FREE Catholic Classes
(Latin Florentia ; Italian Firenze ). ARCHDIOCESE OF FLORENCE (FLORENTINA).
Located in the province of Tuscany (Central Italy ). The city is situated on the Arno in a fertile plain at the foot of the Fiesole hills, whence came its first inhabitants (about 200 B.C.). In 82 B.C. Sulla destroyed it because it supported the democratic party at Rome. In 59 B.C. it was rebuilt by Cæsar at a short distance from its original site. It served then as a military post and commanded the ford of the Arno. Soon afterwards it became a flourishing municipium .
EARLY MEDIEVAL HISTORY
Besieged and probably captured by Totila (541), it was retaken (552) by the Byzantine general Narses. The most famous of its few antiquities dating from Roman times is the amphitheatre known as the Parlagio . In ancient times it was a town of small importance; its prosperity did not begin until the eleventh century. During the Lombard period Florence belonged to the Duchy of Chiusi; after the absorption of the Lombard kingdom by Charlemagne, who spent at Florence the Christmas of 786, it was the residence of a count whose overlord was margrave of Tuscany. In the two centuries of conflict between the popes and the emperors over the feudal legacy of Countess Matilda (d. 1115) the city played a prominent part; it was precisely to this conflict that the republic owed its wonderful development. During this period Florence stood always for the papacy, knowing well that it was thus ensuring its own liberty. In the eleventh and twelfth centuries the Florentines fought successfully against Fiesole, which was destroyed in 1125, and against several neighbouring feudal lords who had harassed the trade of the town, the Alberti, Guido Guerra, the Buondelmonti (whose castle of Montebuoni was destroyed in 1135), the Uberti, the Cadolinghi, the Ubaldini, and others. These nobles were all obliged to take up their residence in the town, and spend there at least three months of every year. In 1113 the Florentines, never partial to the German Emperors, rose against the imperial vicar in Florence.
The first public meeting of the townsfolk which paved the way for the establishment of the "Commune" was convened by Bishop Ranieri in 1105. About the same time they helped the Pisans in the conquest of the Balearic Isles (1114) asking no other reward than two porphyry columns for the great central doorway of the Baptistery (San Giovanni). By 1155 they had grown so powerful that they dared to close their gates against Frederick Barbarossa . The nobles (magnates, grandi ), forced to become citizens, were not slow in creating disturbances in the town by their rival factions, and in hindering the work of the consuls who chanced to be displeasing to them. In this way there was endless friction an strife, and thus was laid the foundation of the two great parties that for centuries divided the city, Guelphs and Ghibellines. The former was democratic, republican, favourable to the papacy ; the latter was the party of the old Florentine aristocracy and the emperor. In 1197 the Tuscan League (in imitation of the successful Lombard League) was formed at San Ginesio between the cities of Florence, Lucca, Siena, Prato, San Miniato , and the Bishop of Volterra, in presence of papal legates. These cities bound them selves on that occasion not to acknowledge the author ity of emperor, king, duke, or marquis without the ex press order of the Roman Church. At that time, in the interest of better administration, Florence abolished its old-time government by two consuls, and substituted a podestà , or chief magistrate (1193), with a council of twelve consuls. In 1207 a law was passed which made it obligatory for the podestà to be an outsider. The legislative power originally resided in the Statuto , a commission nominated by the consuls. After the introduction of a podestà it was exercised by the priors of the chief guilds (the artes majores ), seven in number (carpenters, wool-weavers, skinners, tanners, tailors, shoemakers, and farriers), to which were afterwards added the fourteen lesser guilds (the judges, the notaries-public, doctors, money-changers, and others). To hold any public office it was necessary to belong to one or other of these guilds ( arti ); the nobles were therefore wont to enter their names on the books of the wool-weavers' guild. The management of all political affairs rested with the Signoria , and there was a kind of public parliament which met four times a year. Public business was attended to by the podestà , assisted in their turns by two of the consuls.
