Republic of Florence

Republic of Florence

Overview
The Republic of Florence , or the Florentine Republic, was a city-state
City-state
A city-state is an independent or autonomous entity whose territory consists of a city which is not administered as a part of another local government.-Historical city-states:...

 that was centered on the city
City
A city is a relatively large and permanent settlement. Although there is no agreement on how a city is distinguished from a town within general English language meanings, many cities have a particular administrative, legal, or historical status based on local law.For example, in the U.S...

 of Florence
Florence
Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the province of Florence. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with approximately 370,000 inhabitants, expanding to over 1.5 million in the metropolitan area....

, located in modern Tuscany
Tuscany
Tuscany is a region in Italy. It has an area of about 23,000 square kilometres and a population of about 3.75 million inhabitants. The regional capital is Florence ....

, Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

. The republic was founded in 1115, when the Florentine people rebelled against the Margraviate of Tuscany upon Margravine Matilda
Matilda of Tuscany
Matilda of Tuscany was an Italian noblewoman, the principal Italian supporter of Pope Gregory VII during the Investiture Controversy. She is one of the few medieval women to be remembered for her military accomplishments...

's death. The Florentines formed a commune in Matilda's place. The republic was ruled by a council, known as the signoria
Signoria
A Signoria was an abstract noun meaning 'government; governing authority; de facto sovereignty; lordship in many of the Italian city states during the medieval and renaissance periods....

. The signoria was chosen by the gonfaloniere
Gonfaloniere
The Gonfaloniere was a highly prestigious communal post in medieval and Renaissance Italy, notably in Florence and the Papal States. The name derives from gonfalone, the term used for the banners of such communes....

(titular ruler of the city), who was elected every two months by Florentine guild members.
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Encyclopedia
The Republic of Florence , or the Florentine Republic, was a city-state
City-state
A city-state is an independent or autonomous entity whose territory consists of a city which is not administered as a part of another local government.-Historical city-states:...

 that was centered on the city
City
A city is a relatively large and permanent settlement. Although there is no agreement on how a city is distinguished from a town within general English language meanings, many cities have a particular administrative, legal, or historical status based on local law.For example, in the U.S...

 of Florence
Florence
Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the province of Florence. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with approximately 370,000 inhabitants, expanding to over 1.5 million in the metropolitan area....

, located in modern Tuscany
Tuscany
Tuscany is a region in Italy. It has an area of about 23,000 square kilometres and a population of about 3.75 million inhabitants. The regional capital is Florence ....

, Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

. The republic was founded in 1115, when the Florentine people rebelled against the Margraviate of Tuscany upon Margravine Matilda
Matilda of Tuscany
Matilda of Tuscany was an Italian noblewoman, the principal Italian supporter of Pope Gregory VII during the Investiture Controversy. She is one of the few medieval women to be remembered for her military accomplishments...

's death. The Florentines formed a commune in Matilda's place. The republic was ruled by a council, known as the signoria
Signoria
A Signoria was an abstract noun meaning 'government; governing authority; de facto sovereignty; lordship in many of the Italian city states during the medieval and renaissance periods....

. The signoria was chosen by the gonfaloniere
Gonfaloniere
The Gonfaloniere was a highly prestigious communal post in medieval and Renaissance Italy, notably in Florence and the Papal States. The name derives from gonfalone, the term used for the banners of such communes....

(titular ruler of the city), who was elected every two months by Florentine guild members. The republic has a chequered history of coups and counter coups against various factions. The Medici
Medici
The House of Medici or Famiglia de' Medici was a political dynasty, banking family and later royal house that first began to gather prominence under Cosimo de' Medici in the Republic of Florence during the late 14th century. The family originated in the Mugello region of the Tuscan countryside,...

 faction gained control of the city in 1434, upon Cosimo de' Medici
Cosimo de' Medici
Còsimo di Giovanni degli Mèdici was the first of the Medici political dynasty, de facto rulers of Florence during much of the Italian Renaissance; also known as "Cosimo 'the Elder'" and "Cosimo Pater Patriae" .-Biography:Born in Florence, Cosimo inherited both his wealth and his expertise in...

's counter coup against the faction that sent him into exile the previous year. The Medici kept control of Florence until 1494. Giovanni de' Medici (later Pope Leo X
Pope Leo X
Pope Leo X , born Giovanni di Lorenzo de' Medici, was the Pope from 1513 to his death in 1521. He was the last non-priest to be elected Pope. He is known for granting indulgences for those who donated to reconstruct St. Peter's Basilica and his challenging of Martin Luther's 95 Theses...

) re-conquered the republic in 1512. The Medici's authority was repudiated for a second time in 1527, during the War of the League of Cognac
War of the League of Cognac
The War of the League of Cognac was fought between the Habsburg dominions of Charles V—primarily Spain and the Holy Roman Empire—and the League of Cognac, an alliance including France, Pope Clement VII, the Republic of Venice, England, the Duchy of Milan and Republic of Florence.- Prelude :Shocked...

