Florence and Northern Tuscany with Genoa
by Edward Hutton
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If the tomb of Leonardo Bruni is the masterpiece of Bernardo Rossellino, the tomb of Carlo Marsuppini, the humanist, Bruni's successor as secretary to the Republic, placed in the north aisle exactly opposite, is no less the masterpiece of another of Donatello's friends, Desiderio da Settignano (1428-1464). Standing as they were to do, face to face across the church, no doubt Desiderio was instructed to follow as closely as might be the general design of Rossellino. On a rich bed Marsuppini lies, a figure full of sweetness and strength, while under is the carved tomb, supported by the feet of lions, and borne by a winged shell. On either side two children bear his arms, figures so naive and lovely that, as it seems to me, Luca della Robbia in his happiest moment might have thought of them almost in despair. Above, under a splendid canopy of flowers and fruit, in a tondo, severe and simple, is Madonna with Our Lord, and on either side an angel bows half-smiling, half-weeping, while without stand two youths of tender age, slender and full of grace, but strong enough to bear the great garland of fruits with lovely and splendid gestures of confidence and expectancy. Before the tomb in the pavement is a plaque of marble also from the hand of Desiderio, and here Gregorio Marsuppini, Carlo's father, lies: other similar works of his you may find here and there in the church.

Scattered through the two aisles and the nave are many modern monuments and tablets to famous Italians, Dante who lies at Ravenna, Galileo, Alberti, Mazzini, Rossini, and the rest; they have but little interest. It is not only in the aisles, however, that we find the work of the Florentine sculptors. Galileo Galilei, an ancestor of the great astronomer, is buried in the nave at the west end, under a carved tombstone enthusiastically praised by Ruskin. And then on the first pillar on the right we find the work of Bernardo Rossellino's youngest brother Antonio (1427-1478), who, under the influence of Desiderio da Settignano, has carved there a relief of Madonna and Child, surrounded by a garland of cherubim lovely and fair. Antonio Rossellino's work is scattered all over Tuscany, in Prato, in Empoli, in Pistoja, and we shall find it even in such far-away places as Naples and Forli. His masterpiece, however, the beautiful tomb of the Cardinal of Portugal, is in the Church of S. Miniato al Monte, of which I shall speak later.

It was another and younger pupil of Desiderio's, Benedetto da Maiano (1442-1497), who made the beautiful pulpit to the order of that Pietro Mellini, whose bust, also from his hand, is now in the Bargello. It is the most beautiful pulpit in all Italy, splendid alike in its decoration and its construction. It seems doubtful whether the pulpit itself is not earlier than the five reliefs of the life of St. Francis which surround it—The Confirmation of the Order by the Pope, the Test by Fire before the Sultan, the Stigmata, the Death of St. Francis, and the Persecution of the Order. These were carved in 1474, and for the life and charm which they possess are perhaps Benedetto's finest work. In the beautiful niches below he has set some delightful statuettes, representing Faith, Hope, Charity, Fortitude, and Justice.

Passing now into the south transept, we come to the great chapel of the Blessed Sacrament, with its spoiled frescoes of the stories of St. John Baptist, St. John the Divine, St. Nicholas and St. Anthony; while here, too, is the tomb of the Duchess of Albany, who was the wife of the Young Pretender, and who loved Alfieri the poet, whose monument, as we have seen, she caused Canova to make.

The south transept ends in the Baroncelli Chapel, which "between the close of December 1332 and the first days of August 1338," Taddeo Gaddi painted in fresco.[104] Giotto died in 1337, and Taddeo, who had served under him, seems to have been content to carry on his practice without bringing any originality of his own to the work. What Taddeo could assimilate of Giotto's manner he most patiently reproduced, so that his work, never anything but a sort of imitation, threatens to overwhelm in its own mediocrity much of the achievement of his master. The beautiful and sincere work of Giotto in him degenerates into a mannerism, a mannerism that the people of his own day seem to have appreciated quite as much as the living work of Giotto himself. Taddeo, trained by his master in the Giottesque manner, became its most patient champion, and practising an art that was in his hands little better than a craft, he finds himself understood, and when Giotto is not available very naturally takes his place. Here in S. Croce, a church in which Giotto himself had worked, we find Taddeo's work everywhere: over the door of the Sacristy he painted Christ and the Doctors; in the Cappella di S. Andrea, the stories of St. Peter and St. Andrew; in the Bellaci chapel, too, and above all in this the chapel of the Baroncelli family. But when Giotto, being long dead, other and newer painters arose, Taddeo's work, out of fashion at last, suffered the oblivion of whitewash, sharing this fate with some of the best work in Italy: so that there is to-day but little left of it in S. Croce save these frescoes, where he has painted, not without a certain vigour and almost a gift for composition, the story of the Blessed Virgin.

Close by, without the chapel, is a very beautiful monument the school of Niccolo Pisano; passing this and entering the great door of the Sacristy, we come into a corridor and thence into the Sacristy itself, which Vasari covered with whitewash. Built in the fourteenth century, it is divided into two parts by a grating of exquisitely wrought iron of the same period. Behind this grating is the Rinuccini chapel, painted in fresco by a pupil of Taddeo Gaddi, Giovanni da Milano, in whose work we may discern, in spite of the rigid convention of his master, something sincere, a lightness and grace and even perhaps a certain reliance on Nature, which the authority of Giotto had spoiled for Taddeo himself. It is the stories of the Blessed Virgin and of St. Mary Magdalen that he has set himself to tell, with an infinite detail that a little confuses his really fine and sincere work. Repainted though they be, something of their original beauty may still be found there, their simplicity and homely realism.

At the end of the corridor is the chapel which Cosimo de' Medici, Pater Patriae caused Michelozzo to build for his delight. Over the altar is one of the loveliest works of the della Robbia school, a Madonna and Child, between St. Anthony of Padua, St. Elizabeth of Hungary, St. John Baptist, St. Laurence, St. Louis of Toulouse, and St. Francis; while on the wall is a later work of the same school, after a work by Verrocchio, where Madonna holds her Son in her arms; and opposite is another work by a Tuscan sculptor, a Tabernacle, by Mino da Fiesole (1431-1484), who certainly has loved the gracious marbles of Desiderio da Settignano. The picture of the Coronation of the Virgin beside this Tabernacle, once the altar-piece of the Baroncelli Chapel, a genuine work of Giotto's, as it is thought, is tender in feeling and magnificent in arrangement and composition. Full of a grave earnestness and full of ardent life,—mark the eagerness of those clouds of Saints,—it is worthy of the painter of the tribune of the Lower Church at Assisi.

Returning now to the church itself, we begin our examination of those twelve chapels, which with the choir form the eastern end of S. Croce. The first three chapels have little interest, but the two nearest the choir, Cappella Peruzzi and Cappella Bardi, were both painted in fresco by Giotto, his work there being among the best of his paintings.

The Peruzzi Chapel was built by the powerful family that name, who had already done much for S. Croce, when about 1307 they employed Giotto to decorate these walls with frescoes of the story of St. John Baptist and St. John the Divine. In 1714, the new Vasari tells us,[105] and, indeed, we may read as much on the floor of the chapel itself, Bartolommeo di Simone Peruzzi caused the place to be restored, and it was then, as we may suppose, that the work of Giotto was covered with whitewash. It was in 1841 that the Dance of Herodias was discovered, and the whitewash not very carefully, perhaps, removed, and by 1863 the rest of the frescoes here were brought to light. In their original brightness they formed probably "the finest series of frescoes which Giotto ever produced"; but the hand of the restorer has spoiled them utterly, so that only the shadow of their former beauty remains, amid much that is hard or unpleasing.

On the left we see the story of St. John Baptist; above, the Angel announces to Zacharias the birth of a son; and, with I know not what mastery of his art, Giotto tells us of it with a simplicity and perfection beyond praise. If we consider the work merely as a composition, it is difficult to imagine anything more lovely; and then how beautiful and full of life is the angel who has entered so softly into the Holy of Holies, not altogether without dismay to the high priest, who, busy swinging his censer before the altar, has suddenly looked up and seen a vision. Below, we see the Birth of St. John Baptist, where Elizabeth is a little troubled, it may be, about her dumb husband, to whom the child has been brought. An old man with an eager and noble gesture seems to argue with Zacharias, holding the child the while by the shoulder, and Zacharias writes the name on his knee. Below this again is the Dance of Herodias, the first of these frescoes to be uncovered and ruined in the process. But even yet, in the perfect grouping of the figures, the splendour of the viol player, the frightened gaze of the servants, we may still see the very hand of Giotto.

But it is in the frescoes on the right wall that Giotto is seen at his highest: it is the story of St. John the Divine; above he dreams on Patmos, below he raises Drusiana at the Gate of Ephesus, and is himself received into heaven. Damaged though they be, there is nothing in all Italian art more fundamental, more simple, or more living than these frescoes. It is true that the Dream of St. John is almost ruined, and what we see to-day is very far from being what Giotto painted, but in the Raising of Drusiana and in the Ascension of St. John we find a grandeur and force that are absent from painting till Giotto's time, and for very many years after his death. The restorer has done his best to obliterate all trace of Giotto's achievement, especially in the fresco of Drusiana, but in spite of him we may see here Giotto's very work, the essence of it at any rate, its intention and the variety of his powers of expressing himself.

The chapel nearest the choir was built by Ridolfo de' Bardi, it is said, sometime after 1310,[106] and it was for him that Giotto painted there the story of St. Francis; while on the ceiling he has painted the three Franciscan virtues, Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience, and in the fourth space has set St. Francis in Glory, as he had done in a different manner at Assisi.

After the enthusiastic pages of Ruskin,[107] to describe these frescoes, beautiful still, in spite of their universal restoration, would be superfluous. It will be enough to refer the reader to his pages, and to add the subjects of the series. Above, on the left wall, St. Francis renounces his father, while below he appears to the brethren at Arles, and under this we see his death. On the left above, Pope Honorius gives him his Rule, and below, he challenges the pagan priests to the test of the fire before the Sultan, and appears to Gregory IX, who had thought to deny that he received the Stigmata. Beside the window Giotto has painted four great Franciscans, St. Louis of Toulouse, St. Clare, St. Louis of France, and St. Elizabeth of Hungary. All these frescoes in the Bardi Chapel are much more damaged by restoration than those in Cappella Peruzzi.

