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FONDACCIO SANTO SPIRITO, VIA MAGGIO, SAN FELICE CHURCH


Parallel to the quay already traversed, and leading back to the Piazza Frescobaldi, is the Fondaccio di Santo Spirito; and on a tablet to the left there is an inscription recording the birthplace of Francesco Ferruccio.

The family of Ferruccio was from Piombino and derived their name from ferro " iron", having probably been workers in that metal.

They were Florentine citizens in 1253 when one of the Ferrucci had a seat in the government.

Francesco was born in 1489, and was destined for a merchant, but his inclinations were more for war and the chase, in which he spent much of his time in the Casentino, where he possessed land.

He was sent on several missions by Malatesta Baglioni, then a celebrated leader of the Free Companies; and he once had occasion to witness a signal defeat of this captain, in a vain endeavour to rescue Arezzo, which was attacked by the enemy: Ferruccio came to the rescue, when Baglioni was obliged to acknowledge the superior military skill of this Florentine merchant, and hated him accordingly.

In 1529 Malatesta was invited to undertake the defence of Florence against the Imperialists, and Ferruccio volunteered to second his efforts by harassing the enemy and creating diversions outside the city; but his ability and success only increased the envy and spite of Baglioni, who finally betrayed Florence to the besiegers, and conspired to cause the overthrow and murder of Ferruccio at the Battle of Gavinana, among the mountains above Pistoia.

In Ferruccio the Florentines lost the last defender of their Republic, and his name is still venerated among those of the greatest of their heroes.

Opposite this palace, at the corner of the Via de Serragli, is the Palazzo Rinuccini, now let out in apartments, and its rich gallery and library sold and dispersed.

It was built by the architect Luigi Cardi Cigoli about the end of the sixteenth century, and the windows on the ground floor are much admired. The earliest record of the Rinuccini is when they built the Sacresty of Santa Croce for their chapel, in 1294. They were frequently employed in embassies abroad; and in 1645 one of the family was sent as Papal Legate to Ireland, to endeavour to ameliorate the condition of the Catholics, who were barbarously persecuted by Cromwell.

The Marchese Carlo Rinuccini was sent as ambassador to Queen Anne to congratulate her on her accession to the English throne, and afterwards for some purpose to George I.

Before the middle of the thirteenth century there were no houses of any importance on this side of the Arno, and when Buonaccorso Velluti, one of the ancestors of the present Duke of San Clemente, built himself a palace in this neighbourhood, his friends ridiculed his choice of a situation so remote from Florence. The first palace to the left entering in Via Maggio is the official residence of the American Consul; was formerly the Palazzo Firidolfi, a branch of the Ricasoli family; they were among the most valiant defenders of Florence against the Emperor Henry VII. -1312- and were in consequence placed under the ban of the Empire.

The last male descendant died in 1818, leaving an only daughter, Lucrezia who married a Ricasoli, and as before stated, thus reunited the families after an interval of eight centuries.

The two palaces which follow are Turco and Amerigo, and opposite them, No.26, is the palace built for herself by Bianca Cappello, and decorated with paintings in the Florentine manner.

Her husband, one night when returning home, was murdered between this palace and the bridge.

Bianca was the daughter of an old patrician family of Venice, and she was persuaded to form a secret marriage with a young Florentine named Piero Buonaventura.

Fearing discovery by her parents, they escaped to Florence, where they lived in complete retirement in an apartment in Piazza San Marco.

It happened, however that Prince Francis, the eldest son and heir of the Grand Duke Cosimo I, saw Bianca at the window, and was struck with her extraordinary beauty.


The assasination of Bonaventura, which took place many years afterwards, was by some attributed to Francis, who married Bianca, who was immediately adopted as a daughter by the Venetian Republic.

She summoned her brother, Vittorio Cappello, to join her in Florence, and he soon became the sole adviser and favourite of Francis, which so much excited the jealousy and hatred of the Medici family. Then every means was employed to oblige Francis to dismiss Vittorio from his court.

