[7] It is traditional to focus the urban problem of the early Middle Ages almost exclusively on north-western Europe, France, the Netherlands, England, the Rhinelands and, thus focused, to contain it between two irrefutable determinants: neatly defined points of departure and of arrival. At the beginning, there was urban decay, starting with the economic crisis of the Roman Empire in the third century and marking the gradual disappearance of the ancient city, of urban institutions and of the urban way of life in the West, which was barbarised and ruralised to an increasing extent. At the other extreme there was urban renewal which took shape in the West from the tenth and eleventh centuries onward. Cities and urban patterns reappeared, sporadically at first and then on amore substantial basis. The movement proceeded at a gradual rate and the city took shape, and this may correctly be dubbed the medieval city. However, even when it seemed to be rekindling the ashes of the ancient city, and was installed on the very site of the Gallo-Roman city or in close proximity to it, the characteristics of this town were entirely different.