Dante, Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Donatello, Amerigo Vespucci, Galileo, Machiavelli, Botticelli and Brunellschi; this is a list of world famous explorers, artists, politicians, sculptors, scientists, mathematicians and poets. There is one thing that this diverse list of greats has in common; they all come from the tiny little city of Florence.
In the middle Ages, Florence was a city of money lenders and cloth makers. Its businessmen were very successful and these wealthy men of commerce patronised the arts, science and exploration. This made Florence the ‘Cradle of the Renaissance’. It made the Florentine dialect the source of modern language Italian, and the Florentine currency, the florin, a world monetary standard.
FACT 1: Florence was founded in the first century BCE as a Roman Military Colony. It was built as a rectangular garrison town with rectangular roads and a central square with a Temple to mars, and amphitheatre and public baths. By the third century CE, Florence had become the provincial capital of the Roman Empire.
FACT 2: Over the centuries Florence grew in strength and power. The wool and cloth making industries developed rapidly. Florence developed its own political system and in 1293 passed the Ordinances of Justice. This ordinance barred the nobility and labourers from gaining political power.
FACT 3: In 1266 a group of merchant families overcame all dissent and aligned Florence to papal protection. These merchants soon took over as tax collectors for the Pope, in all of Europe. The families of Bardi and Peruzzi soon dominated international banking.
FACT 4: Florence continued to prosper and by the middle of the 14th century it was one of the great cities of Europe with a population of 90.000.
FACT 5: In 1398, almost half the population of Florence succumbed to the plague. As the Black Death swept through the city, it brought with it famine and bankruptcy and Florence went through its worst period of adversity.
FACT 6: The successful merchant Medici gained power in the early 15th century and the city prospered. This highly successful family patronised the arts and were the financial power behind much of Florence’s contribution to the Renaissance.
FACT 7: In 1982, Florence was inscribed on the World Heritage List of UNESCO. The buildings of this city are works of art in themselves. They have been designed by the best architects of the period. Within the walls of these buildings are housed priceless works of art, executed by the most skilled s painters the world has ever produced.
FACT 8: The continents of North and South America get their name from the Florentine explorer, Amerigo Vespucci, who debunked the Columbian theory that the West Indies and Brazil was the western most tip of the continent of Asia. His fellow explorer, Giovanni Verrazano was the first European (after the Norse expeditions in 1000 AD) to explore the Atlantic coast of North America. The Verazzano Narrows Bridge over New York Harbour is named after him.
FACT 9: Galileo was the mathematician, astronomer and mathematician from Florence. In 1610, he observed, through a telescope he had developed, four moons revolving around Jupiter. He named these moons the Sidera Medices or the stars of Medici after the Medici family.
FACT 10: The statue ‘David’ sculpted by Michelangelo is installed at the Palazzo Vecchio. The magnificent masterpiece of sculpture created in 1510, stands till today as a symbol of splendid Florentine Republic.