Florence – cradle of the Renaissance, Athens of Italy. The capital of Tuscany on both sides of the Arno River is today home to the world’s most important museums, the Franciscan Church of Santa Croce and the burial chapel of the Medici princely family. The Uffizi Gallery, Palazzo Pitti, the National Museum, the Cathedral Museum, and the Archaeological Museum display works that have shaped and resonated for centuries to the present day. Additionally, a century-long contest between Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo was begun in Florence but never completed. Florence was the birthplace or residence of most important personalities1 for centuries, not only Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci2 met here. Florence UNESCO World Heritage Site: The historic center of Florence has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site in its entirety since 1982.
Florence in the present
Florence today is the capital of Tuscany and is home to 1.5 million inhabitants in the agglomeration and about 382,000 within the city limits. Florence is repeatedly frequented by treacherous floods, such as in 1333, 1547, 1557 and 1844. The last flood in 1966 exceeded all previous flood marks, important art treasures from the Renaissance era were severely damaged, nearly 40 people died. The symbol of Florence is still the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (1296-1436) with an octagonal dome by Brunelleschi, the interior of which was painted by Vasari with the motif of the Last Judgment, but was never completed by him because he was already old and ill when he began painting. Outside and detached the Campanile (1334-59), as usual especially in Italy of the Middle Ages.
Florence UNESCO World Heritage Site – From Antiquity to the Late Middle Ages
Florentia as a Roman colony was founded in the 2nd century BC and quickly established itself as a trading center. Florence gained its urban autonomy and subjugated rival Fiesole in 1125.3 In the struggle between Guelfs loyal to the pope and Ghibellines loyal to the emperor, Florence was at the forefront of the Guelfs. The sacrificial battles against the Hohenstaufen emperors in the 13th century moved Florence into a hegemonic position over central Italy, and at the same time the upper guilds strove for power over the old noble families. In 1282, higher guilds such as bankers and big merchants seized power over Florence, causing social tensions within the city’s society after Florence’s cloth and banking industries made it a leading economic player in Western Europe. As a result of the social tensions, the uprising of the wool combers (Ciompi, 1378-1382) was put down, Pisa was subjugated in 1406, Livorno in 1421.
Florence UNESCO World Heritage Site – The Medicis
After this territorial expansion and consolidation phase of the city, the Medicis seized power over Florence as perhaps the most important city in Europe since the fall of the Middle Ages. The Medici reign in Florence began with Cosimo the Old in 1434-1464. Cosimo inherited the Medici bank from his father and was the richest citizen of Florence in his time. He was succeeded first by Piero di Cosimo de‘ Medici (the Gouty), party ruler of Florence from 1464-1469, then by Lorenzo Medici (the Magnificent), city ruler of Florence from 1469-1492.4 The beginning of his reign overlapped with the first stay of Leonardo da Vinci5 in Florence, who from 1469 was an apprentice to the painter and sculptor A. del Verrocchio6 lived in Via delle Prestanze (today: Via dei Gondi).
Florence UNESCO World Heritage Site – the Renaissance period
Lorenzo the Magnificent (Lorenzo il Magnifico (1449-1492) achieved near-absolute power through constitutional changes, and under his reign Florence became the center of the Italian Renaissance. The Medicis are still considered patrons and financiers of the Renaissance, Cosimo the Old had not only ensured extensive consolidation and an alliance with Milan – a former hostile city – but had also acted as a promoter of culture and had left the mark in advance for the further work of Piero di Cosimo de‘ Medici and Lorenzo the Magnificent as financiers of art and culture.
Florence UNESCO World Heritage Site – Modern Times
After the French King Charles VIII. Florence occupied in 1494, the Medicis were forced to leave Florence, but Pope Julius the II forced their return in 1512. Expelled a second time from 1527 – 1530, the Medicis consolidated their power again from 1531: Duke Cosimo I7 began his reign at just 17 years of age in 1537 as Duke, and from 1569 as Grand Duke of Tuscany, having conquered Siena in 1555. The massacres of the prisoners after the Battle of Montemurlo in the summer of 1537, which preceded Cosimo’s seizure of power and made his rule possible (the battle made the rule possible, not the massacres, author’s note), earned him the reputation of the Machiavellian prince, striving for unrestricted power and willing to enforce it by force beyond law and morality. Florence became the capital of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany during his reign, which lasted until 1574; his 37-year reign ended with his death at the age of only 57.
