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France Responds to the Pazzi Conspiracy 14/03/2011

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12 May 1478

Beloved and great Friends, We have just heard of the great and inhuman outrage, opprobrium and injury, which not long ago has been  committed against your Seigneury against the persons of our most dear and beloved cousin Lorenzo and Giuliano de’ Medici, their friends, relations, servants, and adherents by those of the Pazzi Bank and their dependants; and of the death of our said cousin Giuliano de’ Medici, whereby we have been and are as much grieved as though it had happened to ourselves. Now as your honour and our own has been so gravely offended and as the Medici are our relations and allies, and as we regard this outrage and the death of our cousin Giuliano as though it had happened to our own person, and therefore consider the Pazzi guilty of laesae maiestatis, we cannot permit this deed to go unpunished; we desire with all our heart that adequate punishment should follow as an example to others. We have therefore decided to send to your Excellencies our well-beloved and faithful Councillor and Chamberlain, Messire d’Argenton, Seneschal of our province of Poitou, who is one of the men in whom we have the utmost confidence, to inform you at length of our wishes; he will tell you more about this matter. We beg you to place the same trust in him and the same belief in his words as you would in ours, it is for this that we send him. I pray God, beloved and great friends to keep and to guard you.12th May 1478

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Poggio Bracciolini and the Perugians at Florence 07/03/2011

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Poggio Bracciolini 124: Pleasantry at the expense of an envoy from Perugia.

At the time when the Florentines were at war with Pope Gregory, the people of Perugia, who had deserted the party of the sovereign pontiff for those of Florence, sent to that city certain ambassadors to demand aid. One of them, who was a Doctor, began a long discourse, and at the start, as an introduction to the matter in hand, pronounced these words: ‘Date vobis de oleo vestro’. ‘Another of the party, a humorous fellow, who detested such circumlocutions, interrupted him: What is this about oil?’ he cried. ‘You ask for oil when it is soldiers that we are in need of. Have you forgotten that we have come here to ask for arms, and not oil?’ ‘But these are the very words of the Scripture,’ replied the Doctor. ‘A fine reason for their use,’ ‘ retorted the other. ‘We are the enemies of the Church, and you call the Holy Scriptures to our aid!’ The humor of this man caused the whole company to laugh; the flow of useless words which the Doctor had prepared was cut short, and they came at once to the point of the negotiation.

Cosimo Speaks to the Signory after the Proclamation of Exile 21/02/2011

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Cosimo gave this speech in 1433: it is recorded in Fabroni (Ross trans).

If I thought that this my misfortune and terrible ruin might serve to bring peace to this blessed people not only would exile be acceptable but I should even welcome death, if I were sure that my descendants, Signori, might pride themselves on my having been the cause of the wished-for union of your Republic. As you have decided that I am to go to Padua, I declareth at I am content to go, and to stay wherever you command, not only in the Trevisian State, but should you send me to live amongst the Arabs, or any other people alien to our customs, I would go most willingly; and if your Lordships command me to discover the origin of the ill, as a beloved son is bound to obey his father’s wishes and a good servant the orders of his masters, o would I obey you for the peace of your people. One thing I beg of you, O Signori, that seeing you intend to preserve my life, you take care that it should not be taken by wicked citizens and thus you be put to shame. I do not so much fear the pain of death as the abominable infamy of undeserved assassination, for a violent death is the manifest sign and outcome of a bad life, and I have not led the life of a villain, but of an honest and good merchant. Even if I have not been faultless I have always tried to merit the love of good men, because my actions were good. As, however, disaster comes to me by your orders, I accept it as a boon, and as a benefit to me and to my belongings. Have a care, O Signori, that those should not have their way who are in the Piazza with arms in their hands and anxiously desire my blood, without regard for my innocence. My pain would be small, because such a death being over in a short time cannot be very painful or hard to bear; nothing is so brief as death. But you would earn perpetual infamy by having made me a promise which was broken by villainous citizens: infamy is worse than an innocent death. If I go to the Trevisian State, I leave my heart and my soul with you, and shall only be happy when I can do something for the good of your people, as I pray you and every good citizen to do. Every trouble will be easy to bear as long as I know that my adversity will bring peace and happiness to the city. I know, and this is no small comfort to me, that I never permitted wrong to be done to any one. I never frequented the Palace save when I was summoned; I never roused hatred of the Republic amongst your subalterns because I never ill- treated them; I always declined to be nominated an official, which is often prejudicial to the body and hurtful to the soul; with no small pride I affirm that none can say my ill-behaviour ever caused a city to rebel or to be taken from you; on the contrary our money bought several: ask your soldiers how many times they were paid by me for the Commune with m y own money, to be returned to me when convenient to the Commune. Never have I been found wanting when the Commune could be enlarged, and although I am exiled, I shall ever be ready at the call of this people. In conclusion, Signori, I pray God to keep you in his grace and in happiness in this fortunate Republic, and to give me patience to bear my unhappy life.