. The Medici re-assumed their rule in 1531, after an 11-month siege of the city. The republican government was disestablished in 1532, when Pope Clement VII
Pope Clement VII
Clement VII , born Giulio di Giuliano de' Medici, was a cardinal from 1513 to 1523 and was Pope from 1523 to 1534.-Early life:...

 appointed Alessandro de' Medici "Duke of the Florentine Republic", thereafter making the republic a hereditary monarchy
Hereditary monarchy
A hereditary monarchy is the most common type of monarchy and is the form that is used by almost all of the world's existing monarchies.Under a hereditary monarchy, all the monarchs come from the same family, and the crown is passed down from one member to another member of the family...

.

Background



The city of Florence was established in 59 B.C. by Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar
Gaius Julius Caesar was a Roman general and statesman and a distinguished writer of Latin prose. He played a critical role in the gradual transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire....

. The city had been part of the Marquisate of Tuscany before the death of Margravine Matilda. The city had constituted a republic just before her death. The first official mention of the republic was in 1138, when several cities around Tuscany formed a league against Henry X of Bavaria
Henry X, Duke of Bavaria
thumb|right|Henry X in a much later engraving.Henry the Proud was the Duke of Bavaria , Duke of Saxony , and Margrave of Tuscany .-Life and reign:...

. The country was nominally part of the Holy Roman Empire
Holy Roman Empire
The Holy Roman Empire was a realm that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe.It was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor. Its character changed during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, when the power of the emperor gradually weakened in favour of the princes...

.

Tuscany’s rule restored


Florence prospered in the 12th century, trading extensively with foreign countries. This, in turn, provided a platform for demographic growth of the city. The growth of Florence's population mirrored the rate of construction, many churches and palazzi were built. This prosperity was shattered when Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa
Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor
Frederick I Barbarossa was a German Holy Roman Emperor. He was elected King of Germany at Frankfurt on 4 March 1152 and crowned in Aachen on 9 March, crowned King of Italy in Pavia in 1155, and finally crowned Roman Emperor by Pope Adrian IV, on 18 June 1155, and two years later in 1157 the term...

 invaded the Italian peninsula in 1185. The Margraves of Tuscany re-acquired Florence and its townlands. The Florentines re-asserted their independence when Holy Roman Emperor
Holy Roman Emperor
The Holy Roman Emperor is a term used by historians to denote a medieval ruler who, as German King, had also received the title of "Emperor of the Romans" from the Pope...

 Henry VI
Henry VI, Holy Roman Emperor
Henry VI was King of Germany from 1190 to 1197, Holy Roman Emperor from 1191 to 1197 and King of Sicily from 1194 to 1197.-Early years:Born in Nijmegen,...

 died in 1197.

The 13th century


Florence’s population continued to grow into the 12th century, reaching 30,000 inhabitants. As has been said the extra inhabitants supported the city's trade and vice versa. Several new bridges and churches were built, most prominently the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore
Santa Maria del Fiore
The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore is the cathedral church of Florence, Italy. The Duomo, as it is ordinarily called, was begun in 1296 in the Gothic style to the design of Arnolfo di Cambio and completed structurally in 1436 with the dome engineered by Filippo Brunelleschi...

, in 1294. The buildings from the era serve as Florence’s best example of Gothic Architecture
Gothic architecture
Gothic architecture is a style of architecture that flourished during the high and late medieval period. It evolved from Romanesque architecture and was succeeded by Renaissance architecture....

. Politically, Florence was barely able to maintain peace between factions. The precarious peace that existed at the beginning of the century was destroyed in 1216, when two factions known as the Guelphs and the Ghibellines began to war. The Ghibellines were the noble rulers of Florence. The Guelphs were populists.

The Ghibellines, who had ruled the city since 1244, were deposed in 1250 by the Guelphs. They pursued a very liberal policy, which became known as the Primo Popolo. The Guelphs led Florence to prosper further. Their primarily mercantile orientation soon became evident in one of their earliest achievements: the introduction of a new coin, the Florin, in 1252. It was widely used beyond Florence’s borders due to its reliable, fixed gold content and soon became one of the common currencies of Europe and the Near East. The same year saw the creation of the Palazzo del Popolo
Palazzo Comunale (San Gimignano)
The Palazzo Comunale of San Gimignano is in the Piazza del Duomo close to the Collegiata church. Also known as the Palazzo del Popolo , the palazzo has been the seat of civic power in the comune since the 13th century...

