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The main record of Pistoja is its having been the scene of the destruction of Catiline and his brother rebels. (Sallust.)

At Prato, about eleven miles before arriving at Florence, is an ancient church, having a pulpit elaborately sculptured with bassi-rilievi in stone, which is placed outside the church. Here also is preserved a most memorable Christian relic. A Zone, or under garment, of the Virgin Mary! said to be composed of wool, adorned with gold; and affirmed to have been in the possession of the inhabitants of Prato for seven centuries. It is preserved under the lock and key of three authorities.

Naturally anxious to behold so precious an object of Roman Catholic adoration, I hastened to request permission. My rebuff was very speedy.Had I special leave, or dispensation, from His Holiness the Pope?

Ancient Florence.

209

FLORENCE

CHAPTER XIII.

ORIGIN AND HISTORY-FACTIONS

OF THE GUELPHS, AND GHIBELLINES-SUMMARY OF THE HISTORY OF THE MEDICI-LORENZO THE MAGNIFICENT-CONSPIRACY OF 1478-MURDER OF GIOVANNI-BULL OF SIXTUS IV.— DEATH OF LORENZO-GOVERNMENT BY SAVONORALA, THE PREACHER-POPES LEO X, AND CLEMENT VII-MEDICEAN ARMS-SUCCESSION, AND FATE, OF THE VARIOUS MEDICI, TILL EXTINCT IN 1737-SUCCESSIVE GOVERNMENTS BY AUSTRIA, AND FRANCE — - FESULE, AND ANTIQUITIES CHURCH OF ST. LAWRENCE, AND MICHAEL ANGELO-POETICAL ADDRESSES-SUMPTUOUS MAUSOLEUM OF THE MEDICI-LAURENTIAN LIBRARY-GALILEO'S FINGER-CHURCH OF THE ANNUNCIATION, AND MIRACLE ANDREA DEL SARTO.

FAIR Florence! situated in a fertile luxuriant plain, embosomed in its native mountains, richly studded with villas; bounded by the Apennines, and intersected in its centre by the Arno!-and here I would fain expatiate on the luxuriant landscape, and endless beauties, of the Valle d'Arno, and on the goodly prospects that strike every traveller as he approaches this Athens of Italy, this justly styled La Bella Firenze: but as it happened that on the day I arrived such sights were quite obscured by the raining, louring, atmosphere, I beg to express my firm belief of all these attractions, though I decline giving any borrowed description of them.

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Ancient Florence.

Four principal bridges connect the opposite quays, that of La Santa Trinita, very greatly admired for its architectural beauty, and its three elliptical arches; and that of Il Ponte Vecchio curious from being covered, and almost concealed, as you pass over it, by shops and dwelling-houses. These shops are now, by law, confined to the occupations of goldsmiths and jewellers. Before, however, I launch into any allusions to the modern glories of Florence let me note some record of its ancient days.

Much controversy exists as to its origin. By some it is thought to have been founded by the people of Fiesole (distant three miles) and Dante would seem to corroborate this by saying,

Quello 'ngrato popolo maligno

Che discese di Fiesole ab antico.

Or founded by Sylla, and some of Cæsar's veteran soldiers about sixty years before Christ, then called Villa Arnina aud Florentia. Or lastly, according to Politian, it was founded during the triumvirate of Octavius Cæsar, Anthony, and Lepidus. (1 and 2 Book of Epistles.)

In the invasion of the Goths, Florence shared the common fate of Italy, and was utterly destroyed by Totila, King of the Ostrogoths. Nevertheless, after a lapse of about 200 years, Charlemagne reestablished, and France continued to govern it, till the German Emperors obtained, and ruled it with despotic sway by feudal Dukes, and Marquisses.

Ancient Florence.

211

In the year 1010, Florence signalised itself by the attack, and conquest, of Fiesole, its reputed parent; and in 1215, a murder committed in the city, first gave rise to the famous factions of the Guelphs, and the Ghibellines, by these two parties taking opposite sides. In process of time the Guelphs were presumed to be always for the popular cause; while the Ghibellines, on the contrary, favoured aristocracy. The former were also termed the Neri, the latter the Bianchi.

It were endless to describe the factions, the contentions, and the feuds, of these rival powers, alternately reigning by alternately expelling each other; few cities, if any, present such an incessant series of popular tumults, and broils, as Florence up to the present period; yet during these troubles, talent was roused, and invigorated, by collision, while each leader struggled to obtain some temporary popularity by some popular concessions; and at the same time by promoting the arts, which never obtained a greater celebrity than in the time of the Medici, and which continue to shed at this hour such a splendour on Florence.

In 1378, this family then enriching themselves by commerce, and distinguishing themselves by their honour, and their virtues, were first called to a post in their country's service by the election of Sylvestre, or Salvestro, de' Medici to the office of Gonfaloniere, or chief magistrate, an appointment

212

Rise of the Medici.

instituted about the year 1289. Spite of conspiracy, and faction, the supremacy of the republic continued in this family, and finally by common consent became confirmed, and hereditary. Among its illustrious chiefs, Cosmo, surnamed the Father of his Country, and his grandson, Lorenzo, the Magnificent, will ever retain the gratitude, and veneration, of their country, and may well rank from their talents, and from the estimation in which they were held, with more renowned monarchs, though as simply Chiefs of the Republic of Tuscany, they had such a comparatively limited scope of action.

As the period of the government of Florence by Lorenzo is the fairest portion of its history, I am pleased in giving a brief sketch of it.

Giovanni de' Medici, who died in 1428, left two sons, Cosmo, the Pater Patriæ, and Lorenzo. Of this latter, or of his progeny, we shall have no further occasion to speak till 1537, when, upon the extinction of all the rightful descendants of Cosmo, the elder brother, the issue of this Lorenzo first obtained the Dukedom of Tuscany. In 1433, Cosmo was dispossessed of his supremacy by the usurpation of Rinaldo d' Albizi, but the interposition of foreign potentates, and his own virtues, procured his restoration, and the return of his brother, Lorenzo, in one twelvemonth afterwards; and Rinaldo, with his party, were routed.

After a life of uninterrupted prosperity, Cosmo

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