GUELPHS AND GHIBELLINES
A broken engagement between one of the Buondelmonti and a daughter of the house of Amidei, and the killing of the young man, were the causes of a fierce civil strife in 1215 an long after. Some sided with the Buondelmonti and the Donati, who were Guelphs ; others sympathized with the Amidei and the Uberti, who were Ghibellines. Up to 1249 the two factions fought on sight; in that year Emperor Frederick II , who wished to have Florence on his side in his struggle with the papacy, sent the Uberti reinforcements of German mercenaries with whose aid they drove out the Buondelmonti and so many of their followers that the Guelph party was completely routed. The Ghibellines straightway established an aristocratic government but retained the podestà . The people were deprived of their rights, but they assembled on 20 October, 1250, in the church of Santa Croce and deposed the podestà and his Ghibelline administration. The government was then entrusted to two men, one a podestà , the other a Capitano del Popolo (captain of the people), both of them outsiders; besides these the six precincts of the town nominated each two anziani, or elders. For military purposes the town was divided into twenty gonfaloni or banner-wards, the country around about into sixty-six, the whole force being under the command of the gonfaloniere . The advantage of the new arrangement was quickly shown in the wars against neighbouring towns once their allies, but which had fallen under Ghibelline control. In 1253 Pistoia was taken, and was forced to recall the exiled Guelphs. The year 1254 has been called the year of victories. Siena, Volterra, and Pisa were then constrained to accept peace on severe terms, and to expel the Ghibellines. In 1255 it was the turn of Arezzo ; Pisa was once more defeated at Ponte Serchio, and forced to cede to Florence the Castello di Mutrone, overlooking the sea. Hence forward war was continuous between Pisa and Florence until the once powerful Pisa passed completely into the power of the Florentines. In 1260, however, Farinata degli Uberti, leader of the outlawed Ghibellines, with the help of Siena and of the German bands in King Manfred's pay, but mostly by deceiving the Florentines into believing that he would betray Siena into their hands, defeated (4 Sept.) the Florentine army of 30,000 foot and 3,000 horse in the battle of Montaperti. The Guelphs thereupon chose exile for themselves and their families. The people's government was again overturned; the citizens had to swear allegiance to King Manfred, and German troops were called on to support the new order of things. The podestà , Guido Novello, was appointed by Manfred. After the latter's death the Guelphs again took courage, and Guido Novello was forced to make concessions. Finally, in 1266, the people rose, and barricaded the streets with locked chains; Guido lost courage and on 4 November, accompanied by his cavalry, fled from the city. The popular government of the guild-masters or priors ( Capi delle arti ) was restored; Charles of Anjou, brother of St. Louis of France and King of Naples, was called in as peacemaker ( paciere ) in 1267, and was appointed podestà . Florence took again the lead in the Tuscan League, soon began hostilities against the few remaining Ghibelline towns, and with the help of Pope Nicholas III succeeded in ridding itself of the embarrassing protection of King Charles (1278). Nicholas also attempted to reconcile the two factions, and with some success. Peace was concluded (Cardinal Latini's peace) in 1280 and the exiles returned.
The government was then carried on by the podestà and the capitano del popolo, aided by fourteen buoni uomini , i.e. reputable citizens (eight Guelphs and six Ghibellines ), afterwards replaced by three (later six) guild-masters, elected for two months, during which time they lived together in the palace of the Signoria. Nor could they be reelected till after two years. There were, moreover, two councils, in which also the guild-masters took part. As a result of the assistance Florence gave Genoa in the war against Pisa (1284 and 1285) its territory was greatly extended. The victory at Campaldino (1289) over Ghibelline Arezzo established firmly the hegemony of Florence in Tuscany. In 1293 Pisa was obliged to grant Florence the right to trade within its walls. Fresh troubles, however, were in store for Florence. In 1293 the burgesses, exulting in their success, and acting under the influence of Giano della Bella, excluded the nobles from election to the office of guild-master. On the other hand, even the lesser guilds were allowed to retain a share in the government. To crown the insult a new magistrate, styled gonfaloniere di giustizia , was appointed to repress all abuses on the part of the nobles. The latter chose as their leader and defender Corso Donati; the burgesses gathered about the Cerchi family, whose members had grown rich in trade. The common people or artisan class sided with the Donati. In 1295 Giano della Bella was found guilty of violating his own ordinances, and was forced to leave Florence. The opposing factions united now with similar factions in Pistoia; that of the Cerchi with the Bianchi or Whites, that of the Donati with the Neri or Blacks. To restore peace the guild-masters in 1300 exiled the leaders of both factions; among them went Dante Alighieri. The leaders of the Bianchi were, however, soon recalled. Thereupon the Neri appealed to Boniface VIII, who persuaded Charles of Valois, brother of Philip the Fair of France, to visit Florence as peace maker. He at once recalled the Donati, or Neri, and set aside the remonstrances of the Bianchi, who were once more expelled, Dante among them. The exiles negotiated successively with Pisa, Bologna, and the chiefs of the Ghibelline party for assistance against the Neri; for a while they seemed to infuse new life into the Ghibelline cause. Before long, however, both par ties split up into petty factions. In 1304 Benedict XI essayed in vain to restore peace by causing the recall of the exiles. The city then became the wretched scene of incendiary attempts, murders, and robberies. In 1306 the Ghibellines were once more driven out, thanks to Corso Donati ( Il Barone ), who aimed at tyrannical power and was soon hated by rich and poor alike, Aided by his father-in-law, Uguccione della Faggiuola, leader of the Ghibellines in Romagna, he attempted to overthrow the Signoria, accusing it of corruption and venality. The people assembled and the guild-masters condemned him as a traitor ; he shut himself up in his fortress-like house, but soon after wards fell from his horse and was killed (13 Sept., 1308).