. The Guelphs lost the reins of power after Florence suffered a catastrophic defeat at the Battle of Montaperti
Battle of Montaperti
The Battle of Montaperti was fought on September 4, 1260, between Florence and Siena in Tuscany as part of the conflict between the Guelphs and Ghibellines...

. The Ghibellines resumed power and undid all the advances of the Guelphs. They demolished hundreds of towers, homes and palaces. The fragility of their rule caused the Ghibellines to seek out an arbitrator in the form of Pope Clement IV. Fortunately for Florence, the Pope openly favoured the Guelphs. They were duly restored to power.

The Florentine economy reached its zenith in the latter half of the thirteenth century. The famed Palazzo della Signoria was built, designed by Arnolfo di Cambio
Arnolfo di Cambio
Arnolfo di Cambio was an Italian architect and sculptor.-Biography:Arnolfo was born in Colle Val d'Elsa, Tuscany....

. The Florentine townlands were divided into administrative districts in 1292. The city’s numerous luxurious palazzi were becoming surrounded by townhouses, built by the ever prospering merchant class. In 1298, one of the leading banking families of Europe, the Bonsignoris, were bankrupted and so the city of Siena lost her status as the banking center of Europe to Florence.

Florentine banking, the Black Death and the rise of the Medici


The golden florin of the Republic of Florence was the first Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

an gold coin struck in sufficient quantities to play a significant commercial role since the seventh century. As many Florentine banks were international companies with branches across Europe, the florin quickly became the dominant trade coin of Western Europe for large scale transactions, replacing silver bars in multiples of the mark (a weight unit
Units of measurement
A unit of measurement is a definite magnitude of a physical quantity, defined and adopted by convention and/or by law, that is used as a standard for measurement of the same physical quantity. Any other value of the physical quantity can be expressed as a simple multiple of the unit of...

 equal to eight ounces).
In fact, with the collapse of the Bonsignori family, several new banking families sprang up in Florence: the Bardis
Bardi family
The Bardi family was an influential Florentine family that started the powerful banking company, the Compagnia dei Bardi.Along with the Peruzzi family, the Bardis lent Edward III of England 400,000 Gold Florins, which he never repaid....

, Peruzzis and the Acciaioli. The friction between the Guelphs and the Ghibelliens did not cease, authority still passed between the two frequently. Florence's reign as the foremost banking city of Europe did not last long; the aforesaid families were bankrupt in 1340, largely because of Edward III of England
Edward III of England
Edward III was King of England from 1327 until his death and is noted for his military success. Restoring royal authority after the disastrous reign of his father, Edward II, Edward III went on to transform the Kingdom of England into one of the most formidable military powers in Europe...

’s refusal to pay his debts and a Europe-wide economic recession. The same year double-entry bookkeeping
Double-entry bookkeeping system
A double-entry bookkeeping system is a set of rules for recording financial information in a financial accounting system in which every transaction or event changes at least two different nominal ledger accounts....

 was invented. While the banks perished, Florentine literature flourished, and was home to some of the greatest writers in Italian history: Dante
DANTE
Delivery of Advanced Network Technology to Europe is a not-for-profit organisation that plans, builds and operates the international networks that interconnect the various national research and education networks in Europe and surrounding regions...

, Petrarch
Petrarch
Francesco Petrarca , known in English as Petrarch, was an Italian scholar, poet and one of the earliest humanists. Petrarch is often called the "Father of Humanism"...

 and Boccaccio. They were Europe's first vernacular writers, choosing the Tuscan dialect
Tuscan dialect
The Tuscan language , or the Tuscan dialect is an Italo-Dalmatian language spoken in Tuscany, Italy.Standard Italian is based on Tuscan, specifically on its Florentine variety...

 of Italian (which, as a result, evolved into the standard Italian language
Italian language
Italian is a Romance language spoken mainly in Europe: Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, Vatican City, by minorities in Malta, Monaco, Croatia, Slovenia, France, Libya, Eritrea, and Somalia, and by immigrant communities in the Americas and Australia...

) over Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

.

Florence was hit hard by the Black Death
Black Death
The Black Death was one of the most devastating pandemics in human history, peaking in Europe between 1348 and 1350. Of several competing theories, the dominant explanation for the Black Death is the plague theory, which attributes the outbreak to the bacterium Yersinia pestis. Thought to have...

. Having originated in the Orient, the plague arrived in Messina in 1347. The plague devastated Europe, robbing it of an estimated 1/3 of its population. This, combined with the economic downturn, took its toll on the city-state. The ensuing collapse of the Feudal System changed the social composition of Europe forever; it was one of the first steps out of the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

.

