HIST 308 05 Italian CIties in the Fifteenth Century

Portraits of the urban environments

14th c: 5 biggest cities in Latin Europe: Naples, Venice, Milan, Paris,  Florence

 Florence in the 15th century

major center in many fields


Visual arts

Vernacular literature/volgare: Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio

Population  1340s over 100,00: 1400: 50,000-70,000


Florence images 15th c

Houses and House Towers

Old Palazzi and new


Public buildings
ex: Cathedral: begun 1299, Dedicated 1436

Ex: S. Maria Novella



Economy: wool trade and banking

  • papacy, house of Anjou (France, Naples)
  • expenses of war
  • silk industry
  • conquest of Pisa 1406—a fleet. Trade, defense
  • guilds: 7 great guilds, 14 lesser


Government: republic

  • legislative assemblies, executive committees
  • from 1293: guild membership to participate in govt
  • scrutinies
  • 9 priors:  signoria; chosen by lot
  • buonuomini and gonfaloniere: Policy advising
  • magistrates
  • 2 legislative assemblies

rise of Medici family

  • Cosimo il Vecchio (1389-1464)
  • Piero   (d. 1469)
  • Lorenzo (1449-92)




Coluccio Salutati, chancellor 1375-1406

  • diplomatic correspondence; circle of humanists active in city life;
  • study of Greek language

Leonardo Bruni (c. 1370-1444); chancellor from 1427

book collecting


Library at S. Marco, Florence

Florence and library

Medici patronage
Niccolò Niccoli wills books
Ties to subsequent development of Vatican Library


 Venice: La Serenissima


republic (oligarchic)


Cultural and intellectual center

Unique features

Economy: trade plus industry

shipbuilding; printing (late 15th c +)

a post-classical city

location: lagoon

historical development: early from Byzantine control


oligarchy 1297

  • Maggior Consiglio—patricians over 25.
  • practical govt: senate
  • smaller councils with a variety of functions
  • doge

Loredan G Bellini

Giovanni Bellini, Leonardo Loredan

  • mixed constitution

Patricians; cittadini

15th c:
Turkish threats

subject cities:

a) stato di mar

b) stato di terrafirma

cultural landscape

  • humanists: patricians and citizens
  • universities and scholastics
  • University of Padua
  • Lectureships in city of Venice
  • printing center: more Greek, later Hebrew, Arabic

private residences: palazzi