In 1310 Emperor Henry VII invaded Italy, and obliged successively the cities of Lombardy to recognize his imperial authority. The Florentine exiles (particularly Dante in his Latin work "De Monarchiâ"), also the Pisans, ardently denounced Florence to the emperor as the hotbed of rebellion in Italy. Great was, therefore, the terror in Florence. AU the exiles, save Dante, were recalled; but in order to have an ally against the emperor, whose overlordship they refused to acknowledge, they did homage to Robert, King of Naples. On his way to Rome (1312) Henry found the gates of Florence closed against him. He besieged it in vain, while Florentine money fanned the flames of further revolt in all the cities of Lombardy. On his return journey in October he was again obliged to abandon his siege of Florence. At Pisa he laid Florence under the ban of the empire, deprived it of all rights and privileges, and permitted the counterfeiting of its coinage, the famous "florins of San Giovanni", Pisa and Genoa were now eager for revenge on their commercial rival, when suddenly Henry died. The Pisans then elected as podestà the aforesaid exiled Florentine, Uguccione della Faggiuola, who be came master of several other towns of which Lucca was the most important (1314). In 1315 he defeated the Florentines near Montecatini, and already beheld Florence in his power and himself master of Tuscany. Unfortunately, at this juncture Lucca, under Castruccio Castracane, rebelled against him and drove him out, nor was he ever able to return. Castruccio, himself a Ghibelline, was a menace to the liberty of the Tuscan League, always Guelph in character. After a guerrilla warfare of three years, the army of the League under Raimondo Cardona was defeated at Altopascio (1325), though the Florentines succeeded in making good their retreat. To ensure the safety of the city, Florence offered Charles, Duke of Calabria, son of King Robert of Naples, the Signoria for ten years. He came, and greatly curtailed the privileges of the citizens. Happily for Florence he died in 1329, There upon, Florence, having regained its freedom, remod elled its government, and created five magistracies: (1) guild-masters ( priori ) or supreme administrative power; (2) the Gonfalonieri charged with the military operations; (3) the capitani di parte (Guelphs, common people); (4) a board of trade ( Guidici di commercio ); (5) consuls for the guilds ( Consoli delle arli ). Moreover, two councils or assemblies were established, one composed of three hundred Guelphs and the humbler citizens, the other of various groups of rich and poor under the presidency of the podestà . These councils were renewed every four months.
LATER MEDIEVAL HISTORY
It has always been a cause for wonder that aamid so many political, economical, and military vicissitudes the prosperity of Florence never ceased to grow. Majestic churches arose amid the din of arms, and splendid palaces were built on all sides, though their owners must have been at all times uncertain of peaceful possession. At the date we have now reached forty-six towns and walled castelli , among them Fiesole and Empoli, acknowledged the authority of Florence, and every year its mint turned out between 350,000 and 400,000 gold forms. Its coinage was the choicest and most reliable in Europe. The receipts of its exchequer were greater than those of the Kings of Sicily and Aragon. Merchants from Florence thronged the markets of the known world, and established banks wherever they went. In the city itself there were 110 churches, It openly aimed at sovereignty over all Tuscany. Arms and money won for it Pistoia (1329) and Arezzo (1336). It aided Venice (1338) against Mastino della Scala, a peril to Florence since he became master of Lucca. Knowing well the commercial greed of the Florentines, Mastino, to free himself from their opposition, offered to sell them Lucca. But the Pisans could not allow their ancient enemy to come so near; they took up arms, captured Lucca, and defeated the Florentines at La Ghiaia (1341). Seeing now that their militia needed a skilful leader, the Florentines offered the command and a limited dictatorship, first to Jacopo Gabrielli d'Agabio, and when he proved unfit, to a French freebooter, Gauthier de Brienne (1342), who styled himself Duke of Athens on the strength of his descent from the dukes of Achaia. He played his part so skilfully that he was proclaimed Signore for life. In this way Florence imitated most other Italian cities, which in their weariness of popular government had by this time chosen princes to rule over them. Gauthier de Brienne, however, became despotic, favoured the nobility and the populace (always allies in Florence), and harassed the rich middle-class families (Altoviti, Medici, Rucellai, Ricci). The populace soon tired of him, and joined by the peasants ( genti del contado ), they raised the cry of "liberty" on 26 July, 1343. Gauthier's soldiers were slain, and he was forced to leave the city. But the newly recovered liberty of Florence was dearly bought. Its subject towns (Arezzo, Colle di Val d'Elsa, and San Geminiano) declared themselves independent; Pistoia joined with Pisa ; Ottaviano de' Belforti was lord of Volterra. There was now an interval of peace, during which the greater guilds (known as the popolo grasso ) strove gradually to restrict the rights of the lesser guilds, which in the end found themselves shut out from all public offices. Aided by the populace they threat ened rebellion, and secured thus the abolition of the more onerous laws.
