Signoria of Florence



Andrea del Verrocchio makes a bronze candlestick (1.57 metres high) for Signoria of Florence.

1476 in Florence

April 26

At about 15 in the forenoon (11 a.m.) in Santa Maria del Fiore, whilst high mass was being celebrated and the Host elevated, Giuliano, son of Piero, son of Cosimo de' Medici, and Francesco Nori were killed, near the choir of the said church towards the door which goes to the Servi; and Lorenzo de' Medici was wounded in the neck, and fled into the sacristy and escaped. They were killed in consequence of a certain conspiracy made by Messer Jacopo de' Pazzi and Franceschino de' Pazzi and Guglielmo de' Pazzi, the which Guglielma was he brother-in-law of Lorenzo de' Medici, his wife being a sister of theirs, called Bianca. And the sons of Messer Piero de' Pazzi were also there, that is, Andrea and Renato and Niccolo; and of the house of Salviati, there were Francesco, Bishop of Pisa, and Jacopo Salviati, who was son-in-law to Filippo Tornabuoni, and another Jacopo also a Salviati, and Jacopo, son of Messer Poggio, Bracciolini and Bernardo Bandini of the house of Baroncegli, and Amerigo Corsi, and many others. The conspirators brought Cardinal di San Giorgio(1) here, who was a young man; he entered Florence on the day above-mentioned, and they all came together in Santa Maria del Fiore, and, as I have said, at the elevation of the Host seized their swords, and it is said that Francesco de' Pazzi struck Giuliano, and Bandini the other. And having killed Giuliano they wanted to kill Lorenzo, but did not succeed, as he fled into the sacristy. Meantime the Bishop de' Salviati, with Jacopo, son of Messer Poggio, and two of his relatives who were both called Jacopo, went to the Palagio, with several priests, feigning to desire to speak to the Signoria, and they spoke to the Gonfaloniere, and became somewhat confused. The Gonfaloniere perceived the treachery, and he and his companions shut themslves up here and there, and ordered the doors to be closed, and the bell run for a parlamento. And what with the rumour which came from Santa Maria del Fiore of Giuliano's death and the bell ringing at the Palagio, the city was immediately in arms. And Lorenzo de' Medici was taken to his house. Meantime Messer Jacopo de' Pazzi rushed on horseback to the Piazza de' Signori, crying "Popolo e liberta!" (The People and Liberty!), wishing to take the Palagio, but the bishop not having succeeded in getting possession of it, Messer Jacopo was not able to enter. He then went towards his own house, and was advised to take to flight; and he fled by the Porta all Croce, together with many men-at-arms, in the Piazza and at Lorenzo de' Medici's house. And numbers of men on the side of the conspirators were killed in the Piazza; amongst others a priest of the bishop's was killed there, his body being quartered and the head cut off, and then the head was stuck on the top of a lance, and carried about Florence the whole day, and one quarter of his body was carried on a spit all through the city, with the cry of: "Death to the traitors!" That same evening the cardinal was taken to the Palagio, barely escaping with his life, all his companions being captured without exception.

Source: A Florentine Diary, p. 15-17.

1478 in Pisa and Florence

May 1

The new Signoria entered into office. That evening Andrea de' Pazzi and Brigliaino(1) were captured. And also, the same evening, returning from Pisa, Messer Piero Vespucci was captured and taken to the Palagio, as it was said that he had aided the escape of a man concerned in the plot.

Source: A Florentine Diary, p. 18.

July 13

The King of Naples sent a herald to Florence, with the proclamation displayed, stamped with the arms of the king, and he went to the Signoria to declare war, being deputed to tell us that the king and the Holy Father were ready to oblige us in every way, if we sent away Lorenzo de' Medici: to which the citizens would not agree, and so war began.

Source: A Florentine Diary, p. 21

1479 in Genoa, Pisa, Volterra and Florence

January 10

Four French ambassadors arrived at Florence, two of whom were going to the Pope and two to the King of Naples. They declared to the Signoria here, that they were going to make peace in Italy amongst Christians, and to settle all differences, giving judgement according to reason, and protested that their king would proceed against anyone who hindered peace; if the Pope were the one to be obdurate, he would be summoned to a Council; and when peace had been made, all the powers would undertake a crusade against the Unbelievers. They left on the 16th January.