Savonarola Leads a Procession 31/01/2011

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The procession took place in 1496 and is reported here from Burlamacchi’s Life of Savonarola

First having heard Mass, all communicated, and with palms in their hands went to the sermon in the cathedral, at which the children assembled in such multitudes that they occupied that morning all the four parts of the galleries (round the walls). When it was over they all went to the church of the Annunziata, from there they set out and went to the door of the first cloister of St. Mark’s; entering through the cloister they came to the church, where they gave to each a red cross. Leaving St. Mark’s, they went by the Via Larga to St. John’s, where they went in, in pairs, grouped according to their quarters in the town. The procession was followed humbly and devotedly by the bearers of the tabernacle, whereon was painted the Saviour, seated on the ass and surrounded by many people, who strewed their garments on the ground, and it seemed as if they sang in a loud voice, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David’. Facing it there was a painting of a Virgin of marvellous beauty with the crown which was presented to her by the Father [Savonarola] when he went as ambassador [to the King of France], and the crown was borne up by angels.

After the tabernacle came many pairs of children in the guise of most beautiful angels, who seemed to have come out of Paradise. There were eight thousand of them, and it was a marvellous thing, taking into account their order, the distance they walked, their silence. Thus they marched, singing psalms with great fervour and spirit and saying the office. Many of them carried dishes in their hands in which to receive alms for the Monte de Pietà (Public Loan Offices).

After the children walked in order the monks, and then the clergy, followed by a large number of men (seculars), with the red crosses and an olive-branch in their hands. Then came the girls dressed in white with garlands on their heads, and at the end all the women. So great was the zeal that day that not only children and women, but even grave and noble men, full of wisdom and prudence, forgetting this worldly wisdom, robed themselves in white like the children, and danced and sang before the tabernacle of the Saviour as did David before the Ark. Despising the world’s pomps, they held the olive-branches and red crosses in their hands, and they shouted ceaselessly, in high voices like the children, ‘Long live Christ, our King’. And there was such joy in their hearts that it seemed as if the glory of Paradise had descended to earth; and many tears of joy and devotion were shed.

They came in this manner to the Piazza di Signoria, where they sang some verses in honour of the day by Girolamo Benevieni, one of which begins: ‘Live long in our hearts, long live Fiorenza’. And from the piazza (square), still singing and rejoicing, they went round the city, coming at last to the cathedral church of St. Mary of the Flowers. They entered and offered to God their hearts and spirits, committing to Him the city, and offering all the alms, which they had received in large quantities for the Monte di Pietà. Not only were the children’s dishes full of money, rings, jewels, and other precious things, but also many other dishes, which were placed on an altar of marvellous grandeur, which stood under the cupola of the church, where there was much valuable clothing and a large quantity of gold and silver. With this money there were established four Monte di Pietà, one for each quarter of the city. This was the means of turning out the Jews who lent money on usury in the city. When these offerings and thanksgiving to God had been made, they returned to the Piazza of St. Mark, where all the monks came out of the convent without hoods and wearing the alb and crowned with garlands. They formed a round dance through the square, singing psalms, thinking nothing of appearances, and the sweetness of their singing caused everyone to dissolve into tears of happiness. And afterwards all went home much edified. It was in truth a wonderful day, full of joy and exultation, during which everyone seemed almost driven mad by love for Christ, and Florence was by this mystery become a new Jerusalem.