It was now the turn of the humblest classes, hitherto without political rights. Clearly they had reaped no advantage from their support of the small bourgeoisie, and so they resolved to resort to arms in their own behalf. Thus came about the revolution of the Ciompi (1378), so called from the wool carders ( ciompi ), who under Michele di Lando seized the palace of the Signoria, and proclaimed their leader gonfaloniere di gonfalon . They instituted three new guilds in which all artisans were to be in scribed, and which had equal civil rights with the other guilds. Michele, fearing that the popular tumult would end in a restoration of the Signoria, went over to the burgesses; after a sanguinary conflict the Ciompi were put to flight. The rich burgesses were now more firmly established than before, which did not remove the discontent of the lesser guilds and the populace. This deep discontent was the source of the brilliant fortune of Giovanni de' Medici, son of Bicci, the richest of the Florentine bankers.
Apropos of this world-famous name it may be said here that the scope of this article permits only a brief reference to the great influence of medieval Florence as an industrial, commercial, and financial centre. In the woollen industry it was easily foremost, particularly in the dyeing and final preparation of the manufactured goods. Its banking houses were famous through all Europe, and had for clients not only a multitude of private individuals, but also kings and popes. As financial agents of the latter, the mercatores papae , the Florentines were to be found in all the chief national centres, and exercised no little influence. (See H. de B. Gibbins, "History of Commerce in Europe ", London, 1892; Peruzzi, "Storia del corn mercio e dei banchieri di Firenze in tutto il mondo da 1200 fino a 1345", Florence, 1868; Toniolo, "Dei rimoti fattori della potenza economica di Firenze nel medioevo", Milan, 1882; G. Buonazia, "L'arte della lana" in "Nuova Antologia", 1870, XIII, 327-425.)
To take up the thread of our narrative, several events of interest had meanwhile occurred. In 1355 Emperor Charles III appeared before Florence. The city had become more cautious as it grew in wealth and did not, therefore, venture to resist him; it seemed wiser to purchase, with gold and a nominal submission, entailing as few obligations as possible, present security and actual independence. The citizens swore allegiance on the understanding that the emperor would ratify the laws made or to be made in Florence; that the members of the Signoria (elected by the citizens) should be, ipso facto , vicars imperial; that neither the emperor himself nor any envoy of his should enter the town; that he should be content with the payment of 100,000 forms, in lieu of all past claims ( regalia ), and a promise of 4000 forms annually during his life. The Florentines could hardly as more complete autonomy. The populace, it is true, opposed even this nominal submission, but it was explained to them that their liberties were untouched. In 1360 Volterra returned again to Florence, and war with Pisa followed. Pisa sought the help of Bernabò Visconti; after a prolonged conflict the Florentines won the decisive battle of San Savino (1364), and peace was declared. In 1375 the inquisitor, Fra Pietro d'Aquila, having exceeded his powers, the Signoria restricted his authority and conferred on the ordinary civil courts jurisdiction in all criminal cases of ecclesiastics. This displeased the pope ; and in consequence Guillaume de Noellet, papal legate at Bologna, directed against Tuscany the band of mercenaries known as the "White Company" ( Compagnia Bianca ). Florence had hitherto been undeviatingly faithful to the Holy See ; it now began to rouse against the pope, not only the cities of Romagna and the Marches, but even Rome itself. Eighty cities joined in the movement. Gregory XI thereupon placed Florence under interdict (1376), and allowed anyone to lay hands on the goods and persons of the Florentines. Nor was this a mere threat; the Florentine merchants in England were obliged to return to Florence, leaving their property behind them. Not even the intercession of St. Catherine of Siena, who went to Avignon for the purpose, could win pardon for the city. It was only in 1378, after the Western Schism had begun, that Urban VI absolved the Florentines. Even then the people compelled the offending magistrates to give ample satisfaction to the pope (Gherardi, La guerra de' Fiorentini con papa Gregorio XI, detta guerra degli otto santi, Florence, 1869). Florence now beheld with no little concern the political progress of Gian Galeazzo Visconti, Lord of Milan. By the acquisition of Pisa he had gained a coveted foothold in Tuscany. The Florentines sided with his numerous enemies, all of whom were anxious to prevent the formation of an Italian sole monarchy. Visconti was victorious, but he died in 1402, whereupon Florence at once laid siege to Pisa. In 1405 Giovanni Maria Visconti sold the town to the Florentines for 200,000 forms; but the Pisans continued to defend their city, and it was not till 1406 that Gino Capponi captured it. A revolt that broke out soon after the surrender was repressed with great severity. The purchase (1421) of the port of Leghorn from Genoa for 100,000 gold florins gave Florence at last a free passage to the sea, nor did the citizens long delay to compete with Venice and Genoa for the trade of the African and Levantine coasts (1421). In 1415 the new constitutions of the republic were promulgated. They were drawn up by the famous jurists Paolo di Castro and Bartolommeo Volpi of the University of Florence.
