Winter Term (2011)
Lecture 2: Florence in the Renaissance
In this lecture, we will try to explain how the city of Florence became the center of
the Italian Renaissance. We will pay some attention to its geography, before going
on to the city’s economic and political life which played such a crucial role in
making the Renaissance possible.
a. In many respects Florence was the Renaissance
b. The city’s standard of living by the 1400’s
+ the citizens were enjoying standards of living that were unequal in
c. The importance of the woolen industry
+ Became wealthy from industry, and focused only on refining the
woolen cloth to make it into textiles. It encouraged the city to be a city
of inquiry, people began to think from making money, and wanted to
d. The city’s intellectual achievement between 14 and 16 centuries
+ New ideas and artistic culture to give Florence a leading edge in the
Renaissance. This was originally stunted by the church . They
encouraged their great thinkers for culture instead of advancements.
( From the economic revival came competition.) 2
e. The great names associated with the city: Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio,
and Machiavelli (literature); Giotto, Fra Angelico, Botticelli, and
Leonardo da Vinci (painting); Donatello, Michelangelo, and Cellini
(sculpture); Marsilio Ficino (philosophy).
+ either born in Florence or associated with it
f. The city’s banks and the Medici
+Medici (Bank) well known
2. Why did Florence become the leading city of the Renaissance?
a. The city’s geography
i. Built close to water (the Arno)
+Became so big it went across the water, bridges were needed.
ii. The city in the 12 century
iii. The addition of bridges, including the Ponte Vecchio
b. The role of the woolen industry and the banks in the city’s economic
life ( They obtained all their money from banks and the woolen
i. More than 200 factories by 1338 3
ii. The wool merchants belonged to one of the seven most
important guilds (wielded enormous influence but not power)
c. Florence’s political system
i. The nobthity was still in control of the government by the end of
the 13 century (Got their money from having peasants work
+Woolen cloth manufacturers were the most powerful group in
Florence, but had no politcal power.
ii. The conflict between the Guelfs (support the Holy Roman
1. The Guelfs and the Ghibellines ( supported the Emperor
because he was going to support them) in Florence
2. The Guelfs’ reward for supporting the papacy (supported
because the expected a reward from the pope and for
+The Guelf's won, and received the Pope's business - all
finical transactions of the papacy.
iii. Brewing discontent among the wealthy merchants of Florence
(supported the Guelf's but became more unhappy as time
passed, believed that they were the ones who made Florence 4
wealthy, nobility was holding things back not encouraging
iv. Lawlessness and disorder
+ constant fighting between the classes going through
v. The wealthy merchants take control of the government by the
end of the 13 century
vi. Executive power ends up in the hands of the 7 major guilds
+ only represented the higher up version of the merchant class)
promoted the culture for the Renaissance; your status in society
did not completely depend on birth but depended on merit.
vii. The bubonic plague and economic troubles (middle of the 14
+ loses about half the population, created a lack of demand,
viii. Political stability and the economy
+ political stability had to save the unstable economy, and
eventually flourish. (1350's)
ix. Attitudes toward the arts and literature 5
+ Everyone would invest in arts and literature, because they
were proud of their city and believed their city was the greatest.
using these great works of art, would beautiful it and make it
x. Florence was a city state with a republican form of government
but in actual fact ruled by an oligarchy
- ran like a city state.
1. The role of the seven major guilds- ran the city Florence,
not like a republic with everyone having a free vote.
2. The nobility effectively excluded from government
+the right to hold office paid taxes, owned property and
belonged to a guild could be in office, had to be a male
3. Since 1293, every male citizen had to belong to a guild or
4. The Signoria was the principal executive body [the
5. The role of the nobility in the city’s government after the
13 century 6
+ were allowed to marry with the merchant class, and
still managed to play a role in government and went into
business with the merchants as well. ( used contacts)
6. The podestà - none Florentine to be a podesta, chief of
police. So he wouldn't be bias he couldn't be connected.
xi. The Ciompi revolt (1378)
1. Who were the ciompi?
+ the factory workers who did the low end job -
unqualified- forbidden by law to have a guild. [ 7 major
guilds and 14 lesser guilds]
2. Popular uprisings in Florence at the time
Lack of guilds brought uprisings
3. The demands of the Ciompi
+ became successful and created two guilds with support
of other guilds [16 guilds] they managed to overthrow the