Source: A Florentine Diary, p. 26

January 17

A certain hermit came here to preach and threatened many ills. He had been at Volterra, serving at a leper hospital. He was a lad of twenty-four, barefoot, with a wallet on his back; and he declared that St. John and the Angel Raphael had appeared to him. And one morning he went up on to the ringhierra of the Signori to preach, but the "Eight" sent him away. And each day some incident happened.

Source: A Florentine Diary, p. 26

1484 in France

January 1

The new Signoria(1) entered into office, and were stricter than the last. They sent for the citizens and required everyone to pay his debts; and they imprisoned them in the Bargello and the Stinche. Many were afflicted and worn out by so many wars.

Source: A Florentine Diary, p. 39


November 18

The aforesaid ambassador of the sultan presented to the Signoria the giraffe, lion, and other beasts; and he sat in the midst of the Signoria, on the ringhiera, he speaking and they thanking him by means of an interpreter. A great crowd had collected in the Piazza that morning to see this. The ringhiera was decorated with spalliere(1) and carpets, and all the principal citizens had taken their places upon it. This ambassador remained here several months, and was maintained at our cost and presented with many gifts.

Source: A Florentine Diary, p. 44

1489 in Fiesole

July 21

They began to build the walls upon the aforesaid foundations.

Source: A Florentine Diary, p. 48-9

1492 in Fiesole and Florence

March 10

Lorenzo's son, the cardinal, received the hat from the Pope.(1) It was given him at the Badia on the way to Fiesole (i.e. at San Domenico), and many citizens went out to meet him when he came into Florence to visit the Signoria; and the next day he went to hear mass in Santa Maria del Fiore. And on this day the Signoria presented him with 30 loads of gifts carried by porters, being silver plate, and basins, and ewers, and dishes, and all the silver utensils that can possibly be used by a great lord. According to what was said, they were estimated at more than 20 thousand florins, although that seems impossible to me; but it was public report, and therefore I set it down. It was certainly a rich and magnificent gift. Praise be to God!

Source: A Florentine Diary, p. 52

1494 in Pisa, Florence, Emilia-Romagna, Serezzano, Pietrasanta, Dicomano, Empoli, Rome, Castelnuovo and Sarzana

May 5

They went to the Signoria, and having set forth the matters entrusted to them, receive a reply. On the 7th they left, and went to Rome.(1)

Source: A Florentine Diary, p. 57

October 4

More ambassadors from the King of France came to Florence, and going to the Signoria, could not obtain a decisive answer but only a vague one; so that on the 9th they both left Florence in indignation, and returned to the king without a safe-conduct. It was then said that the king swore to let his soldiers pillage Florence; and everyone thought it had been a piece of folly and rashness not to give the safe-conduct readily.

Source: A Florentine Diary, p. 58

October 26

Piero de' Medici left here to go on the way to Pisa, to meet the King of France; and when he reached the king, he caused the keys of Serezzano and of Pietrasanta to be given him, and also made him promises of money. The king wishing to know whether in truth he had been given this commission, sent Lorenzo, son of Giovanni Tornabuoni, who had gone with Piero de' Medici, back to Florence, to get it confirmed by the Signoria; but they refused to confirm it. Lorenzo, in some consternation, did not return to the French camp, and Piero was rather at fault. He acted like a young fellow, and perhaps with good results, since we remained friends with the king, thank God!

Source: A Florentine Diary, p. 58

November 4

A proclamation was published by the Signoria, obliging everyone to give lodging to the French; and assuring them that nothing would be touched or taken away.(1) Most people were not pleased, because the Signoria showed more fear than was needful; they might have waited till any trouble began, although it was unpleasant for us. But God never removed His hand from off our head, because He heard the tears, and sighs, and prayers of His servants, who walk in truth, and who pray to Him all the day long that He should be merciful to the good and upright of heart, and to those who love the honour and glory of God above all things, praising Him in adversity as in prosperity, and desire nothing but to fulfil His will.