Naturally enough, these numerous wars were very costly. Consequently early in the fifteenth century the taxes increased greatly and with them the popular discontent, despite the strongly democratic character of the city government. Certain families now began to assume a certain prominence. Maso degli Albizzi was captain of the people for thirty years; after his death other families sought the leadership. Giovanni di Bicci de' Medici, to bring about a more equal distribution of taxation, propose the catasto , i.e. an income-tax. This made him very popular and he was proclaimed Gonfaloniere for life (1421), His son Cosimo (d. 1464) inherited his immense riches and popularity, but his generosity brought him under suspicion. The chief men of the greater guilds, and especially the Albizzi family, charged him with a desire to overthrow the government and he was exiled to Padua (1433). In 1434 the new Signoria, favourable to Cosimo, recalled him and gave him the proud title of Pater Patriae , i.e. father of his country. In 1440 the Albizzi were outlawed, and Cosimo found his path clear. He scrupulously retained the old form of government, and refrained from all arbitrary measures. He was open-handed, built palaces and villas, also churches (San Marco, San Lorenzo); his costly and rare library was open to all; he patronized scholars and encouraged the arts. With him began the golden age of the Medici. The republic now annexed the district of Casentino, taken from the Visconti at the Peace of Gavriana (1441), Cosimo's son Piero was by no means equal to his father ; nevertheless the happy ending of the war against Venice, the former ally of Florence, shed glory on the Medici name. Piero died in 1469, whereupon his sons Lorenzo and Giuliano were created "princes of the State" ( principi dello Stato ). In 1478 occurred the conspiracy of the Pazzi, to whose ambitious plans Lorenzo was an obstacle. A plot was formed to kill the two Medici brothers in the cathedral on Easter Sunday ; Giuliano fell, but Lorenzo escaped. The authors of the plot, among them Francesco Salviati, Archbishop of Pisa, perished at the hands of the angry populace. Sixtus IV, whose nephew Girolamo Riario was also an accomplice, laid the town under an interdict because of the murder of Salviati and the Pazzi, and supported by the King of Naples threatened to go to war, Hostilities had actually begun, when Lorenzo set out for Naples and by his diplomatic tact induced King Alfonso to make peace (1480); this obliged the pope also to come to terms. Meanwhile, despite his almost unlimited influence, Lorenzo refused to be anything else than the foremost citizen of Florence. With the exception of Siena, all Tuscany now acknowledged the rule of Florence and offered the spectacle of an extensive principality governed by a republic of free and equal citizens. Lorenzo died in 1492. (See the life of Lorenzo by Roscoe, Liverpool, 1795, and often re printed; also the German life by A. von Reumont , Leipzig, 1874, and Eng. tr. by R. Harrison, London, 1876.)
Lorenzo was succeeded by his son, Piero, but he did not long retain popularity, especially after he had ceded the fortresses of Pietra Santa and Pontremoli to Charles VIII of France, who entered Italy with the avowed purpose of overthrowing the Aragonese dominion in Naples. The popular displeasure reached its acme when Piero pawned the towns of Pisa and Leghorn to the French king. He was driven out and the former republican government restored, Charles VIII entered Florence and endeavoured to have Piero's promises honoured ; but the firmness of Piero Capponi and a threatened uprising of the people forced the French king to quit Tuscany (1494). There were at that time three parties in Florence: the Medicean party, known as the Palleschi (from the palle or little balls in the Medici coat of arms ), the oligarchic republicans, called the Arrabiati (enraged), and the democrats or Piagnoni (weepers). The last had for chief the Dominican friar, Girolamo Savonarola of Ferrara, who hoped by their aid to restore in Florence piety and a Christian discipline of life, i.e. to establish in the city the Kingdom of Christ. In fact, Christ was publicly proclaimed Lord or Signore of Florence ( Rex populi Florentini ). (For the irreligious and rationalistic elements in the city at this period see GUICCIARDINI and MACHIAVELLI). Savonarola's intemperate speeches were the occasion of his excommunication, and in 1498 he was publicly burned. The Arrabiati were then in power. In 1512 Cardinal Giovanni de' Medici purchased at a great price the support of the Spanish captain Cardona and sent him to Florence to demand the return of the Medici. Fearing worse evils the people consented, and Lorenzo II, son of Piero, was recalled as prince. Cardinal Giovanni, however, kept the reins of power in his own hands. As Leo X he sent thither Cardinal Giulio de' Medici (the natural son of Giuliano), afterwards Clement VII. The family had now reached the acme of its power and prestige. The sack of Rome (1527) and the misfortunes of Clement VII caused a third exile of the Medici. Ippolito and Alessandro, cousins of the pope, were driven out.
