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Revolution in Expansion

In Florence, and also in the surrounding cities, the Renaissance was a time of awakening and rebirth. A time of examining the present and looking towards a future that would turn out to seem entirely different from the past, but at the same time hold striking similarities. How was this possible? The transformations in Florence began with new attitudes and new priorities in the minds of her citizens.

At the beginning of the period that we call the Renaissance, many cities may have seemed very much alike. Most had similar economic structures, architecture, and trades. But some cities in Italy, especially Florence, were different: The towns often had Roman origins, and to a degree survived the social disorder of the barbarian invasions of the earlier middle ages. Not only was physical infrastructure often in place, but also the glue which gave order to civic arrangements, in form of the hardy survival of Roman law. Each town had its myth of origin, which not surprisingly usually featured a picture of a Roman, in the case of Florence usually Julius Caesar of the emperor Augustus. (12). Florence had a very strong history that had obvious influence on daily life. Therefore, even while Renaissance ideas and art began to take over, the foundations of the city were never lost or forgotten. Rather, the old was incorporated into the new. Florence was steeped in her Roman origins and her Christianity, both playing to full effect when dressed in the rhetoric of cultural supremacy. (20). Florentines were proud of their roots and their contemporary culture, and they demonstrated this in sometimes chaotic ways.

We also know that religion was what made the city turn. Florentine s lives were focused around Christianity. Religion saturated Florentine life to an extent that few questioned. (32). This attitude of revolutionizing their culture while at the same time maintaining long-held beliefs also comes into play here. So in Floerence the remains of Zenobius, the city s only home-grown saint, were prized, but as much or more so the remains of John the Baptist, the imported patron saint of the city. While relics were the corporal evidence of the presence of the religious dead, they were also witness to the continually renewed religious life of the city. (20).

Guilds of craftsmen who no doubt contributed new ideas in how things were made and how the city functioned during the Renaissance also focused heavily on Christianity. Each guild participated in the major religious holidays of the city, and each had responsibility of the feast day of its specific patron saint. (13). Florentines were extremely proud people. They strived for supremacy and obviously believed they were superior to other cultural centers of the time. While Florence had more than fifty parish churches, all children were brought to the Baptistery for what was, in effect, a double baptism, as a Christian and as a Florentine. (28). This is especially interesting because it demonstrates well how these people kept an important foundation (religious ceremony and tradition) and incorporated it into something new (the importance of being a member of an advanced society).

Part of what really made the Renaissance a great era was the attitudes of progress for cities like Florence. They didn t believe in starting over with a clean slate. They appreciated where their culture had come from and embraced it while at the same time expanding upon it. This allowed for a new breed of Florentine, and an interesting Renaissance culture.

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