Doctoral student Emma Wall talks about her stay in Rome and 'love of all things Italian'

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Doctoral student Emma Wall talks about her stay in Rome and 'love of all things Italian'

By Emma Wall

ROME - I am a final-year doctoral student at Durham University, in Durham, England, with a love of all things Italian.

My doctoral research is on Petrarch's “Canzoniere” and the influence of Augustan lyric poetry collections on the architecture of the work, as Petrarch reimagines what a collection of vernacular lyrics might look like as part of a project of reviving classical works for his contemporary audience.

I first came to Rome as part of an interdisciplinary doctoral training week at the British School in Rome in January 2019. On this trip we visited the Venerable English College as one of our site sessions. I was immediately taken by the archives of the college, which are largely uncatalogued and have huge potential for opening up various aspects of English and Welsh Catholic history in Rome. I later received a grant from my doctoral training partnership to spend five months on placement prior to the pandemic, between October 2019 and February 2020, to assist in the archives. Although it is a very different area to my own PhD research, I found working in the archives on the cataloguing project fascinating. 

As a result of the success of this collaboration, I have now returned to Rome for two months to work on a research project focusing on the history of the English College in Piacenza. After a seminary was added to the English Hospice in Rome in 1579, it quickly became apparent that the existing endowment of the hospice, which had sustained its functions since 1362, was insufficient to support a seminary as well. As a result, in 1581 Pope Gregory XIII granted the new English College possession of the Abbey of San Savino in Piacenza and its abbey lands, and later the Priory of Santa Vittoria, as an endowment to support the seminary in Rome.

The archives of the English College contain about 20 “buste” of material (approximately 15,000 folios) pertaining to the management of the extensive property portfolio in and around Piacenza, as well as the history of the abbey prior to when the college was granted possession of it in 1581. These collections in the college archives in Rome have yet to be explored. I am conducting an initial survey of the material, the findings of which are to be presented at a conference in September. This project will revive a forgotten part of the history of the English College and the region around Piacenza and Parma. 

During these two months in Rome I am staying at The Lay Centre, which has been an ideal environment in which to spend my time in the city. The community has been incredibly welcoming and friendly, and as the only British resident it has been wonderful to connect with students from other cultures and backgrounds. My rusty Italian is also slowly coming back to me! As a place that facilitates interfaith and interdisciplinary dialogue, I have found the experience so far of staying at The Lay Centre very helpful to my studies and personal development. I am looking forward to the last few weeks of my stay.

Once I return to England, I will submit my PhD thesis in July and take up a job in September teaching classics at a high school. Spending these months in Rome and at The Lay Centre has been a lovely way to round off my time at university before joining the world of work. 


Photo courtesy Emma Wall

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