In 1378 discontented wool workers revolted. The Ciompi revolt, as it is known, established a revolutionary commune. In 1382 the wealthier classes crushed the seeds of rebellion. The famous Medici
Medici
The House of Medici or Famiglia de' Medici was a political dynasty, banking family and later royal house that first began to gather prominence under Cosimo de' Medici in the Republic of Florence during the late 14th century. The family originated in the Mugello region of the Tuscan countryside,...

 bank was established by Giovanni di Bicci de' Medici
Giovanni di Bicci de' Medici
Giovanni di Bicci de' Medici was an Italian banker, the first historically relevant member of Medici family of Florence, and the founder of the Medici bank...

 in October 1397. The bank continued to exist (albeit in an extremely diminished form) until the time of Ferdinando II de'Medici
Ferdinando II de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany
Ferdinando II de' Medici was grand duke of Tuscany from 1621 to 1670. He was the eldest child of Cosimo II de' Medici and Maria Maddalena of Austria. His 49 year rule was punctuated by the terminations of the remaining operations of the Medici Bank, and the beginning of Tuscany's long economic...

 in the seventeenth century. But, for now, Giovanni’s bank flourished.

Prelude of the Renaissance


The 15th century did not begin well for Florence. The state authorities had been approached by the Duchy of Milan
Duchy of Milan
The Duchy of Milan , was created on the 1st of may 1395, when Gian Galeazzo Visconti, Lord of Milan, purchased a diploma for 100,000 Florins from King Wenceslaus. It was this diploma that installed, Gian Galeazzo as Duke of Milan and Count of Pavia...

 in 1422, with a treaty, that prohibited Florence's interference with Milan’s impending war with the Republic of Genoa
Republic of Genoa
The Most Serene Republic of Genoa |Ligurian]]: Repúbrica de Zêna) was an independent state from 1005 to 1797 in Liguria on the northwestern Italian coast, as well as Corsica from 1347 to 1768, and numerous other territories throughout the Mediterranean....

. Florence obliged, but Milan disregarded its own treaty and occupied a Florentine border town. The conservative government wanted war, while the people bemoaned such a stance as they would be subject to enormous taxe increases. The republic went to war with Milan, and won, upon the Republic of Venice
Republic of Venice
The Republic of Venice or Venetian Republic was a state originating from the city of Venice in Northeastern Italy. It existed for over a millennium, from the late 7th century until 1797. It was formally known as the Most Serene Republic of Venice and is often referred to as La Serenissima, in...

's entry on their side. The war was concluded in 1427, and the Visconti
House of Visconti
Visconti is the family name of two important Italian noble dynasties of the Middle Ages. There are two distinct Visconti families: The first one in the Republic of Pisa in the mid twelfth century who achieved prominence first in Pisa, then in Sardinia where they became rulers of Gallura...

 of Milan were forced to sign an unfavourable treaty. The debt incurred during the war was gargantuan, approximately 4,200,000 florins. To pay, the state had to change the tax system. The current estimo system was replaced with the castato. The castato was based on a citizen’s entire wealth, while the estimo was simply a form of income tax. Apart from war, Filippo Brunelleschi
Filippo Brunelleschi
Filippo Brunelleschi was one of the foremost architects and engineers of the Italian Renaissance. He is perhaps most famous for inventing linear perspective and designing the dome of the Florence Cathedral, but his accomplishments also included bronze artwork, architecture , mathematics,...

 created the renowned dome of the Santa Maria del Fiore, which astounded contemporaries and modern observers alike.

The founding of a dynasty


The son of Giovanni di Bicci de' Medici, Cosimo de' Medici succeeded his father as the head of the Medici Bank. He played a prominent role in the government of Florence until his exile in 1433, after a disastrous war with Tuscany’s neighbour, the Republic of Lucca. Cosimo's exile in Venice lasted for less than a year, when the people of Florence overturned Cosimo’s exile in a democratic vote. Cosimo returned to the acclaim of his people and the banishment of the Albizzi family, who had exiled Cosimo.

Cosimo’s reign (1434–1464)




The Renaissance began during Cosimo’s de facto rule of Florence, the seeds of which had arguably been laid before the Black Death tore through Europe. Niccolò Niccoli was the leading Florence humanist scholar of the time. He appointed the first Professor of Greek
Greeks
The Greeks, also known as the Hellenes , are a nation and ethnic group native to Greece, Cyprus and neighboring regions. They also form a significant diaspora, with Greek communities established around the world....

, Manuel Chrysoloras
Manuel Chrysoloras
Manuel Chrysoloras was a pioneer in the introduction of Greek literature to Western Europe during the late middle ages....

 (the founder of Hellenic studies in Italy), at the University of Florence in 1397. Niccoli was a keen collector of ancient manuscripts, which he bequeathed to Cosimo upon his death in 1437. Bracciolini succeeded Niccoli as the principal humanist of Florence. Bracciolini was born Arezzo
Arezzo
Arezzo is a city and comune in Central Italy, capital of the province of the same name, located in Tuscany. Arezzo is about 80 km southeast of Florence, at an elevation of 296 m above sea level. In 2011 the population was about 100,000....

 in 1380. He toured Europe, searching for more ancient Greco-Roman manuscripts for Niccoli. Unlike his employer, Bracciolini also authored his own works. He was made the Chancellor of Florence shortly before his death, by Cosimo, who was his best friend.