In the choir, behind the high altar, Agnolo Gaddi, one of the two sons of Taddeo, has painted, with a charm and brightness of colour that hide the poor design, the story of the Holy Cross. It was at the request of Jacopo degli Alberti that Agnolo painted these eight frescoes, where the angel gives a branch of the Tree of Life from Eden to Seth, whom Adam, feeling his death at hand, had sent on this errand. Seth returns, however, only to find Adam dead, and the branch is planted on his grave. Then in the course of ages that branch grows to a tree, is hewn down, and, as the Queen of Sheba passes on her way to King Solomon, the carpenters are striving to cut this wood for the Temple, but they reject it and throw it into the Pool of Bethesda. And this rejected tree was at length hewn into the Cross of Our Lord. Then comes Queen Helena to seek that blessed wood, and finding the three crosses, and in ignorance which was that of Our Lord, commands that the dead body of a youth which is borne by shall be touched with them all, one after another. So they find the True Cross, for at its touch the dead rises from his bier. Then they bear the cross before the Queen: till presently it is lost to Chosroes, King of Persia, who took Jerusalem "in the year of Our Lord six hundred and fifteen," and bare away with him that part of the Holy Cross which St. Helena had left there. So he made a tower of gold and of silver, crusted with precious stones, and set the Cross of Our Lord before him, and commanded that he should be called God. Then Heraclius, the Emperor, went out against him by the river of Danube, and they fought the one with the other upon the bridge, and agreed together that the victor should be prince of the whole Empire: and God gave the victory to Heraclius, who bore the Cross into Jerusalem. So Agnolo Gaddi has painted the story in the choir of S. Croce.

In the chapels on the north side of the choir there is but little of interest. And then one is a little weary of frescoes. If we return to the south aisle and pass through the door between the Annunciation of Donatello and the tomb of Leonardo Bruni, we shall come into the beautiful cloisters of Arnolfo, where there will be sunshine and the soft sky. Here, too, is the beautiful Cappellone that Brunellesco built for the Pazzi family, whose arms decorate the porch. Under a strange and beautiful dome, which, as Burckhardt reminds us, Giuliano da Sangallo imitated in Madonna delle Carceri at Prato, Brunellesco has built a chapel in the form almost of a Greek cross. And without, before it, he has set, under a vaulted roof, a portico borne by columns, interrupted by a round arch. It is the earliest example, perhaps, of the new Renaissance architecture. Very fair and surprising it is with its frieze of angels' heads by Donatello, helped perhaps by Desiderio da Settignano. Within, too, you come upon Donatello's work again, in the Four Evangelists in the spandrels, and below them the Twelve Apostles.

Walking in the cloisters, you find the great ancient refectory of the convent itself, which has here been turned into a museum, while another part of it is used as a barracks; and indeed the finest cloister of the Early Renaissance, one of the loveliest works of Brunellesco, has also been given up to the army of Italy. The museum contains much that, in its removal here or dilapidation, has lost nearly all its interest. The beautiful fresco of St. Eustace, said to be the work of Andrea Castagno, is yet full of delight, while here and there amid these old crucifixes, tabernacles, and frescoes, by pupils of Giotto long forgotten, something will charm you by its sincerity or naive beauty, so that you will forget, if only for a moment, the destruction that has befallen all around you; the convent that once housed S. Bernardino of Siena, now noisy with conscripts, the library housed in another convent, Dominican once, that like this has become a museum and public monument of vandalism and rapacity.


[104] Cf. Crowe and Gavalcaselle, op. cit. vol. ii. p. 124.

[105] Crowe and Cavalcaselle, op. cit. vol. ii. p. 77.

[106] Crowe and Cavalcaselle, op. cit. vol. ii. p. 81.

[107] Mornings in Florence, by John Ruskin.



Something of the eager, restless desire for beauty, for antique beauty, so characteristic of the fifteenth century—for the security and strength of just that, may be found in S. Lorenzo and S. Spirito, those two churches which we owe to the genius of Brunellesco, and in them we seem to find the negation, as it were, of the puritan spirit, of all that the Convent of S. Marco had come to mean: as though when, one day at dawn, the peasants ploughing in some little valley in the hills, had come upon the gleaming white body of the witch Venus, in burning the precious statue which had lain so long in the earth, they had not been able altogether to destroy the spirit, free at last, which in the cool twilight had escaped them to wander about the city. It is the spirit of Rome you come upon in S. Lorenzo, the old Rome of the Basilicas, that were but half Christian after all, and, still in ruin, seem to remember the Gods.

A church has stood where S. Lorenzo stands certainly since pagan times, for at the beginning of the fourth century, one Giuliana, who had three daughters but no son, vowed a church to St. Laurence if he would grant her a son; and a son being born to her she founded S. Lorenzo, and called the child Laurence for praise. St. Ambrose is said to have come from Milan to consecrate the place, bringing with him certain relics, the bones of S. Agnola and S. Vitale, victims of the pagans which he had found in Bologna; while for sixty years, till 490, the body of S. Zenobio lay here. In those days, and until the last years of the eleventh century, S. Lorenzo stood without the walls, and when Cosimo came back to Florence, the old church, which had fallen into decay, was already being rebuilt, Giovanni di Bicci de' Medici, with others, having given the work to Brunellesco. Filippo Brunellesco, however, had got no farther, it seems, than the Sagrestia Vecchia when he died, while Antonio Manetti, who succeeded him as architect, changed somewhat his design. The church was consecrated at last in 1461, some three years before the death of Cosimo, who lies before the high altar.

It is really as the resting-place of the Medici that we have come to consider S. Lorenzo, for here lie not only Giovanni di Bicci and Piccarda, the parents of Cosimo Pater Patriae, and Cosimo himself, but Piero and Giovanni his sons, while in the new sacristy lie Giuliano and Lorenzo il Magnifico his grandsons, and their namesakes Giuliano Duc de Nemours and Lorenzo Due d'Urbino; and in the Cappella dei Principi, built in 1604 by Matteo Nigetti, lie the Grand Dukes from Cosimo I to Cosimo III, the rulers of Florence and Tuscany from the sixteenth to the beginning of the eighteenth centuries.

The church itself is in the form of a Latin cross, consisting of nave and aisles and transepts, the nave being covered with a flat coffered ceiling, though the aisles are vaulted. Along the aisles are square chapels, scarcely more than recesses, and above the great doors is a chapel supported by pillars, a design of Michelangelo, who was to have built the facade for Leo X, but, after infinite thought and work in the marble mountains, the Pope bade him abandon it in 1519. For many years a single pillar, the only one that ever came to Florence of all those hewn for the church in Pietrasanta, lay forlorn in the Piazza.

Those chapels that flank the aisles have to-day but little interest for us, here and there a picture or a piece of sculpture, but nothing that will keep us for more than a moment from the chapels of the transept, the work of Desiderio da Settignano, of Verrocchio, and, above all, of Donatello. It is all unaware to the tomb of this the greatest sculptor, and in many ways the most typical artist, Florence ever produced, that we come, when, standing in front of the high altar, we read the inscription on that simple slab of stone which marks the tomb of Cosimo Vecchio; for Donatello lies in the same vault with his great patron. A modern monument in the Martelli Chapel, where the beautiful Annunciation by Lippo Lippi hangs under a crucifix by Cellini, in the left transept, commemorates him; but he needs no such reminder here, for about us is his beautiful and unforgetable work: not perhaps the two ambones, which he only began on his return from Padua when he was sixty-seven years old, and which were finished by his pupils Bertoldo and Bellano, but the work in the old sacristy built in 1421 by Brunellesco. How rough is the modelling in the ambone reliefs, as though really, as Bandinelli has said, the sight of the old sculptor was failing; and yet, in spite of age and the intervention of his pupils, how his genius asserts itself in a certain rhythm and design in these tragic panels, where, under a frieze of dancing putti,—loves or angels I know not,—of bulls and horses, he has carved the Agony in the Garden, Christ before Pilate, and again before Caiaphas, the Crucifixion, the Deposition, in the southern ambone; while in the northern we find the Descent into Hades, where John Baptist welcomes our Lord, who draws forth Adam, and, as Dante records, Abel too, and Noah, Moses, Abraham, and David, Isaac and Jacob and his sons, not without Rachel, E altri molti, e fecegli beati, the Resurrection and the Ascension, the Maries at the Tomb, the Pentecost. It is another and very different work you come upon in the Cantoria, which, lovely though it be, seems to be rather for a sermon than for singing, so cold it is, and yet full enough of his perfect feeling for construction, for architecture. It has a rhythm of its own, but it is the rhythm of prose, not of poetry.