In the peace concluded between Emperor Charles V and Clement VII it was agreed that the Medici rule should be restored in Florence. The citizens, how ever, would not listen to this, and prepared for resistance. Their army was defeated at Gavinana (1530) through the treachery of their general, Malatesta Baglioni. A treaty was then made with the emperor Florence paid a heavy war-indemnity and recalled the exiles, and the pope granted a free amnesty. On 5 July, 1531, Alessandro de' Medici returned and took the title of Duke, promising allegiance to the emperor. Clement VII dictated a new constitution, in which among other things the distinction between the greater and the lesser guilds was removed. Alessandro was a man of dissolute habits, and was stabbed to death by a distant relative, Lorenzino (1538), no better, but more clever, than Alessandro. The murderer fled at once from Florence. The party of Alessandro now offered the ducal office to Cosimo de' Medici, son of Giovanni delle Bande Nere. He avenged the death of Alessandro and finally transformed the government into an absolute principality. This he did by gradualiy equalizing the political status of the inhabitants of Florence and of the subject cities and districts. This is the last stage in the political history of Florence as a distinct state; henceforth the political history of the city is that of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. When the new Kingdom of Italy was proclaimed in 1861 Florence was chosen as the seat of government and remained such till 1871.
Few cities have affected more profoundly the course of civilization. In many ways mankind has drawn from Florence its highest inspiration. Among the great poets Dante was a Florentine, while Petrarch and Boccaccio were sons of Florentines. Among the great painters Giotto found in Florence patronage and a proper field for his genius. Fra Angelico (Giovanni da Fiesole ) was a Florentine, likewise Masaccio and Donatello. Unrivalled sculptors, like Lorenzo Ghiberti and Michelangelo, architects like Brunelleschi, universal savants like Leone Battista Alberti, shine like brilliant gems in the city's diadem of fame, and mark in some respects the highest attainments of humanity. Florence was long the chief centre of the Renaissance, the leaders of which were either citizens or welcome guests of that city, e.g. Michael Chrysoloras, Giovanni Argi ropulo, Leonardo Bruni, Cristoforo Landolfo, Niccolo Niccoli, Pico della Mirandola, and others scarcely less distinguished for their devotion to Greek and Latin literature, philosophy, art, and antiquities. It was capable at the same time of an incredible enthusiasm for Plato, whom men like Marsilio Ficino wished to see canonized (Sieveking, Gesch. der platon. Akademie zu Florenz, Gottingen, 1812), and of an equally passionate zeal for the restoration of all things in Christ (see SAVONAROLA). For its role in the restoration and development of classical literary taste, both Greek and Latin, see HUMANISM, and for its share in the growth of the fine arts see RENAISSANCE.
INSTITUTIONS AND BUILDINGS
Florence is the seat of a university, and possesses also an institute of social science, conservatory of music, a botanical garden, and an observatory (astronomical, meteorological, and seismological). Various scientific societies have their centres there, e.g. the Accademia della Crusca, whose famous Italian dictionary is one of the glories of the city. The city has four libraries containing many rare manuscripts. The Biblioteca Nazionale, one of the largest and most important in Europe, founded in 1861 by merger of the famous Magliabecchiana and the former (Pitti) Bibliotheca Palatina; the Laurentiana, founded in 1444 by Cosimo de' Medici; the Marucelliana, containing a collection of brasses; the Riccardiana. The State archives are the most important in Italy. Various art collections are: the Uffizi Gallery; the Pitti, in the old palace of the grand dukes; the archaeological museum with its fine collection of coins and tapestries ; the Museum of the Duomo or cathedral ; the Accademia delle belle arti (Academy of the Fine Arts); and the Casa Buonarroti (house of Michelangelo ). The charitable institutions include: the Great Hospital ( Arcispedale ) of Santa Maria Nuova (1800 beds), founded in 1285 by Falco Portinari, the father of Dante's Beatrice; the Hospital of the Innocents, or Foundling Hospital (1421); a home for the blind; an insane asylum , and many private charities.