Source: A Florentine Diary, p. 59

November 8

Piero de' Medici returned to Florence, coming from the King of France, who was at Pisa; and when he reached his house, he threw out confetti (sweetmeats), and gave a lot of wine to the people, to make himself popular; declaring that he had settled everything satisfactorily with the king, and appearing to be in the best of humours.

Source: A Florentine Diary, p. 60

November 9

Entry from "A Florentine Diary" by Luca Landucci:

November 9

About 20 in the afternoon (4 p.m.), when it was ringing for vespers,(1) Piero son of Lorenzo de' Medici wished to go to the Signoria in the Palagio, taking his armed men with him. The Signori not allowing this, he did not choose to go alone, and turned back.(1) Now men began to collect in the Piazza, and in the Palagio were heard cries of Popolo e Liberta! (The People and Liberty!), whilst the bell was rung for a parlamento, and men appeared at the windows with the same cry. Immediately the Gonfaloniere del Bue(2) came into the Piazza, and behind him Francesco Valori and other citizens on horseback, all crying Popolo e Liberta! These were the first to arrive; but before an hour had passed, the Piazza was filled with all the Gonfaloni and all the citizens, troops of armed men crying loudly, Popolo e Liberta! Although the people did not very well understand what all this tumult was about, nevertheless not many citizens went to Piero de' Medici's house. The Tornabuoni and some other citizens went there armed, with many men under their command, and coming into the street before his door, cried, Palle! Piero then mounted his horse, to come into the Piazza with his men, starting several times, and then stopping again. I think that he perceived how few citizens were with him, and also he must have been told that the Piazza was full of armed men. Meanwhile the cardinal, his brother, left his house, accompanied by many soldiers and by those citizens who were there, and came down the Corso as far as Orto San Michele, crying Popolo e Liberta like the rest; declaring that he separated himself from Piero. The only consequence was that the Piazza turned against him, menacing him with the points of their weapons shouting at him as a traitor, and not choosing to accept him. He turned back, not without danger. And now a proclamation was issued, at the Canto della Macina(3) and in the Via de' Martegli(4) next to the Chiassolino (little alley) ordering every foreigner to lay down his arms, and forbidding anyone on pain of death to aid or abet Piero de' Medici. In consequence of this, many abandoned Piero and laid down their arms. They dropped off on all sides, so that few remained with him. Therefore Piero left this house and went towards the Porta a San Gallo, which he had caused to be kept open for him by his brother Giuliano with many soldiers and by friends outside. Signor Pagolo Orsini was waiting outside with horses and armed men in readiness to enter, but it did not seem the right moment, and when Piero arrived they decided it would be best to go away, taking Giuliano with them. The poor young cardinal remained in his house, and I saw him at a window kneeling with joined hands, praying Heaven to have mercy. I was much touched when I saw him, considering him to be a good lad and of upright character. It was said that when he had seen Piero ride away, he disguised himself as a monk and took his departure also. Another proclamation was published in the Piazza, announcing that whoever slew Piero de' Medici should have 2 thousand ducats and whoever slew the cardinal should have a thousand. And after this many soldiers left the Piazza with Jacopo de' Nerli, and going to the house of Ser Giovanni son of Ser Bartolomeo,(5) pillaged it. And then the crowd rose, with the cry of Antonio di Bernardo,(5) and pillaged his house also, and pillaged the Bargello. The number of soldiers and of the people going about robbing increased every moment; and this all happened before 24 in the evening (8 p.m.), less than four hours from when the disturbance began. Then the Signoria published a proclamation forbidding any more houses to be pillaged, on pain of death; and the Gonfaloni went about the city all night to guard it, crying Popolo e Liberta, carrying lighted torches, so that no more harm was done, except that a certain serving-man of the Bargello who cried Palle, was killed in the Piazza. And now Girolamo son of Marabotto Tornabuoni, and Pierantonio Carnesecchi, and others of that party, turned and cried Popolo e Liberta like the rest. When they were about to enter the Piazza, however, weapons were pointed against them, and they were only saved by their cuirasses, and had to escape as best they might. In fact, Girolamo Tornabuoni had his cuirass torn off in Orto San Michele, but when he begged for mercy, his life was spared. And Giovan Francesco Tornabuoni was severely wounded in the throat, and returned home. When the disturbance began, some of the French who were quartered in Florence armed themselves and joined Piero's party, crying Francia. I believe it was pointed out to them that the matter was between citizens only, and that if they were to do anything against the Palagio, they would put themselves in the wrong; therefore they acted accordingly, returning to their lodgings and then going about the city unarmed.(6)