The old sacristy, which is full of him—for indeed all the decorative work seems to be his—is one of the first buildings of the Renaissance, the beautiful work of Filippo Brunelleschi. Covered by a polygonal dome, the altar itself stands under another dome, low and small; and everywhere Donatello has added beauty to beauty, the two friends for once combining to produce a masterpiece, though not, as it is said, without certain differences between them. "Donatello undertook to decorate the sacristy of S. Lorenzo in stucco for Cosimo de' Medici," Vasari tells us. "In the angles of the ceiling he executed four medallions, the ornaments of which were partly painted in perspective, partly stories of the Evangelists[108] in basso-relievo. In the same place he made two doors of bronze in basso-relievo of most exquisite workmanship: on these doors he represented the apostles, martyrs, and confessors, and above these are two shallow niches, in one of which are S. Lorenzo and S. Stefano; in the other, S. Cosimo and S. Damiano." The sacristy, according to Vasari, was the first work proceeded with in the church. Cosimo took so much pleasure in it that he was almost always himself present, and such was his eagerness, that while Brunellesco built the sacristy, he made Donatello prepare the ornaments in stucco, "with the stone decorations of the small doors and the doors of bronze." And it is in these bronze doors that, as it seems to me, you have Donato at his best, full of energy and life, yet never allowing himself for a moment to forget that he was a sculptor, that his material was bronze and had many and various beauties of its own, which it was his business to express. There are two doors, one on each side of the altar, and these doors are made in two parts, and each part is divided into five panels. With a loyalty and apprehension of the fitness of things really beyond praise, Donatello has here tried to do nothing that was outside the realm of sculpture. It was not for him to make the Gates of Paradise, but the gates of a sacristy in S. Lorenzo. His work is in direct descent from the work of the earliest Italian sculptors, a legitimate and very beautiful development of their work within the confines of an art which was certainly sufficient to itself. Consider, then, the naturalism of that figure who opens his book on his knees so suddenly and with such energy; or again, the exquisite reluctance of him who in the topmost panel turns away from the preaching of the apostle. Certainly here you have work that is simple, sincere, full of life and energy, and is beautiful just because it is perfectly fitting and without affectation.[109] In one of the two small rooms which are on each side of the sacristy, having the altar between them, Brunellesco by Cosimo's orders made a well. Here, Vasari tells us later, Donato placed a marble lavatory, on which Andrea Verrocchio also worked; but the Lavabo we find there to-day seems very doubtfully Donatello's.

In the centre of the sacristy itself, Vasari tells us, Cosimo caused the tomb of his father Giovanni to be made beneath a broad slab of marble, supported by four columns; and in the same place he made a sepulchre for his family, wherein he separated the tombs of the men from those of the women. But again this work too seems, in spite of Vasari, to belong rather uncertainly to Donatello. It is very rare to find a detached tomb in Italy, and rarer still to find it under a table, where it is very difficult to see it properly, and the care and beauty that have been spent upon it might seem to be wasted. It is perhaps rather Buggiano's hand than Donato's we see even in so beautiful a thing as this, which Donatello may well have designed. The beautiful bust of S. Lorenzo over the doorway is, however, the authentic work of Donato himself. Full of eagerness, S. Lorenzo looks up as though to answer some request, and to grant it.

The splendid porphyry sarcophagus set in bronze before a bronze screen of great beauty, by Verocchio, is certainly one of the finest things here. Every leaf and curl of the foliage seem instinct with some splendid life, seem to tremble almost with the fierceness of their vitality. There lie Giovanni and Piero de' Medici, the uncle and father of Lorenzo il Magnifico. Close by you may see a relief of Cosimo Vecchio, their father.

The cloisters, where Lorenzo walked often enough, are beautiful, and then from them one passes so easily into the Laurentian Library, founded by Cosimo Vecchio, and treasured and added to by Piero and Lorenzo il Magnifico, but scattered and partly destroyed by the vandalism and futile stupidity of Savonarola and his puritans in 1494. Savonarola, however, was a cleverer demagogue than our Oliver (it is well to remember that he was a Dominican), for he persuaded the Signoria to let him have such of the MSS. as he could find for the library of S. Marco. The honour of such a person is perhaps not worth discussing, but we may remind ourselves what Cosimo had done for S. Marco, and how he had built the library there. In 1508 the friars turned these stolen goods into money, selling them back to Cardinal Giovanni de' Medici, who was soon to be Leo X, who carried them to Rome. Cardinal Giulio de' Medici, later Clement VII, presented Leo's collection to the Laurentian Library, which he had bidden Michelangelo to rebuild. This was interrupted by the unfortunate business of 1527, and it was not till Cosimo I came that the library was finished. Perhaps the most precious thing here is the Pandects of Justinian, taken by the Pisans from Amalfi in 1135, and seized by the Florentines when they took Pisa in 1406. Amalfi prized these above everything she possessed, Pisa was ready to defend them with her life, Florence spent hundreds of thousands of florins to possess herself of them—for in them was thought to lie the secret of the law of Rome. Who knows what Italy, under the heel of the barbarian, does not owe to these faded pages, and through Italy the world? They were, as it were, the symbol of Latin civilisation in the midst of German barbarism. Here too is that most ancient Virgil which the French stole in 1804. Here is Petrarch's Horace and a Dante transcribed by Villani; and, best of all, the only ancient codex in the world of what remains to us of Aeschylus, of what is left of Sophocles. It is in such a place that we may best recognise the true greatness of the abused Medici. Tyrants they may have been, but when the mob was tyrant it satisfied itself with destroying what they with infinite labour had gathered together for the advancement of learning, the civilisation of the world. What, then, was that Savonarola whom all have conspired to praise, whose windy prophecies, whose blasphemous cursings men count as so precious? In truth in his fashion he was but a tyrant too—a tyrant, and a poor one, and therefore the more dangerous, the more disastrous. To the Medici we owe much of what is most beautiful in Florence—the loveliest work of Botticelli, of Brunellesco, of Donatello, of Lippo Lippi, of Michelangelo, and the rest, to say nothing of such a priceless collection of books and MSS. as this. Is, then, the work of Marsilio Ficino nothing, the labours of a thousand forgotten humanists? What do we owe to Savonarola? He burnt the pictures which to his sensual mind suggested its own obscenity; he stole the MSS., and no doubt would have destroyed them too, to write instead his own rhetorical and extraordinary denunciations of what he did not understand. Who can deny that when he proposed to give freedom to Florence he was dreaming of a new despotism, the despotism, if not of himself, of that Jesus whom he believed had inspired him, and on whom he turned in his rage? That he was brave we know, but so was Cataline; that he believed in himself we like to believe, and so did Arius of Alexandria; that he carried the people with him is certain, and so did they who crucified Jesus; but that he was a turbulent fellow, a puritan, a vandal, a boaster, a wind-bag, a discredited prophet, and a superstitious failure, we also know, as he doubtless did at last, when the wild beast he had roused had him by the throat, and burnt him in the fire he had invoked. His political ideas were beneath contempt; they were insincere, as he proved, and they were merely an excuse for riot. He bade, or is said to have bidden, Lorenzo restore her liberty to Florence. When, then, had Florence possessed this liberty, of which all these English writers who sentimentalise over this unique and unfortunate Ferrarese traitor speak with so much feeling and awe? Florence had never possessed political liberty of any sort whatever; she was ruled by the great families, by the guilds, by an oligarchy, by a despot. She was never free till she lost herself in Italy in 1860. Socially she was freer under the Medici than she was before or has been since.[110] In the production of unique personalities a sort of social freedom is necessary, and Florence under the earlier Medici might seem to have produced more of such men than any other city or state in the history of the world, saving Athens in the time of the despot Pericles. The happiest period in the history of Athens was that in which he was master, even as the greatest and most fortunate years in the history of the Florentine state were those in which Cosimo, Piero, and Lorenzo ruled in Florence. And when at last Lorenzo died, the Pope saw very clearly that on that day had passed away "the peace of Italy." It is to the grave of this great and unique man you come when leaving the cloisters of S. Lorenzo, and passing round the church into Piazza Madonna, you enter the Cappella Medicea, and, ascending the stairs on the left, find again on the left the new sacristy, built in 1519 by Michelangelo. Lorenzo lies with his murdered brother Giuliano, who fell under the daggers of the Pazzi on that Easter morning in the Duomo, between the two splendid and terrible tombs of his successors, under an unfinished monument facing the altar; a beautiful Madonna and Child, an unfinished work by Michelangelo, and the two Medici Saints, S. Damian by Raffaello da Montelupo, and S. Cosmas by Montorsoli. It is not, however, this humble and almost nameless grave that draws us to-day to the Sagrestia Nuova, but the monument carved by Michelangelo for two lesser and later Medici: Giuliano, Duc de Nemours, who died in 1516, and Lorenzo, Duc d'Urbino, who died in 1519. When Lorenzo il Magnifico died at Careggi in April 1492, he left seven children: Giovanni, who became Leo X; Piero, who succeeded him and went into exile; Giuliano, who returned; Lucrezia, who married Giacomo Salviati, and was grandmother of Cosimo I; Contessina, who married Piero Ridolfi; Maddalena, who married Francesco Cibo; and Maria, whom Michelangelo is said to have loved. Lorenzo's successor, Piero, did not long retain the power his father had left him; he was vain and impetuous, and, trying to rule without the Signoria, placed Pisa and Livorno in the hands of Charles VIII of France, who was on his carnival way to Naples. Savonarola chased him out, and sacked the treasures of his house. He died in exile. It was his brother Giuliano who returned, Savonarola being executed in 1512. Giuliano was a better ruler than his brother, but he behaved like a despot till his brother Giovanni became Pope, when he resigned the government of Florence to his nephew Lorenzo, the son of Piero, and while he became Gonfaloniere of Rome and Archbishop, Lorenzo became Duke of Urbino and father of Catherine de' Medici of France. It is this Giuliano and Lorenzo de Medici that Michelangelo has immortalised with an everlasting gesture of sorrow and contempt. On the right is the tomb of Giuliano, and over it he sits for ever as a general of the Church; on the left is Lorenzo's dust, coffered in imperishable marble, over which he sits plotting for ever. The statues that Michelangelo has carved there have been called Night and Day, Twilight and Dawn; but indeed these names, as I have said, are far too definite for them: they are just a gesture of despair, of despair of a world which has come to nothing. They are in no real sense of the word political, but rather an expression, half realised after all, of some immense sadness, some terrible regret, which has fallen upon the soul of one who had believed in righteousness and freedom, and had found himself deceived. It is not the house of Medici that there sees its own image of despair, but rather Florence, which had been content that such things should be. Some obscure and secret sorrow has for a moment overwhelmed the soul of the great poet in thinking of Florence, of the world, of the hearts of men, and as though trying to explain to himself his own melancholy and indignation, he has carved these statues, to which men have given the names of the most tremendous and the most sweet of natural things—Night and Day, Twilight and Dawn; and even as in the Sistine Chapel Michelangelo has thought only of Life,—of the Creation of Man, of the Judgment of the World, which is really the Resurrection,—so here he has thought only of Death, of the death of the body, of the soul, and of the wistful life of the disembodied spirit that wanders disconsolate, who knows where?—that sleeps uneasily, who knows how long?