Florence hosted the Great Ecumenical Council in 1439; this council was launched in an attempt to reconcile the Byzantine Orthodox Church with Roman Catholicism
Catholicism
Catholicism is a broad term for the body of the Catholic faith, its theologies and doctrines, its liturgical, ethical, spiritual, and behavioral characteristics, as well as a religious people as a whole....

. Pope Eugenius IV convened it in reply to a cry for assistance from the Emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire (also known as the Byzantine Empire
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

) John VIII Palaiologos
John VIII Palaiologos
John VIII Palaiologos or Palaeologus , was the penultimate reigning Byzantine Emperor, ruling from 1425 to 1448.-Life:John VIII Palaiologos was the eldest son of Manuel II Palaiologos and Helena Dragaš, the daughter of the Serbian prince Constantine Dragaš...

. John VIII's empire was slowly being devoured by the Ottoman Turks. The council was a huge boost to Florence’s international prestige. The council deliberated until July 1439. Both parties had reached a compromise, and the Pope agreed to militarily aid the Byzantine Emperor. Unfortunately, upon John VIII’s homecoming to Constantinople, the Greeks rejected the compromise, leading to riots throughout what remained of the Byzantine Empire. John VIII was forced to repudiate the agreement with the Roman church to appease the rioters. As a result, no Western aid was forthcoming and the Byzantine Empire’s fate was sealed. Fourteen years later in 1453, Constantinople fell to the Ottomans.

Cosimo’s fervent patronage transformed Florence into the epitome of a Renaissance city. He employed Donatello
Donatello
Donato di Niccolò di Betto Bardi , also known as Donatello, was an early Renaissance Italian artist and sculptor from Florence...

, Brunelleschi, and Michelozzo
Michelozzo
thumb|250px|[[Palazzo Medici]] in Florence.Michelozzo di Bartolomeo Michelozzi was an Italian architect and sculptor.-Biography:...

. All these artistic commissions cost Cosimo over 600,000 florins. On the political scene, Filippo Maria Visconti
Filippo Maria Visconti
Filippo Maria Visconti was ruler of Milan from 1412 to 1447.-Biography:Filippo Maria Visconti, who had become nominal ruler of Pavia in 1402, succeeded his assassinated brother Gian Maria Visconti as Duke of Milan in 1412. They were the sons of Gian Galeazzo Visconti, Gian Maria's predecessor, by...

 of Milan invaded Florence twice in the 1430s, and again in 1440, but failed in his endeavors. The Milanese invasions were largely instigated by the exiled Albizzi family. In 1450, Cosimo’s ally Francesco Sforza, captured the city of Milan, declaring himself its duke. The previous Milanese duke died heirless and Francesco exercised his claim to Milan through his wife, the aforementioned duke's daughter. Cosimo had endured many crises in his reign, but had managed to cement Medici power over Florence, and in the process became a great patron of the arts. Cosimo died in 1464.

Piero the Gouty (1416–1469)




Piero the Gouty was the eldest son of Cosimo. Piero, as his sobriquet the gouty implies, suffered from gout
Gout
Gout is a medical condition usually characterized by recurrent attacks of acute inflammatory arthritis—a red, tender, hot, swollen joint. The metatarsal-phalangeal joint at the base of the big toe is the most commonly affected . However, it may also present as tophi, kidney stones, or urate...

 and did not enjoy good health. Lorenzo the Magnificent was Piero’s eldest son by his wife Lucrezia Tornabuoni
Lucrezia Tornabuoni
Lucrezia Tornabuoni was a daughter of Francesco di Simone Tornabuoni and Nanna di Niccolo di Luigi Guicciardini. Her brother was Giovanni Tornabuoni.- Biography :...

. Piero’s reign furthered the always fractious political divisions of Florence. Cosimo had called up huge debts owed to the Medici Bank. These debts were owed primarily by a Florentine nobleman, Luca Pitti
Luca Pitti
Luca Pitti was a Florentine banker during the period of the republic presided over by Cosimo de' Medici. He was a loyal friend and servant to the Medici and the republic...

. Lucca called for an armed insurrection against Piero, but a co-conspirator rebutted this. Duke Francesco Sforza of Milan died in 1466, and his son Gian Galeazzo Sforza
Gian Galeazzo Sforza
Gian Galeazzo Sforza was the sixth Duke of Milan.Born in Abbiategrasso, he was only 7 years old when in 1476 his father, Galeazzo Maria Sforza, was assassinated and Gian Galeazzo became the Duke of Milan...

 became the new Milenese duke. With the death of Francesco Sforza, Florence lost a valuable ally among the other Italian states.

