A Wanderer in Florence eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 333 pages of information about A Wanderer in Florence.
who wrote history as it was being made, gives an excellent account, which Macaulay summarizes in his vivid way.  Thus:  “The revenue of the Republic amounted to three hundred thousand florins; a sum which, allowing for the depreciation of the precious metals, was at least equivalent to six hundred thousand pounds sterling; a larger sum than England and Ireland, two centuries ago, yielded to Elizabeth.  The manufacture of wool alone employed two hundred factories and thirty thousand workmen.  The cloth annually produced sold, at an average, for twelve hundred thousand florins; a sum fully equal in exchangeable value to two millions and a half of our money.  Four hundred thousand florins were annually coined.  Eighty banks conducted the commercial operations, not of Florence only but of all Europe.  The transactions of these establishments were sometimes of a magnitude which may surprise even the contemporaries of the Barings and the Rothschilds.  Two houses advanced to Edward III of England upwards of three hundred thousand marks, at a time when the mark contained more silver than fifty shillings of the present day, and when the value of silver was more than quadruple of what it now is.  The city and its environs contained a hundred and seventy thousand children inhabitants.  In the various schools about ten thousand children were taught to read; twelve hundred studied arithmetic; six hundred received a learned education.”

Giotto died in 1386, and after his death, as I have said, Andrea Pisano came in for a while; to be followed by Talenti, who is said to have made considerable alterations in Giotto’s design and to be responsible for the happy idea of increasing the height of the windows with the height of the tower and thus adding to the illusion of springing lightness.  The topmost ones, so bold in size and so lovely with their spiral columns, almost seem to lift it.

The campanile to-day is 276 feet in height, and Giotto proposed to add to that a spire of 105 feet.  The Florentines completed the facade of the cathedral in 1887 and are now spending enormous sums on the Medici chapel at S. Lorenzo; why should they not one day carry out their greatest artist’s intention?

The campanile as a structure had been finished in 1387, but not for many years did it receive its statues, of which something must be said, although it is impossible to get more than a vague idea of them, so high are they.  A captive balloon should be arranged for the use of visitors.  Those by Donatello, on the Baptistery side, are the most remarkable.  The first of these—­that nearest to the cathedral and the most striking as seen from the distant earth—­is called John the Baptist, always a favourite subject with this sculptor, who, since he more than any at that thoughtful time endeavoured to discover and disclose the secret of character, is curiously unfortunate in the accident that has fastened names to these figures.  This John, for example, bears no relation to his other

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A Wanderer in Florence from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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