Bianca´s voluminous correspondence with her brother, in her clear, bold handwriting, is still preserved in the Archives of the Ufizzi.

The dismissal of Vittorio did not, however, satisfy the enemies of the grand-duchess, who were resolved on her death; and one evening after she and the grand-duke had partaken of a supper at their favourite villa of Poggio-a-Cajano, both were seized with violent pains, and they died within a few hours of one another.

Cardinal Ferdinand de' Medici, the brother of Francis, who succeeded to the throne, is accused of being the author of this crime, which accusation appeared the more probable by the contumely with which he caused the body of the unhappy grand-duchess, and her son only escaped persecution by leading a life of retirement in Florence.

Beyond the opposite Palazzo Amerigo is the Palazzo Ridolfi. The Ridolfi came to Florence from Ravenna in the fourteenth century. Twenty-one of the family filled the office of Gonfalonier (Gonfaloniere), and fifty-two that of Priors (Priori)of the Republic. Nicolò de' Ridolfi was beheaded, in 1417, for having attempted to restore the Medici in Florence, but his son married a daughter of Lorenzo the Magnificent, and exercised great influence in the Government until his death, in 1525. His son again married a daughter of the celebrated Filippo Strozzi, and the favour he showed towards the Florentine exiles was the cause of his banishment by the Grand-Duke Cosimo I, when he found protection with Catherine de' Medici, Queen of France. From him are descended the present Ridolfi family. The most distinguished of the Ridolfi belonged, however, to another branch. Lorenzo de' Ridolfi governed the Florentine Republic towards the end of the fourtheenth, and the beginning of the fifteenth centuries, assisted by Messer Maso degli Albizzi, and Messer Filippo Corsini, before Cosimo de' Medici attained to power; and it was these three men who raised Florence to the high position she afterwards held. In the year 1425, eight years after his cousin Nicolò de' Ridolfi had been beheaded for his friendship to the Medici, Lorenzo di Antonio Ridolfi was sent to Venice to solicit the Venetians to join in a league against Filipo Visconti, Lord of Milan . The cautious Venetians hesitated when Lorenzo burst forth in these words:- Venetians, last year the Genoese, when we abandoned them, created Filippo a prince; if you deny us your aid in our present difficulties, we will make him a king; and should we conquer, and you are left standing alone, none coming to your aid, however you may desire it, you will be the cause of his becoming emperor. Ridolfi then turned his back on the Senators and left the room, when they immediatly consented to join the League.

The late Marchese Cosimo Ridolfi was one of the most honest and patriotic statesmen of Florence during the disturbed period antecedent to the union of Italy under Vittorio Emmanuel, which was the more to be admired in him, as he was tutor to the grand-ducal children.

At the corner of the Via Maggio and Via Marsili, is a house painted by Pocetti in chiaroscuro. This house was at that time possessed by the architect Bernardo Buontalenti, and it was here that he recived a flying visit from the poet Torquato Tasso. Tasso's poetry had been severly criticised by the the Accademia della Crusca, and Ariosto was preferred before him; he had felt the mortification acutely, when news reached him in Ferrara that his Pastoral of "Aminta" had been produced on the Florentine stage, with scenery by Buontalenti, which had secured for it the greatest success.

Tasso instantly started for Florence, and rode up to this door in the Via Maggio. When Buontalenti appeared, Tasso asked, "Are you that Bernardo Buontalenti of whose wonderul inventions so much is spoken, and who contrived the machinery for a drama lately recited, the composition of Tasso?"

"I am Bernardo Buontalenti, "was the reply, "but not such you have the kindness and courtesy to describe me. "Upon this the poet embraced him, kissed his forehead, and with the words, "You are Buontalenti, I Torquato Tasso ; adieu, my friend", remounted his horse, and left Florence by the way he came. Buontalenti immediately informed the Grand-Duke Cosimo of this visit, but, though messages were sent to recall Tasso, it was too late, and he never returned to Florence.

Opposite this palace is the Via Michelozzi, at the corner of which is the singular old Palace of the Michelozzi family, the upper storey overhanging the lower and supported by brackets.