In August 1466, the conspirators acted. They received support from the Duke of Ferrara, who marched troops into the Florentine countryside with the intent of deposing Piero. The coup failed. The Florentines were not willing to support it, and soon after their arrival, Ferrara's troops left the city. The conspirators were exiled for life. While the internal problems were fixed, Venice took the opportunity to invade Florentine territory in 1467. Piero appointed Federigo da Montefeltro, Lord of Urbino
Urbino
Urbino is a walled city in the Marche region of Italy, south-west of Pesaro, a World Heritage Site notable for a remarkable historical legacy of independent Renaissance culture, especially under the patronage of Federico da Montefeltro, duke of Urbino from 1444 to 1482...

, to command his mercenaries. An inconclusive battle ensued, with the Venetians forces retreating. In the winter of 1469 Piero died.

Lorenzo “the Magnificent” (1469–1492)




Lorenzo succeeded his father, Piero. Lorenzo, as heir, was accordingly groomed by his father to rule over Florence. Lorenzo was the greatest artistic patron of the Renaissance. He patronised Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci was an Italian Renaissance polymath: painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist and writer whose genius, perhaps more than that of any other figure, epitomized the Renaissance...

, Michelangelo
Michelangelo
Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni , commonly known as Michelangelo, was an Italian Renaissance painter, sculptor, architect, poet, and engineer who exerted an unparalleled influence on the development of Western art...

 and Botticelli, among others. During Lorenzo's reign, the Renaissance truly descended on Florence. Lorenzo commissioned a multitude of amazing pieces of art and also enjoyed collecting fine gems. Lorenzo had many children with his wife Clarice Orsini
Clarice Orsini
Clarice Orsini was the daughter of Jacopo Orsini, Lord of Monterotondo and Bracciano, and his wife and cousin Maddalena Orsini. Born in the Papal States, she is most known as the wife of Lorenzo de' Medici , de facto ruler of the Florentine Republic...

, including the future Pope Leo X and his eventual successor in Florence, Piero the Unfortunate.

Lorenzo’s reign boasted an unprecedented peace throughout Italy, which collapsed upon his death in 1492. Lorenzo's brother Giuliano was killed before his own eyes in the Pazzi Conspiracy of 1478. This plot was instigated by the Pazzi family. The coup was unsuccessful, and the conspirators were executed in a very violent manner. The scheme was supported by the Archbishop of Pisa, Francesco Salviati
Francesco Salviati (archbishop)
Francesco Salviati Riario was the archbishop of Pisa in 1475. A blood-member of the Riario family, and of the Salviati family , he was also related by marriage to the Pazzi, Medici, Vettori, and other powerful families...

, who was also executed in his ceremonial robes. News of this sacrilege reached Pope Sixtus IV (who had also supported the conspiracy against the Medicis), Sixtus IV was "outraged" and excommunicated everyone in Florence. Sixtus sent a papal delegation to Florence to arrest Lorenzo. The people of Florence were obviously enraged by the Pope's actions, and the local clergy too. The populace refused to resign Lorenzo to the papal delegation. A war followed, which lasted for two years, until Lorenzo tactfully went about diplomatically securing a peace. Lorenzo died in 1492, and was succeeded by his son Piero.

Piero “the Unfortunate” (1492–1494)



Piero ruled Florence for a mere two years. Charles VIII of France
Charles VIII of France
Charles VIII, called the Affable, , was King of France from 1483 to his death in 1498. Charles was a member of the House of Valois...

 invaded Italy in September 1494. He demanded passage through Florence to Naples, where he intended to secure the throne for himself. Piero met Charles at the fringes of Florence to try and negotiate. Piero caved in to all Charles' demands, and upon arriving back in the city in November, he was branded as a traitor. He was forced to flee the republic, with his family, into exile.

Savonarola’s Florence



After the fall of the Medici, Girolamo Savonarola
Girolamo Savonarola
Girolamo Savonarola was an Italian Dominican friar, Scholastic, and an influential contributor to the politics of Florence from 1494 until his execution in 1498. He was known for his book burning, destruction of what he considered immoral art, and what he thought the Renaissance—which began in his...

 ruled the state. Savonarola was a priest from Ferrara, who came to Florence in the 1480s, and had won the people to his cause by his vigorous preaching, and his predictions. Savonarola’s new government ushered in democratic reforms. It allowed many exiles back into Florence, who were banished by the Medici. Savonarola had a secret scheme. The preacher intended to transform Florence into a hyper-religious “city of god”. Florentines stopped wearing garish colours, and many women took oaths to become nuns. Savonarola became most famous for his “Bonfire of the Vanities
Bonfire of the Vanities
Bonfire of the Vanities refers to the burning of objects that are deemed to be occasions of sin. The most infamous one took place on 7 February 1497, when supporters of the Dominican priest Girolamo Savonarola collected and publicly burned thousands of objects like cosmetics, art, and books in...

