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April in Florentine History

 

 

In the classic Florentine song ‘Mattinata Fiorentina,’ April is personified as a gentlemanly heart-throb who steals the hearts of young ladies at the Cascine Park. But in local traditions, April is not just the month of this well-regarded ‘thief’, to whom we should actually apologize for the unmasking. April also marks the death of one of the great symbols of Florence, the artist who, together with Donatello and Masaccio, is considered the ‘father’ of the Renaissance. Filippo Brunelleschi left us on April 16, 1446. Also regarded as the father of modern architecture, Brunelleschi completed the cupola of the Dome, a work of revolutionary artistic engineering that became a symbol of the power that the city had reached; today a symbol of the magnificence of the past. Brunelleschi died at 69 and was, of course, buried inside the Dome.

 

This is also the month of the Pazzi Conspiracy, which took place on April 26, 1478. It was Easter Sunday when two killers hired by the Pazzi family, rivals of the Medici, stabbed Lorenzo di Medici’s brother Giuliano to death during High Mass at the Dome. That day Giuliano had arrived at church late because he was feeling unwell and therefore did not sit next to Lorenzo as he usually did. This probably disoriented the conspirators, who were expecting him to sit next to Lorenzo, but they still tried to kill Lorenzo and failed. Lorenzo’s assigned killer, Giovan Battista da Montesecco, refused to attack his victim at the last moment because he did not want to kill someone inside a church. Lorenzo owed his life to his best friend, Francesco Nori, who protected him with his body from the two assailants that had just killed Giuliano. Francesco died, while Lorenzo was merely wounded. After the conspiracy the Florentine population sided with the Medici, and Lorenzo’s vengeance was terrible, proportionate to the love he had for his brother.

 

People who also died in April: Frederick Stibbert, founder of the Stibbert Museum, who died on April 10, 1906, and Filippino Lippi, who left us on April 18, 1504. A brilliant businessman and traveller, Stibbert was the father of the culture of antiques that gained momentum in the twentieth century, while Filippino Lippi was the talented artist who left us his legacy in the completion of the Brancacci Chapel, begun by Masolino and Masaccio more than 50 years earlier.

 

And finally, on April 17, 1524, Giovanni da Verrazzano, a sailor born in Greve in Chianti, the town capital of Chianti wine, wrote down on his diary the first-ever description of what the indigenous inhabitant were calling ‘Manhattan’.

 

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