Cosimo recalls his imprisonment 24/01/2011

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1433 from Cosimo’s Diary

On the election of the new Signory (September 1433) it was rumoured that during their rule great changes were to be made. News was sent to me in the Mugello, where I had been for some months in order to escape from the contests and divisions in the city, that my presence was necessary. So on the 4th of September I returned, and on the same day visited the Gonfalonier and the others, as well as Giovanni dello Scelto who I thought was my friend, and who was under obligations to me, as were also the others. When I told them what I had heard, they denied it, and told me to be of good cheer, as they hoped to leave the city in the same condition as they found it when their time was up. On the 5th they called a council of eight citizens, saying they desired their advice on certain matters. They were Messer Giovanni Guicciardini, Bartolommeo Ridolfi, Ridolfo Peruzzi, Tommaso di Lapo Corsi, Messer Agnolo Acciaioli, Giovanni di Messer Rinaldo Gian-figliazzi, MesseRinaldo degli A1bizzi, and myself Cosimo. So although as has been said, it was reported that a revolution was imminent yet, having their assurances and believing them to be my friends I did not credit it.

On the morning of the 7th, under colour of the said council they sent for me; and when I arrived at the Palace I found most of my companions and we talked together. After sometime I was told by order of the Signory to go upstairs and by the captain of the infantry I was put into a room called the Barbaria, and locked in.

On hearing this the whole city rose. During the day a council was held by the citizens who had been summoned and the Gonfalonier told them I had been detained for a good reason which would be explained another time, and that the Signory desired no advice on this point, and so dismissed them. And the Signori banished me to Padua for a year. This decision was at once made known to my brother Lorenzo, who was in the Mugello, and to Averardo, my cousin, who was at Pisa. The news was also sent to Niccolo da Tolentino, captain of the Commune, who was my good friend. Lorenzo came to Florence that same day, and the Signori sent for him, but he being warned why they wanted him, left at once and returned to Trebbio. Averardo also left Pisa in haste, as they had given orders to seize him. Had they taken us all three, we should have been in an evil plight.

Niccolo da Tolentino on hearing the news came to Lastra with his company in tending to raise the city, so that I might be released. At the same time, when it was known in the mountains of the Romagna and in other places, great numbers of foot-soldiers went to Lorenzo. But the captain and Lorenzo were advised not to make a disturbance, or evil might befall me so they desisted. Although this advice was given by relations and friends and in all sincerity yet it was not good for had they advanced at once I should have been free, and he who was the cause of all would have been undone.

We may, however, say that all was for the best, as in the end good came of it, and more honour to me, as I shall relate hereafter. My friends being averse as I have said to create any disturbance the captain returned to his quarters pretending that he had come for another reason, and Lorenzo went to Venice with my sons taking with him all he could of money and small valuables. And the Signory banished Lorenzo to Venice for a year, myself to Padua for five years, and Averardo to Naples for five years. Then on the 9th the bell was rung for a parliament, and those who had been the cause of all assembled on the Piazza with much infantry. Twenty-three citizens were also summoned verily a small number, and but few of the people were present, because in truth the mass of the citizens were ill-pleased.

The death of Lorenzo de’ Medici 17/01/2011

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1492

. . . Then he devoted himself to consoling his son Piero, for the others were not there, and exhorted him to bear this law of necessity with courage, feeling sure that the aid of Heaven would be vouchsafed to him as it had been to himself in many and divers occasions, if he only acted wisely. Meanwhile your Lazarus, the doctor from Pavia, arrived, most learned as it seemed to me, but summoned too late to be of any use. Yet to do something he ordered various precious stones to be pounded together in a mortar for I know not what kind of medicine. Lorenzo thereupon asked the servants what the doctor was doing in his room and what he was preparing, and when I answered that he was composing a remedy to comfort his intestines he recognized my voice, and looking kindly as is his wont: ‘Oh, Angiolo!’ he said, ‘art thou here?’ and raising his languid arms took both my hands and pressed them tightly. I could not stifle my sobs or stay my tears though I tried to hide them by turning my face away. But he showed no emotion and continued to press my hands between his. When he saw that I could not speak for crying, quite naturally he loosened my hands, and I ran into the adjoining room where I could give free vent to my grief and to my tears. Then drying my eyes I returned, and as soon as he saw me he called me to him and asked what Pico della Mirandola was doing. I replied that Pico had remained in town fearing to molest him with his presence.