”, where he ordered all “vanities” to be gathered and burned. These included wigs, perfume, paintings, and ancient manuscripts.
Savonarola’s Florence collapsed a year later. He was excommunicated by Pope Alexander VI in late 1497. In the same year, Florence embarked on a war with Pisa
Pisa
Pisa is a city in Tuscany, Central Italy, on the right bank of the mouth of the River Arno on the Tyrrhenian Sea. It is the capital city of the Province of Pisa...

, who had been de facto
De facto
De facto is a Latin expression that means "concerning fact." In law, it often means "in practice but not necessarily ordained by law" or "in practice or actuality, but not officially established." It is commonly used in contrast to de jure when referring to matters of law, governance, or...

independent since Charles VIII’s invasion. The endeavour failed miserably, and this led to food shortages. That in turn led to a few isolated cases of the plague. The people blamed him for their woes, and he was tortured and executed by Florentine authorities, in May 1498.

1498–1512


The city was in tatters by the time Savonarola was deposed. The state was now presided over by Piero Soderini
Piero Soderini
Piero di Tommaso Soderini also known as Pier Soderini, was an Italian statesman of the Republic of Florence.-Biography:...

, who was elected ruler for life. This period saw a democracy in Florence, which had very little corruption. The republican government succeeded where Savonarola failed, when Secretary of War, Niccolò Machiavelli
Niccolò Machiavelli
Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli was an Italian historian, philosopher, humanist, and writer based in Florence during the Renaissance. He is one of the main founders of modern political science. He was a diplomat, political philosopher, playwright, and a civil servant of the Florentine Republic...

, achieved in capturing Pisa. It was at this time, that Machiavelli introduced a standing army for Florence, replacing the traditional use of hired mercenaries.

Soderini was repudiated in September 1512, when Cardinal Giovanni de Medici captured Florence with Papal troops, during the War of the League of Cambrai
War of the League of Cambrai
The War of the League of Cambrai, sometimes known as the War of the Holy League and by several other names, was a major conflict in the Italian Wars...

, restoring Medici rule to the Italian city-state.

1512–1533



Soon after arriving back in Florence, Cardinal Giovanni de Medici was beckoned to Rome. Julius II had just died, and he needed to be present for the ensuing Papal conclave
Papal conclave
A papal conclave is a meeting of the College of Cardinals convened to elect a Bishop of Rome, who then becomes the Pope during a period of vacancy in the papal office. The Pope is considered by Roman Catholics to be the apostolic successor of Saint Peter and earthly head of the Roman Catholic Church...

. Giovanni was elected Pope, taking the name Leo X. This effectively brought the Papal States
Papal States
The Papal State, State of the Church, or Pontifical States were among the major historical states of Italy from roughly the 6th century until the Italian peninsula was unified in 1861 by the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia .The Papal States comprised territories under...

 and Florence into a personal union. Leo X ruled Florence by proxy, appointing his brother Giuliano de Medici, to rule in his place.

Giuliano ruled Florence until his death in 1516, and was succeeded by Lorenzo, Duke of Urbino.

He fathered Catherine de' Medici
Catherine de' Medici
Catherine de' Medici was an Italian noblewoman who was Queen consort of France from 1547 until 1559, as the wife of King Henry II of France....

. Lorenzo died from syphilis in 1519, just after the birth of his only child. The Medici channelled all their energy on the Papacy, which Leo X held from 1513–1521. Upon Leo’s death, the Papacy passed to Adrian VI, who ruled until 1523. Then Cardinal Giulio de' Medici was elected Pope Clement VII. Florence at the time was being ruled by Ippolito de' Medici
Ippolito de' Medici
Ippolito de' Medici was the illegitimate only son of Giuliano di Lorenzo de' Medici.Ippolito was born in Urbino. His father died when he was only five , and he was subsequently raised by his uncle Pope Leo X and his cousin Giulio.When Giulio de' Medici was elected pope as Clement VII, Ippolito...

 and Alessandro de' Medici, under the guardianship of Cardinal Passerini. Ippolito was the son of Giuliano de Medici and Alessandro, the alleged son of Clement VII.

In May 1527, Rome was laid siege by the Holy Roman Empire, during in the War of the League of Cognac
War of the League of Cognac
The War of the League of Cognac was fought between the Habsburg dominions of Charles V—primarily Spain and the Holy Roman Empire—and the League of Cognac, an alliance including France, Pope Clement VII, the Republic of Venice, England, the Duchy of Milan and Republic of Florence.- Prelude :Shocked...

