The Dialogues Bioregional Project: Landscape Ecology in Central Italy from the Sixth Century to the Present


  • Damiano Benvegnù Dartmouth College



Pope Gregory I (r. 590-604), commonly known as Saint Gregory the Great, is celebrated for re-organizing both the institutional and liturgical life of the Roman Catholic Church; for instigating the first recorded large-scale mission from Rome to England; and for his writings. Among these, a distinct importance has been attributed to his “Dialogues,” a collection of four books of miracles, signs, wonders, and healings carried out by then little-known holy men, which represent a portion of central Italy as a sacred space where the Christian God is present in both human and non-human form, while also interacting with the environment by performing landscaping functions.

This article outlines the “Dialogues Bioregional Project,” a digital, interdisciplinary interface on Italian landscape ecology which would promote dialogues between scientists and humanists as well as provide a modeling tool for environmental and cultural awareness. Shaped around the “Dialogues” of Pope Gregory I, this digital humanities project explores continuities and discontinuities between the socio-political and ecological history of a specific section of Italian territory, a set of multidisciplinary environmental narratives (from c. 600 AD to the present), and local communities. My aim is to introduce readers to the ecological potentials of Gregory’s book and thus prompt scholars interested in the environmental humanities and the integration of biophysical and analytical approaches with humanistic and holistic perspectives to become part of the “Dialogues Bioregional Project” and collaborate in its further development.