Among the numerous charitable works of Florence the most popularly known is that of the "Confraternità della Misericordia", founded in 1244, and attached to the oratory of that name close by the cathedral. Its members belong to all classes of Florentine society, the highest as well as the lowest, and are bound to quit all work or occupation at the sound of the oratory bell, and hasten to any scene of accident, violent illness, sudden death, and the like. The costume of the brotherhood is a rough black robe and girdle, with a hood that completely covers the head except two loopholes for the eyes. Thus attired, a little group may frequently be seen hastening through the streets of Florence, bearing on their shoulders the sick or the dead to the specific institution that is to care for them (Bakounine, "La miséricorde à Florence" in "Le Correspondant", 1884, 805-26).
The chief industries are the manufacture of majolica ware, the copying of art works and their sale, also the manufacture of felt and straw hats.
The more noted of the public squares of Florence are the Piazza della Signoria (Palazzo Vecchio, Loggia de' Lanzi, and the historic fountain by Ammannati); the Piazza del Duomo; the Piazza di Santa Croce with its monument to Dante ; the Piazza di Santa Maria Novella, adorned by two obelisks. Among the famous churches of Florence are the following: Santa Maria del Fiore, otherwise the Duomo or cathedral, begun in 1296 by Arnolfo del Cambio, consecrated in 1436 by Eugene IV, and called del Fiore (of the flower), either in reference to the name of the city or to the municipal arms, a red lily on a white ground. It is about 140 yards long, and badly proportioned. The admirable Campanile was begun by Giotto, but finished by Taddeo Gaddi (1334-36). The majestic dome is by Brunelleschi (1420) and furnished inspiration to Michelangelo for the dome of St. Peter's. The façade was not completed until 1887; the bronze doors are also a work of recent date. The Baptistery of San Giovanni dates from the seventh century; it was remodelled in 1190, again in the fifteenth century, and is octagonal in form. San Giovanni was the old cathedral of Florence, around which in Lombard times (seventh and eighth centuries) the city grew up. Some have maintained that it rises on the site of an ancient temple of Mars. Dante mentions it twice with veneration in the Paradiso (xv, 136-37; xvi, 25-27). The three massive bronze doors of the Baptistery are unparalleled in the world; one of them is the work of Andrea Pisano (1330), the remaining two are the masterpieces of Lorenzo Ghiberti (1403-47), and were declared by Michelangelo fit to serve as the gates of paradise. Santa Croce (Franciscans) is a Gothic church (1294-1442), with frescoes by Giotto and his school. It is a kind of national Pantheon, and contains monuments to many illustrious Italians. In the cloister stands the chapel of the Pazzi family, the work of Brunelleschi, with many rich friezes by the della Robbia. ( Ozanam, "Sainte Croix de Florence" in "Poètes franciscains ital.", Paris, 1852, 273-80). Santa Maria Novella, the Dominican counterpart of Santa Croce, begun in 1278 by Fra Jacopo Talenti da Nipozzano, is also a Gothic edifice. The façade is by Leone Battista Alberti. The church contains frescoes by Orcagna, Ghirlandaio, and Fra Lippo Lippi. In its Ruccellai chapel is the famous Madonna of Cimabue. Or San Michele, a unique artistic monument, was meant originally, it is said, for a corn-market, but was remodelled in 1336. On the exterior walls are to be seen admirable statues of the patron saints of the various Florentine guilds, the work of Verrocchio, Donatello, Ghiberti, and others. San Lorenzo, dedi cated in 393 under the holy bishop Zanobius by St. Ambrose, with a sermon yet preserved (P. L., XIV, 107), was altered to its present shape (1421-61) by Brunelleschi and Manetti at the instance of Cosimo de' Medici. It contains in its sacristies ( Nuova, Vecchia ) tombs of the Medici by Verrocchio, and more famous ones by Michelangelo. San Marco (1290), with its adjacent convent decorated in fresco by Fra Angelico was the home also of Fra Bartolommeo della Porta , and of Savonarola. Santissima Trinità contains frescoes by Ghirlandaio. Santa Maria del Carmine, contains the Brancacci Chapel, with frescoes by Masaccio, Masolino, and Filippino Lippi. Other monumental or historic churches are the. Santissima Annunziata (mother-house of the Servites ) and the Renaissance church of Ognissanti (Franciscan).