[108] Not of the Evangelists, but of St. John: the medallions are the Four Evangelists.

[109] See Donatello, by Lord Balcarres, p. 136 (London, 1904), where a long comparison is made of the doors of Donatello, Ghiberti, and Luca della Robbia.

[110] Even politically, too, as Guicciardini tells us.



To pass through Florence for the most part by the old ways, from church to church, is too often like visiting forgotten shrines in a museum. Something seems to have been lost in these quiet places; it is but rarely after all that they retain anything of the simplicity which once made them holy. To their undoing, they have been found in possession of some beautiful thing which may be shown for money, and so some of them have ceased altogether to exist as churches or chapels or convents; you find yourself walking through them as through a gallery, and if you should so far forget yourself as to uncover your head, some official will eagerly nudge you and say, "It is not necessary for the signore to bare his head: here is no longer a church, but a public monument." A public monument! But indeed, as we know, the Italian "public" is no longer capable of building anything that is beautiful. If it is a bridge they need, it is not such a one as the Trinita that will be built, but some hideous structure of iron, as in Pisa, Venice, and Rome. If it is a monument they wish to carve, they will destroy numberless infinitely precious things, and express themselves as vulgarly as the Germans could do, as in the monument of Vittorio Emmanuele at Rome, which is founded on the ruined palaces of nobles, the convents of the poor. If it is a Piazza they must make, they are no longer capable of building such place as Piazza Signoria, but prefer a hideous and disgusting clearing, such as Piazza Vittorio Emmanuele in Florence. How often have I sat at the little cafe there on the far side of the square, wondering why the house of Savoy should have brought this vandalism from Switzerland. Nor is this strange monarchy content with broken promises and stolen dowries; in its grasping barbarism it must rename the most famous and splendid ways of Italy after itself: thus the Corso of Rome has become Corso Umberto Primo, and we live in daily expectation that Piazza Signoria of Florence will become Piazza Vittorio Emmanuele II. If that has not yet befallen, it is surely an oversight; the Government has been so busy renaming Roman places—the Villa Borghese, for instance—that Florence has so far nearly escaped. Not altogether, however: beyond the Carraja bridge, just before the Pescaia in the Piazza Manin, is the suppressed convent (now a barracks) of the Humiliati, that democratic brotherhood which improved the manufacture of wool almost throughout Italy. What has the Venetian Jew, Daniel Manin, to do with them? Yet he is remembered by means of a bad statue, while the Humiliati and the Franciscans are forgotten: yet for sure they did more for Florence than he. But no doubt it would be difficult to remind oneself tactfully of those one has robbed, and a Venetian Jew looks more in place before a desecrated convent than S. Francis would do. Like the rest of Italy, Florence seems always to forget that she had a history before 1860; yet here at least she should have remembered one of her old heroes, for in the convent garden Giano della Bella, who fought at Campaldino, and was anti-clerical too and hateful to the Pope, the hero of the Ordinances of Justice, used to walk with his friends. Perisca innanzi la citta, say I, che tante opere rie si sostengano. By this let even Venetian Jews, to say nothing of Switzer princes, know how they are like to be remembered when their little day is over.

It was in 1256 that the Humiliati founded here in Borgo Ognissanti the Church of S. Caterina, and carved their arms, a woolpack fastened with ropes, over the door. Originally founded by certain Lombard exiles in Northern Germany, the Humiliati were at first at any rate a lay brotherhood, which had learned in exile the craft of weaving wool. Such wool as was to be had in Tuscany, a land of olives and vines, almost without pasture, was poor enough, and it seems to have been only after the advent of the Humiliati that the great Florentine industry began to assert itself, foreign wools being brought in a raw state to the city and sold, dressed and woven into cloth, in all the cities of Europe and the East. This brotherhood, however, in 1140 formed itself into a Religious Order under a Bull of Innocent III, and though from that time the brethren seem no longer to have worked at their craft themselves, they directed the work of laymen whom they enrolled and employed, busying themselves for the most part with new inventions and the management of what soon became an immense business. Their fame was spread all over Italy, for, as Villari tells us,[111] "wherever a house of their Order was established, the wool-weaving craft immediately made advance," so that in 1239 the Commune of Florence invited them to establish a house near the city, as they did in S. Donato a Torri, which was given them by the Signoria. By 1250 we read that the Guild Masters were already grumbling at their distance from the city, so that they removed to S. Lucia sul Prato, under promise of exemption from all taxes; and in 1256 they founded a church and convent in Borgo Ognissanti. The Church of S. Lucia sul Prato still stands, but the Humiliati were robbed of it in 1547 by Cosimo I, who, strangely enough, had taken the old convent of S. Donato a Torri from the friars who had acquired it, in order to build a fortification, and now wished to give them the Church of S. Lucia sul Prato. It is said that the friars began to build their convent, but four years later abandoned the work, removing to S. Jacopo on the other side Arno. However this may be, the Franciscans certainly succeeded the Humiliati in their convent in Borgo Ognissanti about this time, and in 1627 they rebuilt S. Caterina, renaming it S. Salvadore. To-day there is but little worth seeing in this seventeenth-century church,—a St. Augustine by Botticelli, a St. Jerome and two large frescoes by Domenico Ghirlandajo,—but in the old refectory of the convent, which has now become a barracks, is Domenico Ghirlandajo's fresco of the Last Supper.

Passing from Ognissanti down the Borgo to Piazza Ponte alla Carraja, you come to the great palace built by Michelozzo for the Ricasoli family: it is now the Hotel New York. Thence you turn into Via di Parione behind the palace, where at No. 7 you pass the Palazzo Corsini, coming at last into Via Tornabuoni, where at the corner is the Church of S. Trinita facing the Piazza.

This beautiful and very ancient church stands on the site of an oratory of S. Maria dello Spasimo, destroyed, as it is said, in the tenth century. It was built by the monks of Vallombrosa, and was therefore in the hands of Benedictines. Here, in the Cappella Sassetti, Domenico Ghirlandajo has painted the Life of S. Francis; but it is not with his commonplace treatment, often irrelevant enough, of a subject which Giotto had already used with genius, that we are concerned, but perhaps with the fresco above the altar, and certainly with the marvellous portraits of Sassetti and Nera Cosi his wife, on either side. Here in this portrait for once Ghirlandajo seems to have escaped from the limitations of his cleverness, and to have really expressed himself so that his talent becomes something more than talent, is full of life and charm, and only just fails to convince us of his genius.

Many another delightful or surprising thing may be found in the old church, which has more than once suffered from restoration. In a chapel in the right aisle Lorenzo Monaco has painted the Annunciation, while, close by, you may see a beautiful altar by Benedetto da Rovezzano. Over the high altar is the crucifix which bowed to S. Giovanni Gualberto, who forbore to slay his brother's murderer; but the chief treasure of the church is the tomb in the left transept of Benozzo Federighi, Bishop of Fiesole, by Luca della Robbia. It was in the year 1450 that Luca finished his most perfect work in marble—begun and finished, as it is said, within the year—the tomb of Bishop Federighi. And here, as one might almost expect, remembering his happy expressive art in many a terra-cotta up and down in Italy, he has thought of death almost with cheerfulness, not as oblivion, but as just sleep after labour. Amid a profusion of natural things—fruits, garlands, grapes—the old man lies half turned towards us, at rest at last. Behind him Luca has carved a Pieta, and beneath two angels unfold the name of the dead man. The tomb was removed hither from S. Francesco di Paolo.

Passing now under the Column of the Trinita across the Piazza between the two palaces, Bartolini Salimbeni and Buondelmonte on the left, and Palazzo Spini on the right, you come into Borgo Santi Apostoli, where, facing the Piazzetta del Limbo, is the little church de' Santi Apostoli, which, if we may believe the inscription on the facade, was founded by Charlemagne and consecrated by Turpin before Roland and Oliver. However that may be, it is, with the exception of the Baptistery, the oldest church on this side Arno, and already existed outside the first walls of the city. Within, the church is beautiful, and indeed Brunellesco is reported by Vasari to have taken it as a model for S. Lorenzo and S. Spirito. In the sacristy lies the stone which Mad Pazzi brought from Jerusalem, and from which the Easter fire is still struck in the Duomo; while in the chapel to the left of the high altar is a beautiful Tabernacle by the della Robbia, and a monument to Otto Altoviti by Benedetto da Rovezzano. The Altoviti are buried here, and their palace, which Benedetto built for them, is just without to the south.

This Borgo SS. Apostoli and the Via Lambertesca which continues it are indeed streets of old palaces and towers. Here the Buondelmonti lived, and the Torre de' Girolami, where S. Zanobi is said to have dwelt, still stands, while Via Lambertesca is full of remembrance of the lesser guilds. Borgo SS. Apostoli passes into Via Lambertesca at the corner of Por S. Maria, where of old the great gate of St. Mary stood in the first walls, and the Amidei had their towers. It must have been just here the Statue of Mars was set, under the shadow of which Buondelmonte was murdered so brutally; and thus, as Bandello tells us, following Villani, began the Guelph and Ghibelline factions in Florence.

Just out of Via Lambertesca, on the left, is the little Church of S. Stefano and S. Cecilia—S. Cecilia only since the end of the eighteenth century, when that church was destroyed in Piazza Signoria; but S. Stefano, ad portam ferram, since the thirteenth century at any rate. This church seems to have been confused by many with the little Santo Stefano, still, I think, a parish church, though now incorporated with the abbey buildings, of the Badia. You pass out of Via Lambertesca by Via de' Lanzi, coming thus into Piazza Signoria; then, passing Palazzo Uguccione, you take Via Condotta to the right, and thus come into Via del Proconsolo at the Abbey gate.