Source: A Florentine Diary, p. 60-3

November 10

The citizens again came armed into the Piazza, and set to recruit more men. Antonio de Bernardo, Ser Giovanni son of Ser Bartolomeo, Ser Simone da Staggia, Ser Ceccone son of Ser Barone, Ser Lorenzo of the Dogana, Lorenzo son of Giovanni Tornabuoni, and Piero Tornabuoni, were fetched from their houses and made prisoner. The Signoria published a proclamation commanding anyone who had, property belonging to Piero de' Medici or to the cardinal his brother, or to Ser Giovanni, Ser Simeone, Ser Bernardo, and Ser Lorenzo of the Dogana,(1) to declare it, on pain of death. And a second proclamation was published, which had been decided upon by the council composed of all the veduti e seduti.(2) There were an immense number of citizens present. Ant this morning they pillaged the cardinal's house, which was in Sant' Antonio(3) di Firenze, sending their men to claim the last things that still remained.

Source: A Florentine Diary, p. 63-4

November 11

A man arrived in the Piazza, having entered the city by the Porta alla Croce, and said that he had passed men-at-arms and infantry on the road to Florence, belonging to Piero de' Medici. Cries of Popolo e Liberta immediately resounded everywhere, and in less than half an hour the whole city was in arms, men of classes rushing to the Piazza with incredible haste, and with deafening cries of Popolo e Liberta. I verily believe that if the whole world had come against them, such a union could not have been broken; it being permitted by the Lord that the people should make such a demonstration, during this danger from the French, who had come to Florence with the evil intent of sacking it. But when they saw of what sort the people were, their heart failed them. As soon as the truth was known, that no armed men were approaching, a proclamation was made ordering all to lay aside their weapons, an this was about the dinner-hour. The Gonfaloni, however, remained on guard day and night, with a good number of men; and horsemen and foot-soldiers belonging to the King of France were continually entering. The Signoria had had the Porta di San Friano(1) opened. This evening the King of France remained at Empoli; and more than 6 thousand men came before the king, and as many with him, and another 6 thousand behind him. And at this time the taxes were lightened and many pardons granted.(2)

Source: A Florentine Diary, p. 63

November 15

Numbers of French were still coming in; and preparations were made to receive the king with great honour.(1)

