia = Ierotopija: issledovanie sakral'nych prostranstv; materialy meždunarodnogo simpoziuma, Moscow, Indrik, 2006, pp. 299-324.
  • Parvenus  eclettici e il canone estetico della varietas. Riflessioni su alcuni dettagli di arredo architettonico nell’Italia meridionale normanna, in David Knipp (ed.), Kunst und Form im normannischen Sizilien (Roma, Bibliotheca Hertziana-British School at Rome, 6-7 Dicembre 2002), in “Römisches Jahrbuch der Bibliotheca Hertziana”, 35 (2003/2004), pp. 49-80.
  • Glassmakers in the West between Antiquity and Middle Ages, and Lux et vitrum: the Evolution of Stained Glass from the Late Roman Empire to the Gothic Age, in M. Beretta (ed.), When Glass Matters. Sciences and Crafts facing Glass from Graeco-Roman Antiquity to Early Modern Era. Biblioteca di Nuncius: studi e testi 53, Florence, Olschki Editore, 2004, pp. 135-50 and 221-48.
  • Le finestre invetriate nell’antichità romana, in M. Beretta (ed.), Vitrum. Il vetro fra arte e scienza nel mondo romano, (exh. cat., Florence, Museo degli Argenti-Palazzo Pitti, 27 Marzo-31 Ottobre 2004), Florence, Giunti Editore, 2004, pp. 109-119.
  • Le quattro lamine di rivestimento in filigrana, and La legatura del Cod. Gr. I,53 della Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana. Confronti tecnico-stilistici con la cornice paleologa del Mandylion e altri oggetti affini, in G. Wolf - C. Dufour Bozzo, A. R. Calderoni Masetti (eds.), Mandylion. Intorno al Sacro Voltoda Bisanzio a Genova (exh. cat. Genova, Museo Diocesano, 2004), Milan, SKIRA, 2004, pp. 157-160 and 175-89.
  • The Stained-Glass Windows from the Chora and the Pantocrator: a ‘Byzantine’ Mystery?, in H. Klein (ed.), in collaboration with R. Ousterhout, Restoring Byzantium: The Kariye Camii in Istanbul and the Byzantine Institute Restoration (exh. cat., New York City, Miriam and Ira Wallach Art Gallery, 2004), New York, Columbia University, 2004, pp. 68-77.
  • Di fronte alle vetrate, in E. Castelnuovo, P. Fossati, G. Sergi (eds.),  Arti e Storia nel Medioevo III, Del vedere: pubblici, forme e funzioni, Turin, Giulio Einaudi Editore, 2004, pp. 369-403.
  • La figure de l'architecte: à propos d'une inscription salernitaine de 1156,in D. Sandron (ed.)Des sources à l’œuvre: études d’histoire de l’art médiéval, in “Bibliothèque de l'École des Chartes: Revue d'Erudition”, 162 (1), 2004, pp. 35-50.
  • Ursus "magester": uno scultore di età longobarda, e Gerlachus: l'arte della vetrata, in E. Castelnuovo (ed.), Artifex bonus. Il mondo dell'artista medievale. Grandi Opere, Rome, Laterza, 2004, pp. 20-25 and 56-63.
  • …Mundus habet noctem, detinet aula diem. Il vetro nelle architetture di Brescia, Cividale, Salerno, San Vincenzo al Volturno, Farfa. Riflessioni sui dati scientifici, in I Longobardi dei Ducati di Spoleto e Benevento. Atti del XVI Congresso internazionale di studi sull’alto medioevo, Spoleto, 20-23 ottobre 2002, Benevento 24-27 ottobre 2002, Spoleto, Fondazione Centro Italiano di Studi sull’Alto Medioevo, 2003, II, pp. 1351-76.
  • Una vetrata “all’antica” di età carolingia, in “Journal of Glass Studies”, XLIV (2002), pp. 196-99.
  • F. Dell'Acqua, Deborah James, Chapter 6: The Window-Glass, in J. Mitchell, I.L. Hansen (eds.) San Vincenzo al Volturno 3. Studi e Ricerche di Archeologia e  Storia dell’Arte, 3. Collana diretta da L. Pani Ermini e A. Peroni, Spoleto, Centro Italiano di Studi per l'Altomedioevo, 2001, t. I, pp. 171-201.
  • Il rivestimento parietale in vetro della chiesa carolingia di Corvey sul Weser, in A. Paribeni (ed.), Atti del VII° Colloquio dell'Associazione Italiana per lo Studio e la Conservazione del Mosaico (A.I.S.C.O.M.), Pompei, 22-25 Marzo 2000, Rome, A.I.S.C.O.M., 2001, pp. 417-26.
  • U. Lobbedey, F. Dell’Acqua, K. H. Wedepohl, Coloured Glass Wall-Tiles from Corvey (North-West Germany): Carolingian or Romanesque?, in “Journal of Glass Studies”, XLIII (2001), pp. 89-105.
  • Sulle attestazioni di artefici nella scultura altomedievale in Italia, in M. M. Donato (ed.), Le opere e i nomi. Prospettive sulla "firma" medievale. In margine ai lavori per il Corpus delle opere firmate del Medioevo Italiano, Pisa, Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa-Centro di Ricerche Informatiche per i Beni Culturali, 2000, pp. 15-19.
  • Glasherstellung im Kloster San Vincenzo al Volturno, in 799-Kunst und Kultur der Karoligerzeit. Karl der Grosse und Papst Leo III. in Paderborn, Austellung 23. Juli bis 1. November 1999, Paderborn, Mainz-am-Rhein, P. von Zabern, 1999, I, pp. 174-76 e 180-83.
  • Shades of Desiderius. An early example of Italian stained-glass from the Romanesque abbey of San Vincenzo al Volturno (Molise, Italy), in Corpus Vitrearum Medii Aevi. XIXth International  Colloquium, Kraków 1998, 14-16 May, Stained glass as monumental painting, Proceedings, Kracow, Department for Conservation and Restauration of Works of Art, Academy of Fine Arts, 1999, pp. 81-95.
  • Ninth-century Window Glass from the Monastery of San Vincenzo al Volturno, (Molise, Italy), in “Journal of Glass Studies”, XXXIX (1997), pp. 33-41.