Several Benedictine abbeys have had much to do with the ecclesiastical history of Florence. Among them are San Miniato , on the Arno, about twenty-one miles from Florence, restored in the eleventh century, since the seventeenth century an episcopal see (Cappelletti, "Chiese d' Italia", Venice, 1862, XVII 305-47; Rondoni, "Memorie storiche di San Miniato ", Venice, 1877, p. 1148); La Badia di Santa Maria, founded in 977 (Galletti, Ragionamenti dell' origine e de' primi tempi della Badia Fiorentina, Rome, 1773); San Salvatore a Settimo, founded in 988; Vallombrosa founded in 1039 by St. John Gualbert. All of these being within easy reach of the city, exercised strong religious influence, particularly in the long conflict between the Church and the Empire. Besides the public buildings already mentioned, we may note the Loggia del Bigallo, the Palazzo del Podestà (1255) now used as a museum, the Palazzo Strozzi, Palazzo Riccardi, Palazzo Rucellai, and several other private edifices of architectural and historic interest.
St. Frontinus is said by local tradition to have been the first bishop and a disciple of St. Peter. In the Decian persecution St. Miniatus (San Miniato) is said to have suffered martyrdom. It is to him that is dedicated the famous church of the same name on the hill overlooking the city. It has been suggested that Miniatus is but a form of Minias (Mena), the name of a saint who suffered at Alexandria. In 313 we find Bishop Felix mentioned as present that year at a Roman synod. About 400 we meet with the above-mentioned St. Zanobius. In the following centuries Florence sank into obscurity, and little is known of its civil or ecclesiastical life. With St. Reparatus (fi. 679), the patron of the Duomo, begins the unbroken line of episcopal succession. Among the best known of its medieval bishops are Gerardo, later Pope Nicholas II and author (1059) of the famous decree on papal elections ; Pietro of Pavia, whom another Florentine, San Pietro Aldobrandini (Petrus Igneus) , convicted of simony (1062); Ranieri (1101), who preached that Antichrist had already come ( Mansi, Suppl. Conc., II, 217); Ardengho, under whom was fought (1245) a pitched battle with the Patarini or Catharist heretics ; Antonio Orso (1309), who roused all Florence, and even his clergy, against the German Emperor Henry VII; Angelo Acciaiuoli (1383), a zealous worker for the extinction of the Western Schism ; Francesco Zabarella (1410), cardinal, canonist, and philosopher, prominent at the Council of Constance. When in 1434 the see became vacant, Pope Eugene IV did it the honour to rule it in person. Other archbishops of Florence were Cardinal Giovanni Vitelleschi, captain of Eugene IV's army; the Domini can St. Antoninus Forcillioni, d. 1459; Cosimo de' Pazzi (1508), a learned humanist and philosopher ; Antonio Martini, translator of the Bible into Italian (1781). In 1809 Napoleon, to the great dissatisfaction of the diocese, imposed on Florence as its archbishop Monsignor d'Osmond, Bishop of Nancy. To Eugenio Cecconi (1874-88) we owe an (unfinished) "Storia del concilio ecumenico Vaticano" (Rome, 1872-79). Archbishop Alfonso Maria Mistrangelo, of the Society of the Pious Schools ( Scuole Pie ), was born at Savona, in 1852, and transferred (19 June, 1899) from Pontremoli to Florence.
Saints and Popes
Florence is the mother of many saints. Besides those already mentioned, there are Bl. Uberto degli Uberti, Bl. Luca Mongoli, Bl. Domenico Bianchi, Bl. Antonio Baldinucci, St. Catherine de' Ricci , St. Mary Magdalen de' Pazzi , and St. Philip Neri . The Florentine popes are: Leo X (1513-21), Clement VII (1523-34), Clement VIII (1592-1605), Leo XI (1605), Urban VIII (1623-44), and Clement XII (1730-40).
Since 1420 Florence has been an archdiocese ; its suffragan sees are: Borgo San Sepolero, Colle di Val d'Elsa Fiesole, San Miniato, Modigliana, and the united Dioceses of Pistoia and Prato. The Archdiocese of Florence has 800 secular and 336 regular clergy ; 479 parishes and 1900 churches, chapels, and oratories ; 200 theological students; 44 monasteries (men) and 80 convents (women). In 1907 the population of the archdiocese, almost exclusively Catholic, was 500,000.
- The Our Father
- A Guide for Confession
- Act of Contrition
- Hail, Holy Queen
- The Apostles' Creed
- Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary
- Unfailing Prayer to St. Anthony
Copyright 2020 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2020 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.
Catholic Online is a Project of Your Catholic Voice Foundation, a Not-for-Profit Corporation. Your Catholic Voice Foundation has been granted a recognition of tax exemption under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Federal Tax Identification Number: 81-0596847. Your gift is tax-deductible as allowed by law.