Source: A Florentine Diary, p. 65

November 21

About 21 in the evening (5 p.m.) the Signori called a council of the most worthy men in the city, and explained to them how the king had said one thing and now wished another, and how he demanded the reinstatement of Piero de' Medici, and asked them what answer they advised to be given him. And they all replied to the effect that Piero's return could not be consented to upon any condition whatever, even if the king wished it; and that the king should be told that everything else but this would be granted him. They declared, moreover, that if it were necessary to take up arms, they should go against the king and everyone who differed from them saying, "If they king has 20 thousand men, we can call up 50 thousand of our own in the city"; showing no fear of the king, and also showing that a great hatred had arisen between the citizens and this Piero de' Medici; why this way, the Lord alone knows. At this time, as it pleased God, there was a little disturbance in the Piazza de' Signori, all the people being suspicious, and excited at the least noise, and always on the look-out for some danger. They really lived in dread and a sort of dismay, mostly caused by having their houses full of the French. And it was continually being repeated that the king had promised his soldiers Florence should be sacked. Therefore, as soon as there was this little disturbance in the Piazza, everyone hastened home, and all the shops were closed, one sending his silk goods and another his woollen goods away to his house or to some place of security. This suspicion was tacit, not a word being said; but many of the French, no less dismayed than we were, suspecting they knew not what, took up arms, and seized the Porta a San Friano and the bridges, so as to be able to escape. Possibly it had been so arranged among themselves beforehand, in case it should be needful. The result was that the Signoria and the council who had held the aforesaid consultation, when they heard that all the shops were being closed, felt still more acutely the danger of Piero's return; and the Signori urged the most worthy men of the council to go to the king and point out to him the danger of the city, begging him not to semand this thing, as it could only entail evil, etc. Hence the king, seeing the opposition of the citizens, and also realising his own danger, replied: "I am not here to cause disturbances, but to bring peace; and if I thought of this thing, it was only in the idea of pleasing the people and everyone. I wish for nothing but the general good, and no more need be said about Piero's return." Then the citizens make this offer to the king: "Whatever you may be pleased to ask from us freely, we shall be ready to bring to your aid." Thereupon the king asked that the city of Florence should lend him 120 thousand florins, 50 thousand to be paid at once, and 70 thousand before the end of July; and besides this, that for the duration of the war they should lend him 12 thousand a year. After the end of the war, our city should be left entirely free; and whether he died, or whether he conquered or not, it should still be left free. He only demanded the forts of Pisa and a few others that he had taken, Sarzana, etc., so that he should be able to return in safety to his country. He did not receive a reply immediately. Everyone said that a little time was needed, on account of the money.

Source: A Florentine Diary, p. 67-8

November 24

Entry from "A Florentine Diary" by Luca Landucci:

November 26

Entry from "A Florentine Diary" by Luca Landucci:

November 27

Entry from "A Florentine Diary" by Luca Landucci:

November 28

Entry from "A Florentine Diary" by Luca Landucci:

December 2

A parlamento was held in the Piazza de' Signori at about 22 in the evening (6 p.m.), and all the Gonfaloni came into the Piazza, each with his respective citizens behind him unarmed. But there were a number of armed men placed at all the ways leading into the Piazza; and many articles and statutes were read out, which formed several folios. Before beginning the reading it was asked whether two-thirds of the citizens were present; and the bystanders said that it was so. Then the reading began, and it was declared in the said articles that all the laws from 1434 onwards were annulled, and that the Settanta, the Dieci, and the Otto di Balia were also abolished, and that the government must be carried on by the Council of the People and the Commune, and that the balloting-bags must be closed and the names drawn by lot, as was usual in communes; and an election should take place as soon as possible. For the present, twenty of the noblest and ablest men should be appointed who would do the work of the Signoria and the other offices, together with the Signori and Collegi, until the election should be arranged. And the citizens must be content with the result of the ballot. And the said twenty men should among them, who should attend to the war with Pisa and to other necessary things.(1)

Source: A Florentine Diary, p. 74

December 9

It was proclaimed that Piero de' Medici was to be confined within boundaries 100 miles outside the Florentine territory.(1)

Source: A Florentine Diary, p. 75

December 14

14th December (Sunday). We heard how those Frenchmen who were marking the houses in Rome had been driven away, and many had been killed; the Romans wishing to defend themselves and not accept the Frenchmen in their city.

Source: A Florentine Diary, p. 76

December 29

29th December. The new Signori were drawn by lot, which is a fresh way of choosing them. The First Gonfaloniere is one of the Corbizi, this news being receive joyfully, seeming to promise a popular and more impartial government.

Source: A Florentine Diary, p. 78

December 30

30th December (Tuesday). Ambassadors were chosen to go to Pisa: Piero Capponi and Francesco Valori, together with the French one; and they were to take letters from the king with them, saying that Pisa should be given back to us.(1) They were, in fact, playing us such tricks that the people thought that the king was making fools of us, which was considered a bad prospect, as indeed it was.

Source: A Florentine Diary, p. 78

1495 in Naples, Pisa, France and Florence

January 1

1st January. The new Signoria entered into office, and it was a great joy to see the whole Piazza filled with citizens, quite different from other times, as a new thing, thanking God who had given this impartial government to Florence, and delivered us from subjection. And all this had been done at the instigation of the Frate.