Here in this quiet Benedictine house one seems really to be back in an older world, to have left the noise and confusion of to-day far behind, and in order and in quiet to have found again the beautiful things that are from of old. The Badia, dedicated to S. Maria Assunta, was founded in 978 by Countess Willa, the mother of Ugo of Tuscany,[112] and was rebuilt in 1285 by Arnolfo di Cambio. The present building is, however, almost entirely a work of the seventeenth century, though the beautiful tower was built in 1328. Here still, however, in spite of rebuilding, you may see the tomb of the Great Marquis by Mino da Fiesole. "It was erected," says Mr. Carmichael, "at the expense of the monks, not of the Signoria.... Ugo died in 1006, on the Feast of St. Thomas the Apostle, December 21, and every year on that date a solemn requiem for the repose of his soul is celebrated in the Abbey Church. His helmet and breast-plate are always laid upon the catafalque. In times past—down to 1859, I think—a young Florentine used on this occasion to deliver a panegyric on the Great Prince. I have heard ... that the mass is no longer celebrated. That is not so; but since the city has ceased to care about it, it takes place quietly at seven in the morning, instead of with some pomp at eleven. Then again, it is said that the monks have allowed the panegyric to drop. That too is not the case; it was not they but the Florentines who were pledged to this pious office, and it is the laity alone who have allowed it to fall into desuetude."

Even here we cannot, however, escape destruction and forgetfulness. The monastery has been turned into communal schools and police courts; the abbot has become a parish priest, and his abbey has been taken from him; there are but four monks left. But in the steadfast, unforgetful eyes of that Church which has already outlived a thousand dynasties, and beside whom every Government in the world is but a thing of yesterday, the Abbot of S. Maria is abbot still, and no parish priest at all. It is not, however, such things as this that will astonish the English or American stranger, whose pathetic faith in "progress" is the one touching thing about him. He has come here not to think of deprived Benedictines, or to stand by the tomb of Ugo, of whom he never heard, but to see the masterpiece of Filippino Lippi, the Madonna and St. Bernard, with which a thousand photographs have already made him familiar. Painted in 1480, when Filippino was still, as we may suppose, under the influence of Botticelli, it was given by Piero del Pugliese to a church outside Porta Romana, and was removed here in 1529 during the siege.

Passing down Via della Vigna Vecchia, you come at last to the little Church of S. Simone, which the monks of the Badia built about 1202, in their vineyards then, and just within the second walls. At the beginning of the fourteenth century it became a parish church, but was only taken from them at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Within, there is an early picture of Madonna, which comes from the Church of S. Piero Maggiore, now destroyed. You may reach the Piazza di S. Piero (for it still bears that name) if you turn into Via di Mercatino. Here the bishops of Florence were of old welcomed to the city and installed in the See. Thither came all the clergy of the diocese to take part in a strange and beautiful ceremony. Attached to the church was a Benedictine convent, whose abbess seems to have represented the diocese of Florence. There in S. Piero the Archbishop came to wed her, and thus became the guardian of the city. The church is destroyed now, and, as we have seen, all the monks and nuns have departed; the Government has stolen their dowries and thrust them into the streets. Well might the child, passing S. Felice, cry before this came to pass, O bella Liberta! But S. Piero was memorable for other reasons too beside this mystic marriage. There lay Luca della Robbia, Lorenzo di Credi, Mariotto Albertinelli, Piero di Cosimo: where is their dust to-day? As we look at their work in the galleries and churches, who cares what has happened to them, or whether such graves as theirs are rifled or no? Yet not one of them but has done more for Italy than Vittorio Emmanuele; not one of them, O Italia Nuova, but is to-day filling your pockets with gold, while he is nothing in the Pantheon; yet their graves are rifled and forgotten, and him you have placed on the Capitol.

It is to another Benedictine convent you come down Via Pietrapiana, past Borgo Allegri, whence the Florentines say they bore Cimabue's Madonna in triumph to S. Maria Novella. It is a pity, truly, that it is not his picture that is in the Rucellai Chapel to-day, and that the name of the Borgo does not come from that rejoicing, but from the Allegri family, who here had their towers. Yet here Cimabue lived, and Ghiberti and Antonio Rossellino. Who knows what beauty has here passed by?

The Benedictine Church and Convent at end of Via Pietrapiana is dedicated to S. Ambrogio. It was the first convent of nuns built in Florence, and dates certainly from the eleventh century. Like the rest, it has been suppressed, and indeed destroyed. To-day it is nothing, having suffered restoration, beside the other violations. Within, Verrocchio was buried, and in the Cappella del Miracolo, where in the thirteenth century a priest found the chalice stained with Christ's blood, is the beautiful altar by Mino da Fiesole. The church is full of old frescoes by Cosimo Rosselli, Raffaellino del Garbo, and such, and is worth a visit, if only for the work of Mino and the S. Sebastian of Leonardo del Tasso.

It is to another desecrated Benedictine convent you come when, passing through Via dei Pilastrati and turning into Via Farina, you come at last in Via della Colonna to S. Maria Maddalena de' Pazzi. This too is now a barracks and a school. It was not, however, the nuns who commissioned Perugino to paint for them his masterpiece, the Crucifixion, in the refectory, but some Cistercian monks who had acquired the convent in the thirteenth century. Perugino was painting there in 1496. More than a hundred years later, Pope Urban VIII, who had some nieces in the Carmelite Convent on the other side Arno, persuaded the monks to exchange their home for the Carmine. S. Maria Maddalena de' Pazzi, who was born Lucrezia, had died in 1607, and later been canonised, so that when the nuns moved here they renamed the place after her. The body of S. Maria Maddalena de' Pazzi, however, no longer lies in this desecrated convent, for the little nuns have carried it away to their new home in Piazza Savonarola. There in that place, always so full of children, certain Florentine ladies have nobly built a little church and quiet house, where those who but for them might have been in the street may still innocently pray to God.

There, in 1496, as I have said, Perugino finished the fresco of the Crucifixion that he had begun some years before in the chapter-house of the old S. Maria Maddalena. In almost perfect preservation still, this fresco on the wall of that quiet and empty room is perhaps the most perfect expression of the art of Perugino—those dreams of the country and of certain ideal people he has seen there; Jesus and His disciples, Madonna and Mary Magdalen, sweet, smiling, and tearful ghosts passing in the sunshine, less real than the hills, all perhaps that the world was able to bear by way of remembrance of those it had worshipped once, but was beginning to forget. And here at last, in this fresco, the landscape has really become of more importance than the people, who breathe there so languidly. The Crucifixion has found something of the expressiveness, the unction of a Christian hymn, something of the quiet beauty of the Mass that was composed to remind us of it; already it has passed away from reality, is indeed merely a memory in which the artist has seen something less and something more than the truth.

Divided into three compartments, we see through the beautiful round arches of some magic casement, as it were, the valleys and hills of Italy, the delicate trees, the rivers and the sky of a country that is holy, which man has taken particularly to himself. And then, as though summoned back from forgetfulness by the humanism of that landscape where the toil and endeavour of mankind is so visible in the little city far away, the cultured garden of the world, a dream of the Crucifixion comes to us, a vision of all that man has suffered for man, summed up, as it were, naturally enough by that supreme sacrifice of love; and we see not an agonised Christ or the brutality of the priests and the soldiers, but Jesus, who loved us, hanging on the Cross, with Mary Magdalen kneeling at his feet, and on the one side Madonna and St. Bernard, and on the other St. John and St. Benedict. And though, in a sort of symbolism, Perugino has placed above the Cross the sun and the moon eclipsed, the whole world is full of the serene and perfect light of late afternoon, and presently we know that vision of the Crucifixion will fade away, and there will be left to us only that which we really know, and have heard and seen, the valleys and the hills, the earth from which we are sprung.

There are but six figures in the whole picture, and it is just this spaciousness, perhaps, earth and sky counting for so much, that makes this work so delightful. For it is not from the figures at all that we receive the profoundly religious impression that this picture makes upon all who look unhurriedly upon it; but from the earth and sky, where in the infinite clear space God dwells, no longer hanging upon a Cross tortured by men who have unthinkably made so terrible a mistake, but joyful in His heaven, moving in every living thing He has made; visible only in the invisible wind that passes over the streams suddenly at evening, or subtly makes musical the trees at dawn, walking as of old in His garden, where one day maybe we shall meet Him face to face.

Turning down Via di Pinti to the left, and then to the right along Via Alfani, we pass another desecrated monastery in S. Maria degli Angioli, once a famous house of the monks of Camaldoli. This monastery has suffered many violations, and is scarcely worth a visit, perhaps, unless it be to see the fresco of Andrea del Castagno in the cloister, and to remind ourselves that here, in the fifteenth century, Don Ambrogio Traversari used to lecture in the humanities, a cynical remembrance enough to-day.

If we take the second street to the right, Via de' Servi, we shall come at once into the beautiful Piazza della Santissima Annunziata. Before us is the desecrated convent of the Servites, now turned into a school, and the Church of SS. Annunziata itself, now the most fashionable church in Florence. On the left and right are the beautiful arcades of Brunellesco, decorated by the della Robbia; the building on the left is now used for private houses, that on the right is the Ospedale degli Innocenti. The equestrian statue was made by Giovanni da Bologna, and represents Ferdinando I.

The Order of Servites, whose church and convent are before us, was originally founded by seven Florentines of the Laudesi, that Compagnia di S. Michele in Orto which built Madonna a shrine by the art of Orcagna in Or S. Michele, as we have seen. "I Servi di Maria" they were called, and, determined to quit a worldly life, they retired to a little house where now S. Croce stands; and later, finding that too near the city, went over the hills of Fiesole beyond Pratolino, founding a hermitage on Monte Senario. And I, who have heard their bells from afar at sunset, why should I be sorry that they are no longer in the city. Well, on Monte Senario, be sure, they lived hardly enough on the charity of Florence, so that at last they built a little rest-house just without the city, where SS. Annunziata stands to-day. But in those days Florence was full of splendour and life; it had no fear of the Orders, and even loved them, giving alms. Presently the Servi di Maria were able to build not a rest-house only, but a church and a convent, and then they who served Madonna were not forgotten by her, for did she not give them miraculously a picture of her Annunciation, so beautiful and full of grace that all the city flocked to see it? Thus it used to be. To-day, as I have said, SS. Annunziata is the fashionable church of Florence. The ladies go in to hear Mass; the gentlemen lounge in the cloister and await them. It is not quite our way in England, but then the sun is not so kind to us. It is true that on any spring morning you may see the cloister filled with laughing lilies to be laid at Madonna's feet; but who knows if she be not fled away with her Servi to Monte Senario? Certainly those bells were passing glad and very sweet, and they were ringing, too, the Angelus.

