Monday, September 16, 2013


The fifth descendant generation of Charissimo de’ Medici, one of two brothers who migrated to Florence in the Middle Ages, finds outstanding individuals with both lasting and significant contributions to history, the evolution and expansion of Florence, as well as the broadening of power and riches to the Medici family itself. So substantial were the accomplishments by so many of this branch and generation, they are deserving of their own accolades.

All family trees are only as strong as the roots upon which they stand. And yet in the profusion of source material on the Medici family, most point to Giovanni di Bicci de Medici (1360-1428) as the patriarch of the family. These series of posts (now at number seven) prove that many prior branches and roots provided a strong base for the powerful family; each one growing sturdier on the deeds of those that came before. Unfortunately, it also makes the information on these early branches both spotty and contradictory (the custom of using a significant ancestor’s name, such as Charissimo, finds the two men in question in this post--highlighted in red in the family tree above--both called not only Salvestro but Salvestro Charissimo…a recipe for confusion). In an effort for clarity they will be called by their name and their fathers, hence Salvestro di Alamanno and Salvestro di Averado. Since the previous post, it became clear that Salvestro di Alamanoo (1331-1388; Gonfalonier of Florence 1370, 1377/78) and not his cousin, Salvestro di Averado, was, in fact, the Salvestro intricately involved with the Ciompi Revolt and its resolution. That distinction does indeed belong to Salvestro di Alamanno.

Circled: carding brushes
The revolt was sparked by the wool carders (a brushing process to remove imperfections and align the fibers). Not only were these workers unrepresented by any Guild in a society in which there were Guilds for almost every profession (what in modern terms would be called Unions), they were some of the poorest, and most radical, of workers. They resented the growing power of the other Guilds, especially those within the textile community, such as the Arte della Lanna (the wool guild, one of the seven ‘great’ trades of Florence). And they grew ever more fearful as rumors of a takeover were in the air…the manufacturers and bankers were planning a coup d’état on June 24, Saint John’s Day, a major holiday.

Scarperia Castle
Salvestro di Alamanno had already distinguished himself in prestigious public offices and as a powerful condottiere (soldier) in the war against the Visconti to defend the castle of Scarperia. A wealthy man and member of the upper merchant class, he did, however, sympathize with the unrepresented workers, and as the sitting governor, spurred the ciompi to take action with an eloquence that would come to mark the Medici through the ages:

 "If we had to deliberate now whether to take up arms, to burn and rob the homes of the citizens, to despoil churches, I would be one of those who would judge it was a course to think over, and perhaps I would agree to put quiet poverty ahead of perilous gain. But because arms have been taken up and many evils have been done, it appears to me that one must reason that arms must not be put aside and that we must consider how we can secure ourselves from the evils that have been committed... You see the whole city full of grievance and hatred against us: the citizens meet together; the Signoria is always on the side of the magistrates. You should believe that traps are being set for us and that new forces are being prepared against our strongholds. We must therefore seek two things, and we must have two ends in our deliberations: one is to make it impossible for us to be punished for the things we have done in recent days, and the other is to be able to live with more freedom and more satisfaction than we have in the past... If we wish that our old errors be forgiven us, [we need] to make new ones, redoubling the evils, multiplying the arson and robbery-- and to contrive to have many companions in this, because when many err, no one is punished, and though small faults are punished, great and grave ones are rewarded." (Florentine Histories, III, 13)

In June of 1378, the ciompi, these disenfranchised and unrepresented workers, took up arms and attacked government buildings. By July 21, their successful efforts found Michele di Landio, a wool carder who in the midst of the riot took up the city’s banner and ran with it (literally) through the heart of the assault, seated as the gonfaloniere of justice (basically the Governor of Florence). They brought the popolo minuto (the lower class) some much needed influence; it was a time of great democracy in a land always ruled by an upper class republic oligarchy. During their short tenure of power, the ciompi elected three of their own as members of the Prior (a small but powerful arm of the government), instituted tax reforms, and reduced judicial corporal punishment.
Michele di Landio
Under Landio’s reign, Salvestro di Alamanno was not only given revenue of shops on the Old Bridge (the famous Ponte Vecchio) he was also knighted, along with 63 other Florentine citizens.

Their blaze of glory was but a flash of a flint.

The revolt traumatized the upper classes of Florentine society and it was not long before a counter-strike was in the offing. As a the ciompi gathered in the main city square, the Piazza della Signoria, in front of the government building, they were attacked by members of the major and minor guilds, outraged men led by the guild of butchers (that in itself conjures a frightening image). Though they were ousted from any positions of power, the reforms put in place by the ciompi remained in effect…but only until 1382.

Florence's magnificent Duomo
For Salvestro di Alamanno’s support of the marginalized, the privileges incurred upon him by Landio were revoked and he was exiled from the city in 1382. The government did not lift his exile until 1387. He died a year later, never having married or borne any children. Salvestro di Alamanno did receive the privilege of entombment within the great Duomo.

His cousin, Salvastro di Averado de’ Medici did not live his life without distinction of his own however. Born circa 1300, Salvestro di Averado served as Florence’s envoy to Venice for a year, 1336, perhaps more. In 1326, he married Lisa Donati, daughter of Sinibaldo Donati, one of Tuscany’s powerful families, forging an importance alliance that would last for generations. This Salvastro and his wife, Lisa, would also become grandparents to none other than Giovanni di Bicci de Medici. 

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