Florence UNESCO World Heritage Site – Reign of the Habsburgs
Florence fell under the rule of Habsburg-Lorraine in 1737, in 1865 – 1871 it replaced Turin as the capital of the Kingdom of Italy, founded in 1861, for a short period of time, before the eternal city of Rome became the capital in 1871 – 1946, until the end of the Kingdom and now Italy.
To see the image caption in English click on the circular infopictogram on the right below the enlarged photo.
1 Dante Alighieri (1265-1321), poet and philosopher, author of the work The Divine Comedy. Donatello (* c. 1386-1466), sculptor. Cosimo de‘ Medici (1389-1464), founder of the Medici family. Piero di Cosimo de‘ Medici (1416-1469), politician. Lorenzo Medici (il Magnifico, 1449-1492), politician and city lord of Florence. Andrea del Verrocchio (1435/36-1488), artist and teacher of Leonardo da Vinci. Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), see footnote 2. Amerigo Vespucci (c. 1452-1512), merchant, navigator, and supposed discoverer of America. Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527), author of the work: The Art of War, politician, diplomat, philosopher, historian and poet. Michelangelo (di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni); * March 6, 1475, Caprese, Tuscany; † Fe* 18, 1564, Rome, creator of several world-famous sculptures, such as the David mentioned above and the Pieta in St. Peter’s Basilica. Leo X (1475-1521), pope. Clement VII (1478-1534), pope from the Medici family. Lisa del Giocondo (1479-1542), merchant’s wife and model for Leonardo da Vinci’s painting Mona Lisa. Caterina de‘ Medici (1519-1589), Princess of Urbino and member of the Medici family. Cosimo I de‘ Medici (1519-1574), member of the Medici family. Leo XI (1535-1605), Pope. Michelangelo Naccherino (1550-1622), also known as the „little Michelangelo“. Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), philosopher, mathematician, physicist and astronomer, sculptor and alleged heretic. Urban VIII (1568-1644), pope of the Catholic Church. Maria de‘ Medici (1575-1642), wife of the French King Henry IV. Claudia de‘ Medici (1604-1648), Archduchess of Austria and Princess of Tyrol. Anna Maria Luisa de‘ Medici (1667-1743), representative of the House of Medici, married Jan Wellem of Dusseldorf in 1691, after his death in 1717 returned to Florence, there took over the rule of Tuscany. Luigi Cherubini (1760-1842), composer. Maria Theresa of Austria (1767-1827), Archduchess of Austria. Francis II (1768-1835), last emperor of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation. Florence Nightingale (1820-1910), medical and health care reformer. Virginia Oldoini (1837-1899), courtesan and mistress of Napoleon III. Nedo Fiano (1925-2020), concentration camp survivor (film La vita è bella, 1997). The Albizzi, Amidei and Medici ruling dynasties and the patrician Strozzi family.
2 Leonardo da Vinci, a world-famous artist to this day, left behind relatively few paintings; as a universal genius and scientist, he became known for his countless drawings, 1473: first dated drawing View of the Arno Valley Uffizi, Florence. Participated in the completion of the painting Baptism of Christ by Verrocchio, Uffizi, Florence. Not provable beyond doubt, he painted smaller paintings such as the Madonna with the Carnation, Alte Pinakothek Munich. 1473-1475: First major work, the Annunciation, Uffizi, Florence. 1478-1480: first works independent of del Verrocchio are Madonna Benois, Hermitage, Saint Petersburg and the Portrait of Ginevra de‘ Benci‘, National Gallery, Washington. March 1481: Commission for a large altarpiece, Adoration of the Magi, Uffizi, Florence and the painting St. Jerome, probably begun earlier or at the same time, Pinacoteca Vaticana, Vatican City State resp. Rome; both paintings remain unfinished. 1483/1484: Completion of the Madonna of the Rocks with A. de Predis, Louvre, Paris. From 1489: the Portrait of Cecilia Gallerani also known as The Lady with the Ermine, Czartoryski Muzeum Krakow. 1490: The Vitruvian Man Galleria dell‘ Accademia, Venice. 1494-1497: The Last Supper in the Dominican Monastery of Santa Maria della Grazie, Milan, since 1980 UNESCO World Heritage Site including the church. 1503-1506: Mona Lisa (La Gioconda), Louvre, Paris.