By William Landon, Northern Kentucky University
In the spring of 1529, Niccolò Capponi’s correspondences with Pope Clement VII were discovered. He was tried for treason and removed from office. An election for the office of gonfaloniere was held and the winner was the man who had nearly beaten Capponi as he stood for election the second time—Francesco Carducci.
Carducci’s election guaranteed that the Florentine government would shift away from the nobility and center upon the Florentine people. The Carducci government was anti-elite, and stood in stout opposition to any negotiations with the Medici pope.
It was during the spring and summer of 1529 that many of Florence’s most notable citizen fled—among them Francesco Guicciardini, the historian who wrote so pejoratively about the Florentine masses in his History of Italy. He, and many of his cohorts, crossed over to the Medici side.
As much as one might be tempted to conclude that men such as Guicciardini were simply pro-Medicean and anti-republican, they weren’t.
They were political survivors, and their ancient lineages allowed them to transition from one regime to the next with their wealth and honor intact. Like nearly all successful politicians, their principles were flexible.
Michelangelo to the Rescue?
In the summer of 1529, the Carducci government brought another, and this time less cynical, vote to the Great Council, which resulted in the city yet again proclaiming Christ as its king.
Michelangelo, from time to time, had been known as a republican. Starting in January of 1529, he was elected to office as a member of the Nine of the Militia.
Later, in April of the same year, he was made ‘Governor General and Procurator of the Fortifications’, which meant that he was put in charge of the Florence’s defenses.
Everyone knew war was coming, and they hoped Michelangelo’s genius might save them. The architectural drawings that Michelangelo completed for the city’s new fortifications are, in themselves, strikingly beautiful. He oversaw the construction of a new fortress on the southern side of the Arno River, as well as walls and towers near the ancient Church of San Miniato, also located south of the Arno.
Michelangelo also oversaw the fortification of the citadels at other strategic cities in Tuscany, making the Florence and its protectorates formidable obstacles to Emperor Charles’s army.
This article comes directly from content in the video series How the Medici Shaped the Renaissance. Watch it now, on Wondrium.
A Fortified Florence
Under Carducci’s leadership, the Florentines made the painful choice to destroy every building and home within one mile of Florence’s walls. Palatial aristocratic residences, together with the humblest peasant hovels, were razed. Every useful bit of masonry was carried back to Florence, where it was repurposed in Michelangelo’s fortifications.
The city was flooded with individuals and families who found themselves homeless. But as they left the countryside, they brought with them foodstuffs and a willingness to work.
Average Florentines transported stone and building supplies from the city center, across the Arno and up the steep hillside to the region of San Miniato. They were instrumental in making Michelangelo’s vision for a fortified Florence become a reality.
Two Standing Armies
Carducci’s government also took steps to provide for two standing armies, roughly 10,000 each, to defend Florence. The first was composed almost completely of mercenary soldiers under the employ of Malatesta Baglioni, and the other consisted of Florentine citizens.
Like all mercenary armies, Baglioni’s was less inclined to die for their employer. But the Florentine militia was fully prepared to do so.
Florentine Citizens’ Militia
It was worth noting that, unlike earlier iterations, most famously that organized by Niccolò Machiavelli, the militia of 1529 was staffed by Florentine citizens rather than soldiers from the contado pressed into service.
This militia was fighting for hearth and home, which made them a force to be reckoned with.
The Carducci government sought to underpin the militia’s patriotic fervor with religious zeal. As such, the four quarters of Florence all hosted special masses where militia members took part in pledge ceremonies in their respective chief churches.
They swore allegiance to the republic, to God, and to their own personal honor; and they promised not to bear arms in any cause other than the protection of Florence.
In nonmartial matters, the Carducci government reinstituted many of the laws the Savonarolan regime had put in place in the 1490s. Gambling was outlawed, prostitution criminalized, profane language made legally punishable, books of a secular nature banned, and the Medici and their supporters either put under guard or run out of the city.
The birthplace of the Renaissance had once again taken a puritanical swerve. Even so, the religious conviction which underscored all of the republic’s activities, civilian and martial, served to prepare the city for an inescapable siege.
Common Questions about the Carducci Government
Michelangelo oversaw the construction of a new fortress on the southern side of the Arno River, as well as walls and towers near the ancient Church of San Miniato. Michelangelo also oversaw the fortification of the citadels at other strategic cities in Tuscany, making the Florence and its protectorates formidable obstacles to Emperor Charles’s army.
Francesco Carducci’s government took steps to provide for two standing armies, roughly 10,000 each, to defend Florence. The first was composed almost completely of mercenary soldiers under the employ of Malatesta Baglioni, and the other consisted of Florentine citizens.
In April 1529, Michelangelo was made ‘Governor General and Procurator of the Fortifications’, which meant that he was put in charge of the Florence’s defenses.