However that may be, a committee, we are told, of which Queen Margherita is patron here, "renders a programme of sacred music, chiefly Masses from the ancient masters, admirably executed." It is comforting to our English notions to know that "The subscribers have the right to a private seat in the choir, and the best society of Florence is to be met there."

And then, here are frescoes by Cosimo Rosselli, Andrea del Sarto, under glass too, a Nativity of Christ by Alessio Baldovinetti, not under glass, which seems unfair; and what if they be the finest work of Andrea, since you cannot see them. Within, the church is spoiled and very ugly. On the left is the shrine of Madonna, carved by Michelozzo, to the order of Piero de' Medici, decorated with all the spoils of the Grand Dukes. Ah no, be sure Madonna is fled away!

Passing out of the north transept, you come into the cloisters. Here is, I think, Andrea's best work, the Madonna del Sacco, and the tomb of a French knight slain at Campaldino.

Passing out of the SS. Annunziata into S. Maria degli Innocenti, we come to a beautiful picture by Domenico Ghirlandajo in the great altarpiece, the Adoration of the Magi, painted in 1488. Though scarcely so lovely as the Adoration of the Shepherds in the Accademia, perhaps spoiled a little by over cleaning and restoration, it is one of the most simple and serene pictures in Florence. The predella to this picture is in the Ospedale; it represents the Marriage of the Virgin, the Presentation in the Temple, the Baptism and Entombment of Our Lord. There, too, is a replica of the Madonna of Lippo Lippi in the Uffizi.

The Ospedale degli Innocenti was founded in 1421 by the Republic, urged thereto by that Leonardo Bruni who is buried in S. Croce in the tomb by Rossellino. It appears to have been already open in 1450, and was apparently under the government of the Guild of Silk, for their arms are just by the door. It is said to have been the first of its kind in Europe; originally meant for the reception of illegitimate children—Leonardo da Vinci, for instance—it is to-day ready to receive any poor little soul who has come unwanted into the world; it cares for more than a thousand of such every year.

Passing out of Piazza degli SS. Annunziata through Via di Sapienza into Piazza di S. Marco, we pass the desecrated convent of the Dominicans, where Savonarola, Fra Antonino, and Fra Angelico lived, now a museum on the right; and passing to the right into Via Cavour, come at No. 69 to the Chiostro dello Scalzo. This is a cloister belonging to the Brotherhood of St. John, which was suppressed in the eighteenth century. The Brotherhood of St. John seems to have come about in this way. When Frate Elias, who succeeded S. Francesco as Minister of the Franciscan Order, began to rule after his own fashion, the Order was divided into two parts, consisting of those who followed the Rule and those who did not. The first were called Observants, the second Conventuals. The Osservanti, or Observants, remained poor, and observed all the fasts; perhaps their greatest, certainly their most widely known Vicar-General was S. Bernardino of Siena. In France the Osservanti were known as the Recollects, and the reform there having been introduced by John de la Puebla, a Spaniard, about 1484, these brethren were known as the Brotherhood of John, or Discalced Friars. In Italy they were called Riformati. All this confusion is now at an end, for Leo XIII, in the Constitution "Felicitate quadam," in 1897 joined all the Observants into one family, giving them again the most ancient and beautiful of their names, the Friars Minor.

Here, where these little poor men begged or prayed, Andrea del Sarto was appointed to paint in grisaille scenes from the life of John the Baptist. They have been much injured by damp, and in fact are not altogether Andrea's work.

Returning down Via Cavour, if we turn into Via Ventisette Aprile we come to two more desecrated convents,—that of S. Caterina, now the Commando Militare, and facing it, S. Appolonia, now a magazine for military stores.

Here, in the refectory of the latter convent, where Michelangelo is said to have had a niece, and for this cause to have built the nuns a door, is the fresco of the Last Supper by Andrea del Castagno; while on the walls are some portraits, brought here from the Bargello, of Farinata degli Uberti, Niccolo Acciaiuoli, and others.

In another suppressed convent, S. Onofrio in Via Faenza, not far away (turn to the left down Via di S. Reparata, and then to the right into Via Guelfa), is another Last Supper, supposed to be the work of a pupil of Perugino,—Morelli says Giannicolo Manni, who painted the miracle picture of Madonna in the Duomo of Perugia.

Another picture of the Last Supper—this by Andrea del Sarto—may be found in another desecrated monastery, founded in 1048 by the Vallombrosans, the second monastery of the congregation, S. Salvi, just without the Barriera towards Settignano. It was in front of this monastery that Corso Donati was killed in 1307. He was buried by the monks in the church, and four years later his body was borne away to Florence by his family. This monastery is now turned into houses, and the refectory with the Andrea del Sarto is become a national monument. Like many another desecrated church, convent, or religious house, the Government, as at S. Marco, Chiostro dello Scalzo, and S. Onofrio, charges you twenty-five centesimi to see their stolen goods.


[111] Villari, History of Florence, London, 1905: p. 318.

[112] The best account of this abbey I ever read in English is contained in a book full of similar good things, good English, and good pictures, called The Old Road through France to Florence, written by H.W. Nevinson and Montgomery Carmichael, and illustrated by Hallam Murray (Murray, London, 1904).



The Sesto Oltr'arno, the Quartiere di S. Spirito as it was called later, was never really part of the city proper, but rather a suburb surrounded, as Florence itself was, by wall and river. The home for the most part of the poor, though by no means without the towers and palaces of the nobles, it seems always to have lent itself readily enough to the hatching of any plot against the Government of the day. Here in 1343 the nobles made their last stand, here the signal was given for the Ciompi rising, and here Luca Pitti built his palace to outdo the Medici. If you cross Arno by the beautiful bridge of S. Trinita, the first street to your left will be Borgo S. Jacopo, the first palace that of the Frescobaldi, whom the Duke of Athens brought into Florence after their exile. This palace, as well as the Church of S. Jacopo close by, where Giano della Bella's death was plotted, were given in 1529 to the Franciscans of S. Salvatore, whose convent had suffered in the siege. S. Jacopo, which still retains a fine romanesque arcade, was originally a foundation of the eleventh century. It seems to have been entirely rebuilt for the friars and the palace turned into a convent in 1580, and again to have suffered restoration in 1790. Close by is a group of old towers, still picturesque and splendid. Turning thence back into Via Maggio, and passing along Via S. Spirito and Via S. Frediano, you come at last on the left into Piazza del Carmine, before the great church of that name. The church of the Carmine and the monastery now suppressed of the Carmelites across Arno were originally built in 1268, with the help of the great families whose homes were in this part of the city,—the Soderini, the Nerli, the Serragli; it remained unfinished for more than two centuries, and in 1771 it was unhappily almost wholly destroyed by fire, only the sacristy and the Brancacci Chapel escaping. Famous now because there Fra Lippo Lippi lived, and there Masolino and Masaccio painted, it is in itself one of the most meretricious and worthless buildings of the eighteenth century, full of every sort of flamboyant ornament and insincere, uncalled-for decoration; and yet, in spite of every vulgarity, how spacious it is, as though even in that evil hour the Latin genius could not wholly forget its delight in space and light. It is then really only the Brancacci Chapel in the south transept that has any interest for us, since there, better than anywhere else, we may see the work of two of the greatest masters of the first years of the Quattrocento.

Masolino, according to Mr. Berenson, was born in 1384, and died after 1423, while his pupil Masaccio was born in 1401, and died, one of the youngest of Florentine painters, in 1428. Here in the Brancacci Chapel it might seem difficult to decide what may be the work of Masolino and what of his pupil, and indeed Crowe and Cavalcaselle have denied that Masolino worked here at all. Later criticism, however, interested in work that marks a revolution in Tuscan painting, has made it plain that certain frescoes here are undoubtedly from his hand, and Mr. Berenson gives him certainly the Fall of Adam, the Raising of Tabitha, and the Miracle at the Golden Gate, above on the right, as well as the Preaching of St. Peter, above to the left on the altar wall. Masaccio's work is more numerous, consisting of the Expulsion from the Temple and the Payment of the Tribute, above on the right, part of the fresco below the last; St. Peter Baptizing, above to the left on the altar wall, as well as the two frescoes, St. Peter and St. John healing the Sick, and St. Peter and St. John giving Alms, below on either side of the altar. The rest of the frescoes, the St. Paul visiting St. Peter in Prison, below on the left, part of the fresco next to it, the Liberation of St. Peter opposite, and the St. Peter and St. Paul before Nero, and the Crucifixion of St. Peter, below on the right, are the work of Filippino Lippi.

Masolino da Panicale of Valdelsa was, according to Vasari, a pupil of Lorenzo Ghiberti, and had been in his younger days a very good goldsmith. He was the best among those who helped Ghiberti in the labours of the doors of S. Giovanni, but when about nineteen years of age he seems to have devoted himself to painting, forsaking the art of the goldsmith, and placing himself under Gherardo della Starnina, the first master of his day. He is said to have gone to Rome, and some works of his in S. Clemente would seem to prove this story; but finding his health suffer from the air of the Eternal City, he returned to Florence, and began to paint here in the Church of S. Maria del Carmine, the figure of S. Piero beside the "Chapel of the Crucifixion," which was destroyed in the fire of 1771. This S. Piero, Vasari tells us, was greatly commended by the painters of the time, and brought Masolino the commission for painting the Chapel of the Brancacci family in the same church. Among the rest mentioned by Vasari, he speaks of the Four Evangelists on the roof here, which have now been ruined by over-painting and restoration. A man of an admirable genius, his study and fatigues, Vasari tells us, so weakened him that he was always ailing, till he died at the age of thirty-seven. Yet in looking on his work to-day, beside that of Masaccio, one thinks less, I fancy, of his "study and fatigues," of his structure and technique, than of the admirable beauty of his work. Consider then those splendid young men in the Raising of Tabitha, who pass by almost unconcerned, though one has turned his head to see; the sheer loveliness of Eve and Adam, really for the first time born again here naked and unashamed; or the easy and beautiful gesture of the angel, who bids them begone out of the gate of Paradise. In Masaccio's work you will find a more splendid style, the real majesty of the creator, a strangely sure generalisation and expression; but in Masolino's work there still lingers something of the mere beauty of Gentile da Fabriano, the particular personal loveliness of things which you may know he has touched with a caress or seen always with joy.