‘And I,’ said Lorenzo, ‘but for the fear that the journey here might be irksome to him would be most glad to see him and speak to him for the last time before I leave you all.’ I asked if I should send for him. ‘Certainly, and with all speed,’ answered he. This I did, and Pico came and sat by the bed, whilst I leaned against his knees in order to hear the languid voice of my lord for the last time. With what goodness, with what courtesy, I may say with what caresses, Lorenzo received him. First he asked his pardon for thus disturbing him, begging him to regard it as a sign of the friendship – the love – he bore him, assuring him that he died more willingly after seeing so dear a friend. Then introducing, as was his wont, pleasant and familiar sayings, he joked also with us. ‘I wish,’ he said to Pico, ‘that death had spared me until your library had been complete’.

Pico had hardly left the room when Fra Girolamo [Savonarola] of Ferrara, a man celebrated for his doctrine and his sanctity and an excellent preacher, came in. To his exhortations to remain firm in his faith and to live in future, if God granted him life, free from crime, or if God so willed it to receive death willingly, Lorenzo answered that he was firm in his religion, that his life would always be guided by it, and that nothing could be sweeter to him than death, if such was the divine will. Fra Girolamo then turned to go, when Lorenzo said : ‘Oh, Father, before going deign to give me thy benediction.’ Bowing his head, immersed in piety and religion, he repeated the words and the prayers of the friar, without paying any attention to the grief now openly shown of his attendants. It seemed that all, save Lorenzo, were going to die, so calm was he. He gave no signs of anxiety or of sorrow; even in that supreme moment he showed his usual strength of mind and his fortitude. The doctors who stood round, not to seem idle, worried him with their remedies and assistance. He submitted to everything they suggested, not because he thought it would save him, but in order not to offend anyone, even in death. To the last he had such mastery over himself that he joked about his own death. Thus when given something to eat and asked how he liked it, he replied, ‘As well as a dying man can like anything’. He embraced us all tenderly and humbly asked pardon if during his illness he had caused annoyance to anyone. Then, disposing himself to receive extreme unction, he commended his soul to God. . . ,

Anecdotes about Dante from Poggio Bracciolini 27/12/2010

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The following two anecdotes appear in the work of Poggio Bracciolini (57-58).

Ingenious retort of Dante, the Florentine poet. Dante Alighieri, our Florentine poet, received for some time at Verona the hospitality of the elder Cane della Scala, a most generous prince. Cane had ever in his company another Florentine, a man without birth, learning or tact, who was good for nothing but to laugh and play the fool. His silly jokes, for they were not worthy the name of wit, so pleased Cane that he made him rich presents. Dante, a man of the greatest learning, modest as he was wise, regarded this person as a stupid beast, as he had reason to. ‘How does it come to pass,’ said one day the Florentine to Dante, ‘that you are poor and needy, you who pass for learned and wise, while I am rich, I who am stupid and ignorant?’ ‘When I shall find,’ replied Dante, ‘a master like myself, and whose tastes are similar to my own, as you have found one, then he will enrich me too.’ Excellent and just reply; for the great are ever pleased with the company of their like.

Witty reply of the same poet. Dante was one time at the table between the elder and the younger of the Cane della Scala. In order to put the joke upon him the attendants of the two lords threw stealthily all the bones at the feet of Dante. On arising from the table the whole company turned toward Dante, astonished to see so great a quantity of bones at his place. But he, quick to take advantage of the situation, said: ‘Surely it is nothing to wonder at if the dogs have eaten their bones. I myself am no dog.’