Source: A Florentine Diary, p. 78

January 27

27th January. The Consiglio Maggiore (Great Council) met and appointed a council of 80 men, who with the Signoria would have to choose the ambassadors, reply to letters, and do much other business.(1)

Source: A Florentine Diary, p. 81

February 5

5th February. The French Cardinal Sammalò,(1) who had just been made cardinal by the Pope, entered Florence. He had come here with the King of France as a bishop; and now he was returning to France. He had many horsemen with him. He was lodged in Santa Maria Novella in the papal apartments. All this time it was said that the King of France was in a bad situation, and there was cause for fear.

Source: A Florentine Diary, p. 82

February 8

8th February. The Signoria went to visit him, and later, after having dined, sent eight(1) of the chief citizens to hear what he desired. And he asked for the money which had been promised to the king, and the loan of 40 thousand florins besides.

Source: A Florentine Diary, p. 82-3

February 9

9th February. The Signori burnt all the tickets of the ballot-bags, because they said that the names had been chosen according to the wishes of a few powerful citizens.

Source: A Florentine Diary, p. 83

February 25

25th February. We heard that the King of France had taken Naples, and how he had entered it on the 21st without a blow. The King of Naples took refuge in the Castel dell' Uovo. This news was proclaimed here with great rejoicing, with drums and fifes, and the shops were shut. There were many bonfires and lights(1) on the towers, and other manifestations, to commemorate such a conquest.(2)

Source: A Florentine Diary, p. 83

March 19

19th March. It was carried through the Great Council. And the petition declares that all political offences would be cancelled from the day of Piero de' Medici being driven out, except where fraud was involved; and that the Signoria should not be able to imprison without the consent of the Great Council.

Source: A Florentine Diary, p. 85


June 26

Extract from a dispatch of Machiavelli to the Signoria of Florence concerning Cesare Borgia:

Source: Leonardo da Vinci. The Flights of the Mind, E-book, p. 595.

December 26

Extract from a dispatch of Machiavelli to the Signoria of Florence while in the service of Cesare Borgia:

Source: Leonardo da Vinci. The Flights of the Mind, E-book, p. 609.

1528 in Florence

August 22

By a deliberation of the Signory, we are informed that the marble had been brought to Florence about three years earlier, and that Michelangelo now received instructions, couched in the highest terms of compliment, to proceed with a group of two figures until its accomplishment. If Vasari can be trusted, Michelangelo made numerous designs and models for the Cacus, but afterwards changed his mind, and thought that he would extract from the block a Samson triumphing over two prostrate Philistines. The evidence for this change of plan is not absolutely conclusive.

1529 in Florence, Ferrara, Pisa and Arno

June 5

Michelangelo had scarcely been chosen to control the general scheme of fortifying Florence, when the Signory began to consider the advisability of strengthening the citadels of Pisa and Livorno, and erecting lines along the Arno. Their commissary at Pisa wrote urging the necessity of Buonarroti's presence on the spot. In addition to other pressing needs, the Arno, when in flood, threatened the ancient fortress of the city. Accordingly we find that Michelangelo went to Pisa on the 5th of June, and that he stayed there over the 13th, returning to Florence perhaps upon the 17th of the month.

July 28

Furnished with letters to the Duke, and with special missives from the Signory and the Ten to their envoy, Galeotto Giugni, Michelangelo left Florence for Ferrara after the 28th of July, and reached it on the 2nd of August. He refused, as Giugni writes with some regret, to abandon his inn, but was personally conducted with great honour by the Duke all round the walls and fortresses of Ferrara. On what day he quitted that city, and whither he went immediately after his departure, is uncertain.

October 13

Galeotti Giugni wrote to the Florentine War Office from Ferrara, upon the subject of Michelangelo's return to Florence under safe conduct. He says that Michelangelo has beged him to intercede in his favour, and that he is willing to return and lay himself at the feet of their lordships.

October 20

In answer to Galeotto Giugni's intercession on Michelangelo's behalf for the artist to return to Florence, news is sent to Giugni that the Signory has signed a safe-conduct for Michelangelo.

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