Masaccio was born at Castello S. Giovanni, on the way to Arezzo. He was the son of a notary, Ser Giovanni di Simone Guidi, called della Scheggia, and his first labours in art, Vasari tells us, were begun at the time when Masolino was working at this chapel in the Carmine. He had evidently been much impressed by the work of Donato, and, indeed, something of the realism of sculpture has passed into his work, in the St. Peter Baptizing, for instance, where he who stands by the side of the pool, awaiting his turn, has much of the reality of a statue. And then with a magical sincerity Masaccio has understood the mere discomfort of such a delay in the cool air, and a shiver seems about to pass over that body, which is as real to us as any figure in the work of Michelangelo. Or again, in the fresco of the Tribute Money, how real and full of energy these people are,—the young man with his back to us, who has been interrupted; Jesus Himself, who has just interposed; Peter, who is protesting. How full of a real majesty is this composition, admirably composed, too, and original even in that. Here, it might seem, we have the end of merely decorative painting, the beginning of realism, of the effect of reality, and it is therefore with surprise we see so facile a master as Filippino Lippi set to finish work of such elemental and tremendous genius. How pretty his work seems beside these realities.

Coming out into the Piazza again, and turning to the left down Via S. Frediano, you come almost at once, on the right, to the Church of S. Frediano in Castello. You may enter it from Lung' Arno, but it would scarcely be worth a visit, for it is a late seventeenth-century building, save that in the convent may still be found the cell of S. Maria Maddalena de' Pazzi; for it was this convent that the Carmelite nuns exchanged with the Cistercians for the house in Via di Pinti, called to-day S. Maria Maddalena de' Pazzi, where Perugino painted his beautiful fresco of the Crucifixion.

Just across the way is the Mercato di S. Frediano and the suppressed monastery of the Camaldolese, now a school; and by this way you come to Porta S. Frediano, by which Charles VIII of France entered Florence and Rinaldo degli Albizzi left it. The whole of this quarter is given up to the poor and to the Madonna of the street corner, for here her children dwell, the outcasts and refuse of civilisation who work that we may live. It is always with reluctance, in spite of the children that I come by this way, so that if possible I always return by Lung' Arno, past Torrino di S. Rosa and the barracks of S. Friano and the grain store of Cosimo III, past the houses of the Soderini to Ponte alla Carraia, which fell on Mayday 1304, sending so many to that other world they had come out to see, and so past the house of Piero Capponi, the hero of 1494 who kept the Medici at bay, and threatened Charles VIII in the council; then turning down Via Coverelli one comes to Santo Spirito.

It was the Augustinian Hermits who, coming to Florence about 1260, bought a vineyard close to where Via Maggio, an abbreviation of Via Maggiore, now is, from the Vellati family. Here they built a monastery and a church, and dedicated them to the Santo Spirito, so that when the city was divided into quartieri this Sestiere d'Oltrarno became Quartiere di S. Spirito. In 1397, as it is said, they determined to rebuild the place on a bigger scale, and to this end appointed Brunellesco their architect. The church was begun in 1433, and was burned down in 1471, during the Easter celebrations, which were particularly splendid in that year owing to the visit of Galeazzo Maria Sforza. It was rebuilt, however, in the next twenty years from the designs of Brunellesco, and is to-day the most beautiful fifteenth-century church in Florence, full of light and sweetness, very spacious, too, and with a certain fortunate colour about it that gives it an air of cheerfulness and serenity beyond anything of the kind to be found in the Duomo or S. Lorenzo. And then, the Florentines have been content to leave it alone,—at any rate, so far as the unfinished facade is concerned. It is in the form of a Latin cross, and suggests even yet in some happy way the very genius of the Latin people in its temperance and delight in the sun and the day. The convent, it is true, has been desecrated, and is now a barracks; most of the altars have been robbed of their treasures; but the church itself remains to us a very precious possession from that fifteenth century, which in Italy certainly was so fortunate, so perfect a dawn of a day that was a little disappointing, and at evening so disastrous.

Of the works of art remaining in the nave, that spacious nave where one could wander all day long, only the copy of Michelangelo's Pieta in St. Peter's will, I think, detain us for more than a moment. What is left to us of that far-away flower-like beauty of fifteenth-century painting and sculpture will be found in the great transept, that makes of the church a cross of light, a temple of the sun. Here, amid many works of that time given to Fra Lippo Lippi, Botticelli, Ghirlandajo, Donatello, and others, in the south transept there is a Madonna with the family of de' Nerli by Filippino Lippi, and in the Capponi Chapel a fine portrait of Neri Capponi, while in the next chapel Perugino's Vision of St. Bernard, now in Berlin, used to stand. Here, too, is a Statue of St. Sebastian, nearly always invisible, said to be from the hand of Donatello; in the choir is a Madonna enthroned by Lorenzo di Credi. The sacristy is beautiful, built by Giovanni da Sangallo, and the cloisters now spoiled are the work of Ammanati. And then, here Niccolo Niccoli is buried, that great book-collector and humanist; while the barbarians are represented, if only by the passing figure of Martin Luther, not then forsworn, who is said to have preached here on his way to Rome. It is strange to think that these beautiful pillars have heard his rough eloquence, an eloquence that was so soon to destroy the spirit that had conceived them.

Close by in Piazza S. Spirito is Palazzo Guadagni, built for Ranieri Dei at the end of the fifteenth century by Cronaca. It was not, however, till 1684 that the Guadagni family came into possession of it. Bernardo Guadagni, it will be remembered, was Gonfaloniere of Justice when Cosimo de' Medici was expelled the city in 1433. Passing this palace and turning to the right into Via Mazzetta, you pass at the corner the Church of S. Felice, which has been so often a refuge,—for at first the Sylvestrians had it, and held it till the fourteenth century, when it passed to the Camaldolese, from whom it passed again to a congregation of Dominican nuns and became a sort of refuge for women who had fled away from their husbands. Within, you may find a few old pictures, a Giottesque Crucifixion, and a Madonna and Saints, a fifteenth-century work. Then, turning into Via Romana, you come, past the gardens of S. Piero in Gattolino, to the Porta Romana, the great gate of the Via Romana, the way to Rome, and before you is the Hill of Gardens, and behind you is the garden of the Pitti Palace, Giardino di Boboli, and farther still, across Via Romana, the Giardino Torrigiani.

The Boboli Gardens, with their alley ways of ilex, their cypresses and broken statues, their forgotten fountains, are full of sadness—

"Tout en chantant sur le mode mineur, L'amour vainqueur et la vie opportune, Ils n'ont pas l'air de croire a leur bonheur, Et leur chanson se mele au clair de lune,

"Au calme clair de lune triste et beau, Qui fait rever les oiseaux dans les arbres, Et sangloter d'extase les jets d'eau, Les grands jets d'eau sveltes parmi les marbres."

But the gardens of the Viale are in spring, at any rate, full of the joy of roses, banks, hedges, cascades of roses, armsful of them, drowsy in the heat and heavy with sweetness.

"I'mi trovai, fanciulle, un bel mattino Di mezzo maggio, in un verde giardino."

And if it be not the very place of which Poliziano sang in the most beautiful verses he ever wrote, certainly to-day there is nothing more lovely in Florence in spring, and in autumn too, than this Hill of Gardens. In autumn too; for then the way that winds there about the hills is an alley of gold, strewn with the leaves of the plane-trees that the winds have scattered in countless riches under your feet; that whisper still in golden beauty over your head. There, as you walk in spring, while the city unfolds herself before you, a garden of roses in which a lily has towered, or in the autumn afternoons when she is caught in silver mist, a city of fragile and delicate beauty, that is soon lost in the twilight, you may see Florence as she remains in spite of every violation, Citta dei Fiori, Firenze la Bella Bellissima, the sweet Princess of Italy. And, like the way of life, this road among the flowers ends in a graveyard, the graveyard of S. Miniato al Monte, under which nestles S. Salvatore, that little brown bird among the cypresses, over the grey olives.