Cosimo’s Library 13/12/2010

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Vespasiano da Bisticci c. 1480, Le Vite

When Cosimo had finished the residence and a good part of the church [San Lorenzo], he fell to thinking how he should have the place peopled with honest men of letters; and in this way it occurred to him to found a fine library; and one day when I happened to be present in his chamber, he said to me: ‘In what way would you furnish this library?’ I replied that as for buying the books it would be impossible, for they were not to be had. Then he said: ‘How is it possible then to furnish it?’ I told him that it would be necessary to have the books copied. He asked in reply if I would be willing to undertake the task. I answered him, that I was willing. He told me to commence my work and he would leave everything to me; and as for the money that would be necessary he would refer the matter to Don Archangel, then prior of the monastery, who would draw bills upon the bank, which should be paid. The library was commenced at once, for it was his pleasure that it should be done with the utmost possible celerity; and as I did not lack for money I collected in a short time forty -five writers, and finished 200 volumes in twenty-two months; in which work we made use of an excellent arrangement, that of the library of pope Nicholas, which he had given to Cosimo, in the form of a catalogue made out with his own hands.

Coming to the arrangement of the library, in the first place there is the Bible and the Concordance, with all their commentaries, as well ancient as modern. And the first writer who commenced to comment on the Holy Scriptures, and who indicated the manner of commenting to all the others, was Origen; he wrote in Greek, and St. Jerome translated a part of his works, on the five books of Moses. These are the works of St. Ignatius the martyr, who wrote in Greek, and was a disciple of St. John the Evangelist; most fervent in his Christian zeal, he wrote and preached and for this won the crown of martyrdom. There are the works of St. Basil, bishop of Cappadocia, a Greek; of St. Gregory of Nazianzus, of Gregory of Nyssa, his brother, of St. John Chrysostom, of St. Athanasius of Alexandria, of St. Ephraem the Monk, of John Climacus, also a Greek; all the works of the Greek doctors that are translated into Latin are there. Then follow the holy doctors and holy writers in Latin, beginning with the works of Lactantius, who was very ancient and had praiseworthy qualifications; Hilary of Poitou, a most solemn doctor; St. Cyprian of Carthage, most elegant and saintly; the works of Tertullian, the learned Carthaginian. Then follow the four doctors of the Latin church, and all their works are here; and there is no other library that has these works complete. Then begin the works of St. Jerome; all the works of St. Gregory, the moral doctor; all the works of St. Bernard the Abbot, of Hugh of St. Victor, of St. Anselm, of St. Isidore, bishop of Seville, of Bede, of Rabanus Maurus. Coming then to the modern doctors, of St. Thomas Aquinas, of Albert Magnus, of Alexander of Hales, of St. Bonaventura; the works of the Archbishop Antonino of Florence, that is, his Stimma.

Coming to the philosophers, all the works of Aristotle, both his moral and natural Philosophy; all the commentaries of St. Thomas and Albertus Magnus on the philosophy of Aristotle, and still other commentators upon the same; his Logic and other modern systems of Logic. In canon law, the Decretum, the Decretals, Liber Sexius, the Clementines, the Summa of the bishop of Ostia; Innoceutius; Lectures of the bishop of Ostia on the Decretals; Giovanni Andrea, on Liber Sextus, and an anonymous lecture on the Decretum, and still other works on canon law by the abbott of Cicilia and others. Of histories, all the Ten of Livy; Caesar’s Commentaries; Suetonius Tranquillus, The Lives of the Emperors; Plutarch’s Lives; Quiutus Curtius, the Deeds of Alexander the Great; Sallust, De bello Jugurthino et Catilinario; Valerius Maximus, The Memorable Deeds and Sayings of the Ancients; Emilius Probus, Great Leaders of Foreign Peoples; a history by Ser Zembino, who commenced at the beginning of the world, and came down to pope Celestine, a work of great information; the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius Pamphili, and De temporibus  the Historiale of Vincenzo; all the works of Tully in three volumes; all the works of Seneca in one volume; Quintilian, De institutione oratoria, and the Declamations; Vocabulista; Nonius Marcellus; Pompeius Festus; the Elegantiaeoi Valla; Papias; Uguccione; Catholicon. Poets: Virgil, Terence, Ovid, Lucan, Statius, the tragedies of Seneca, Plautus. Of grammarians, Priscian. And all the other works necessary to a library, of which no one was wanting; and since there were not copies of all these works in Florence, we sent to Milan, to Bologna and to other places, wherever they might be found. Cosimo lived to see the library wholly completed, and the cataloguing and the arranging of the books; in all of which he took great pleasure, and the work went forward, as was his custom, with great promptness.