. The city was pillaged and destroyed. The Medici were once again deposed in Florence, by the anti-Medici faction, upon learning of the Papal States' defeat. A new wave of Puritanism swept over Florence. Jesus Christ was appointed “King of Florence”. Many new restricting fundamentalist laws were passed.
Clement VII signed the Treaty of Barcelona
Treaty of Barcelona
The Treaty of Barcelona was signed on January 19, 1493 between France and the Catalan-Aragonese Crown. Based on the terms of the agreement, France returned Roussillon and Cerdagne to the Catalan-Aragonese Crown. In return, the Catalan-Aragonese Crown vowed to maintain neutrality during any French...

 with Charles V
Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor
Charles V was ruler of the Holy Roman Empire from 1519 and, as Charles I, of the Spanish Empire from 1516 until his voluntary retirement and abdication in favor of his younger brother Ferdinand I and his son Philip II in 1556.As...

. Charles would, in exchange for the Pope's blessing, invade Florence and restore the Medici. They were restored after a protracted siege.

End of the republic


In 1533, Alessandro de'Medici was created Duke of Florence. This single act brought an end to the republic. The population were infuriated at this. There was some civil insurrection. The Medici were ennobled further in 1569, when Alessandro’s successor was made Grand Duke of Tuscany. The Medici ruled the grand duchy
Grand Duchy of Tuscany
The Grand Duchy of Tuscany was a central Italian monarchy that existed, with interruptions, from 1569 to 1859, replacing the Duchy of Florence. The grand duchy's capital was Florence...

 until their extinction in 1737.

Government


Florence was governed by a council called the signoria
Signoria
A Signoria was an abstract noun meaning 'government; governing authority; de facto sovereignty; lordship in many of the Italian city states during the medieval and renaissance periods....

, which consisted of nine men. The head of the signoria was the gonfaloniere
Gonfaloniere
The Gonfaloniere was a highly prestigious communal post in medieval and Renaissance Italy, notably in Florence and the Papal States. The name derives from gonfalone, the term used for the banners of such communes....

, who was chosen every two months in a lottery, as was his signoria. To be eligible, one had to have sound finances, no arrears or bankruptcies, he had to be older than thirty, had to be a member of Florence's seven main guilds (merchant traders, bankers, two clothe guilds, and judges). The lottery was often pre-determined, and the results were usually favourable to influential families. The roster of names in the lottery were replaced every five years.

The main organs of government were known as the tre maggiori. They were: the twelve good men, the standard bearers of the gonfaloniere, and the signoria. The first two debated and ratified proposed legislation, but could not introduce it. The gonfaloniere’s initial two month-term in office was expanded upon the fall of Savonarola in 1498, to life, much like that of the Venetian
Republic of Venice
The Republic of Venice or Venetian Republic was a state originating from the city of Venice in Northeastern Italy. It existed for over a millennium, from the late 7th century until 1797. It was formally known as the Most Serene Republic of Venice and is often referred to as La Serenissima, in...

 doge
Doge of Venice
The Doge of Venice , often mistranslated Duke was the chief magistrate and leader of the Most Serene Republic of Venice for over a thousand years. Doges of Venice were elected for life by the city-state's aristocracy. Commonly the person selected as Doge was the shrewdest elder in the city...

. The signoria held meetings each day in the Palazzo della Singnoria. Various committees controlled particular aspects of government, e.g. the Committee of War. For administrative purposes, Florence was divided into four districts, which were divided into four sub-districts. The main purpose of these countys was to ease the gathering of local militias.

To hold an elective office, one had to be of a family that had previously held office. The Medici family effectively ruled Florence on a hereditary basis, from 1434–1494, 1512–1527, 1531, until 1533, when Alessandro de Medici was created Duke of Florence, thereby turning Florence into a hereditary monarchy.

See also

  • Duchy of Florence
    Duchy of Florence
    The Duchy of Florence was an Italian monarchy that was centred on the city of Florence, in modern Tuscany, Italy. The duchy was founded in 1532 when Clement VII appointed his illegitimate son Alessandro de' Medici Duke of the Florentine Republic,...

  • Grand Duchy of Tuscany
    Grand Duchy of Tuscany
    The Grand Duchy of Tuscany was a central Italian monarchy that existed, with interruptions, from 1569 to 1859, replacing the Duchy of Florence. The grand duchy's capital was Florence...

  • History of Florence
    History of Florence
    Florence is a major historical city in Italy, distinguished as one of the most outstanding economical, cultural, political and artistic centres in the peninsula from the late Middle Ages to the Renaissance.-Prehistoric evidence:...

  • House of Medici
  • Florence
    Florence
    Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the province of Florence. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with approximately 370,000 inhabitants, expanding to over 1.5 million in the metropolitan area....


External links