The story of S. Miniato makes one of the more quiet chapters of Villani. "Our city of Florence,"[113] he tells you, returning from I know not what delightful digression, "was ruled long time under the government and lordship of the Emperors of Rome, and oft-times the Emperors came to sojourn in Florence, when they were journeying into Lombardy and into Germany and into France to conquer provinces. And we find that Decius the Emperor, in the first year of his reign, which was in the year of Christ 270, was in Florence, the treasure-house and chancelry of the empire, sojourning there for his pleasure; and the said Decius cruelly persecuted the Christians wheresoever he could hear of them or find them out, and he heard tell how the blessed S. Miniato was living as a hermit, near to Florence, with his disciples and companions, in a wood which was called Arisbotto di Firenze, behind the place where now stands his church, above the city of Florence. This blessed Miniato was first-born son to the King of Armenia, and having left his kingdom for the faith of Christ, to do penance and to be far away from his kingdom, he went over-seas to gain pardon at Rome, and then betook himself to the said wood, which was in those days wild and solitary, forasmuch as the city of Florence did not extend, and was not settled beyond Arno but was all on this side,—save only there was one bridge across Arno, not, however, where the bridges now are. And it is said by many that it was the ancient bridge of the Fiesolans which led from Girone to Candegghi, and this was the ancient and direct road and way from Rome to Fiesole and to go into Lombardy and across the mountains. The said Emperor Decius caused the said blessed Miniato to be taken, as his story narrates. Great gifts and rewards were offered him, as to a king's son, to the end he should deny Christ; and he, constant and firm in the faith, would have none of his gifts, but endured divers martyrdoms. In the end the said Decius caused him to be beheaded, where now stands the Church of S. Candida alla Croce at Gorgo; and many faithful followers of Christ received martyrdom in this place. And when the head of the blessed Miniato had been cut off, by a miracle of Christ, with his hands he set it again upon his trunk, and on his feet passed over Arno, and went up the hill where now stands his church, where at that time there was a little oratory in the name of the blessed Peter the Apostle, where many bodies of holy martyrs were buried. And when S. Miniato was come to that place, he gave up his soul to Christ, and his body was there secretly buried by the Christians; the which place, by reason of the merits of the blessed S. Miniato, was devoutly venerated by the Florentines after they were become Christians, and a little church was built there in his honour. But the great and noble church of marble which is there now in our times, we find to have been built later by the zeal of the venerable Father Alibrando, Bishop and citizen of Florence in the year of Christ 1013, begun on the 26th day of April, by the commandment and authority of the Catholic and holy Emperor, Henry II of Bavaria, and of his wife, the holy Empress Gunegonda, which was reigning in those times; and they presented and endowed the said church with many rich possessions in Florence and in the country, for the good of their souls, and caused the said church to be repaired and rebuilt of marble, as it is now. And they caused the body of the blessed Miniato to be translated to the altar, which is beneath the vaulting of the said church, with much reverence and solemnity, by the said bishop and the clergy of Florence, with all the people, both men and women of the city of Florence; but afterwards the said church was completed by the commonwealth of Florence, and the stone steps were made which lead down by the hill; and the consuls of the Art of the Calimala were put in charge of the said work of S. Miniato, and were to protect it."

Thus far Villani: to-day S. Miniato, the church, and the great palace built in 1234 by Andrea Mozzi, Bishop of Florence, come to us with memories, not of S. Miniato alone, that somewhat shadowy martyr of so long ago, but of S. Giovanni Gualberto also, of the Benedictines too, and of the Olivetans, of the siege of 1529, when Michelangelo fortified the place in defence of Florence, saving the tower from destruction, as it is said, by swathing it in mattresses; of Cosimo I, who from here held the city in leash. It is the most beautiful of the Tuscan-Romanesque churches left to us in Florence; built in 1013 in the form of a basilica, with a great nave and two aisles, the choir being raised high above the rest of the church on twenty-eight beautiful red ancient pillars, over a crypt where, under the altar, S. Miniato sleeps through the centuries. The fading frescoes of the aisles, the splendour and quiet of this great and beautiful church that has guarded Florence almost from the beginning, that has seen Buondelmonte die at the foot of the Statue of Mars, that has heard the voice of Dante and watched the flight of Corso Donati, have a peculiar fascination, almost ghostly in their strangeness, beyond anything else to be found in the city. And if for the most part the church is so ancient as to rival the Baptistery itself, the Renaissance has left there more than one beautiful thing. For between the two flights of steps that lead out of the nave into the choir, Michelozzo built in 1448, for Piero de' Medici a chapel to hold the crucifix, now in S. Trinita, which bowed to S. Giovanni Gualberto when he forgave his brother's murderer,[114] and in the left aisle is the chapel, built in 1461 by Antonio Rossellino, where the young Cardinal Jacopo of Portugal lies in one of the loveliest of all Tuscan tombs, and there Luca della Robbia has placed some of his most charming terracottas, and Alessio Baldovinetti has painted in fresco. In all Tuscany there is nothing more lovely than that tomb carved in 1467 by Antonio Rossellino for the body of the young Cardinal, but twenty-six years old when he died, "having lived in the flesh as though he were freed from it, an Angel rather than a man." Over the beautiful sarcophagus, on a bed beside which two boy angels wait, the young Cardinal sleeps, his delicate hands folded at rest at last. Above, two angels kneel, about to give him the crown of glory which fadeth not away, and Madonna, borne from heaven by the children, comes with her Son to welcome him home. There, in the most characteristic work of the fifteenth century, you find man still thinking about death, not as a trance out of which we shall awaken to some terrible remembrance, but as sleep, a sweet and fragile slumber, that has something of the drooping of the flowers about it, in a certain touching beauty and regret that is never bitter, but, like the ending of a song or the close of a fair day of spring, that rightly, though not without sadness, passes into silence, into night, in which shine only the eternal stars.

It is strange that of all the difficult hills of Italy, it is the steep way hither from Porto S. Niccola, of old, in truth Via Crucis, that comes into Dante's mind when, in the Twelfth Purgatorio, he sees the ascent to the second cornice, where is purged the sin of envy. Something of the immense sadness of that terrible hill seems to linger to-day about the Monti alle Croci: it is truly a hill of the dead, over which hovers, pointing the way, some angel

"la creatura bella Bianco vestita, e nella faccia quale Per tremolando mattutina Stella."

The Convent of S. Salvatore—S. Francesco al Monte, as it was called of old—was built in 1480 after a design by Cronaca. Hesitating among the cypresses on the verge of the olives gardens, Michelangelo called it La bella Villanella, and truly in its warm simplicity and shy loveliness it is just that, a beautiful peasant girl among the vines in a garden of olives. But she has been stripped of her treasures, her trinkets of silver, her pretty gold chains, her gown of taffetas, her kerchief of silk (do you not remember the verses of Lorenzo), and all these you will find to-day, fading out of use in the Uffizi, where, in a palace that has become a museum, they are most out of place: thus they have robbed the peasants for the sake of the gold of the tourists, the sterile ejaculations of the critics.

It is well not to return to the city by the tramway, which rushes through the trees of the Viale Michelangelo like I know not what hideous and shrieking beast of prey, but to wander down towards the Piazzale, and then, just before you came to it, on your left, by S. Salvatore, to go down to Porta S. Miniato, that "gap in the wall," and then to pass by the old wall itself up the hill to Porta di S. Giorgio among the olives between the towers under the Belvedere. It is the most beautiful of all the gates of the city, little, too, and still keeps its fresco of the fourteenth century.


[113] Villani, Cronica, l. i. c. 57, translated by R.E. Selfe. Constable, 1906.

[114] See p. 363.



If Arnolfo di Cambio is the architect not only of the Duomo but of the Palazzo Vecchio, and if Orcagna conceived the delicate beauty of the Loggia de' Lanzi, it is, if we may believe Vasari, partly to Arnolfo and partly to Agnolo Gaddi that we owe Bargello, that palace so like a fortress, at the corner of Via del Proconsolo and Via Ghibellina. Begun in the middle of the thirteenth century for the Capitano del Popolo, it later became the Palace of the Podesta, passing at last, under the Grand Dukes, to the Bargello, the Captain of Justice, who turned it barbarously enough into a prison, dividing the great rooms, as it is said, into cells for his prisoners. To-day it is become the National Museum, where all that could be gathered of the work of the Tuscan sculptors is housed and arranged in order.

Often as I wander through those rooms or loiter in the shadow under the cloisters of the beautiful courtyard, perhaps the most lovely court in Tuscany, the remembrance of that old fierce life which desired beauty so passionately and was so eager for every superiority, comes to me, and I ask myself how the dream which that world pursued with so much simplicity and enthusiasm can have led us at last to the world of to-day, with its orderly disorder, its trams and telegraphs and steam-engines, its material comfort which, how strangely, we have mistaken for civilisation. In all London there is no palace so fine as this old prison, nor a square so beautiful as Piazza della Signoria. Instead of Palazzo Pitti (so much more splendid is our civilisation than theirs) we are content with Buckingham Palace, and instead of Palazzo Riccardi we have made the desolate cold ugliness of Devonshire House. Our craftsmen have become machine-minders, our people, on the verge of starvation, as we admit, without order, with restraint, without the discipline of service, having lost the desire of beauty or splendour, have become serfs because they are ignorant and fear to die. And it is we who have claimed half the world and thrust upon it an all but universal domination. In thus bringing mankind under our rule, it is ever of our civilisation that we boast, that immense barbarism which in its brutality and materialism first tried to destroy the Latin Church and then the Latin world, which alone could have saved us from ourselves. Before our forests were cleared here in Italy they carved statues, before our banks were founded here in Italy they made the images of the gods, and in those days there was happiness, and men for joy made beautiful things. And to-day, half dead with our own smoke, herded together like wild beasts, slaves of our own inventions, ah, blinded by our unthinkable folly, before the statues that they made, before the pictures that they painted, before the palaces that they built, in the churches where they still pray, stupefied by our own stupidity, brutalised by our own barbarism, we boast of a civilisation that has already made us ridiculous, and of which we shall surely die. Here in the Bargello, the ancient palace of the Podesta of a Latin city, let us be silent and forget our madness before the statues of the Gods, the images of the great and beautiful people of old.

Tuscan sculpture, that of all the arts, save architecture, was the first to rise out of the destruction with which the barbarians of the North had overwhelmed the Latin world, came to its own really in the fifteenth century. After the beautiful convention of Byzantium had passed away, and Gruamone and Adeodatus had carved at Pistoja, Biduinus at S. Cassiano, Robertus at Lucca, Bonamicus and Bonannus at Pisa, and Guido da Como again at Pistoja, in the work of Niccolo Pisano at Pisa we come upon the first thought of the Renaissance, the reliefs of the pulpit in the Baptistery, in which the Middle Age seems to have passed over the work of Antiquity almost like a caress. In these panels of the pulpit at Pisa, where Madonna masquerades as Ariadne and the angel speaks with the gesture of Hermes, some sentiment of a new sweetness in the world seems to lurk amid all the naive classicism, finding expression at last in such a thing, for instance, as the divine figure of Virtue in the pulpit of the Duomo of Siena, in which some have thought to find French influence, the work of the artists of Chartres and Rheims, visible enough, one might think, in the work of Niccolo's son Giovanni Pisano, whose ivory Statue of Madonna is to-day perhaps the greatest treasure of the sacristy of the Duomo at Pisa.

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