One of the Michelozzi was Prior in 1386, and another was employed with Averardo de' Medici, the grand-father of Cosimo, to punish a rebellious town, in 1433.

Giovan Battista di Tommaso Michelozzi, in the sixteenth century, placed the rich canopy over the high altar of the neighbouring Church of Santo Spirito. The celebrated architect belonged to another branch of this family. At the further end of the Via Maggio is the Casa Guidi, an old tower transformed into a modern mansion, and over the door is a beautiful inscription to the memory of the English poetess Elizabeth Barrett Browning, who lived and died here.

At the opposite corner, in the Piazza San Felice, is the chuurch of that name, where many noble families have their burial-place; it belongs to a convent of Dominican nuns, called the Nuns of San Piero Martire, who are permitted to afford protection to unhappy wives fleeing from their husbands. The Coro, or gallery, set apart the nuns, above the entrance to the church, is supported by Doric columns. To the right of the door is a much injuried fresco, grandly composed and with deep feeling, probably of the period preceeding the schools of the Lippi and Masaccio?

The Saviour is rising from his tomb, the Virgin, with one arm round his neck, and supporting his wounded arm with her other hand, kisses his face; St. John and Mary Magdalene kneel on the other side.

On the opposite side of the church is a panel picture of three Saints, attribuited to Piero di Cosimo, but rather resembling the style of the Pollaioli.

St. Roch, in the centre, points to the plague-spot on his leg; on one side, is St. Anthony and his pig, on the other, St. Catherine; the legends of the Saints are given in the predella below. St. Anthony is chasing away his pig, the emblem of gluttony and life of indulgence; St. Catherine is suffering martyr-dom between two wheels; the legend of St. Roch in the centre is not sufficiently seen to ascertain its meaning. The colour and expression is very fine throughout.

A little further down the nave on the same side is a feeble picture, by Salvator Rosa, of St. Peter walking on the Sea.

St. Mattew at the Receipt of Custom is by Cosimo Rosselli, and is a fair specimen of the master. The Madonna appearing to San Piero Martire, by Ridolfo Girlandaio, aided by his favourite pupil, Michele, is also a good picture. The chapel wich follows is dedicated to the Holy Wafer.

Above it is a Madonna, in a lunette, which was brought here from the western entrance, were it is supposed to have worked miracles during a plague. A marble arch, with delicately carved foliage, encloses the whole. The Ancona, containing the wafer, has a Virgin and four saints, with adoring angels rising over the casket. Above is the Saviour rising from the tomb.

To the right of the Virgin is an old and young saint; to the left St. John the Baptist and another saint: angels fill up the interstices of the arch.

A picture by Giovanni di San Giovanni represents an incident in the life of St. Felice, when a bishop of Nola, who was dying of hunger and thirst, was relieved by him.

The last picture on this side is so injured, as to be almost incomprehensible. On the opposite side are - a Virgin and Child, with saints; St. Anthony healing the Sick, by Ottavio Vanni; and St. Dominick, with other saints, by Vignoli, an artist of no great name. A fine Giottesque Crucifix is attached to the gallery for the nuns.

From the Piazza San Felice a street leads directly to the Piazza Santo Spirito, at the corner of which is another fine example of Florentine architecture of the sixteenth century, possibly after a design by il Cronaca; a beautiful Fanale, similar to those on the Strozzi, Riccardi, and Pazzi Palaces, is attached to the corner.

The palace belongs to the family of Guadagni, whose gallery of pictures was adorned by two splendid landscapes by Salvator Rosa, which have been sold.

The Guadagni derive their origin from Ser Guadagno di Guitto, a notary, who was one of the councillors of the Commune in 1204. From 1289 to 1528, the family reckon eleven Gonfaloniers and nineteen Priors.

Bernardo Guadagni advised the exile of Cosimo de' Medici - PaterPatriæ- in 1433; in revenge for which, Cosimo, on his return not being able to seize Bernardo, who had made his escape, treachrously seized on his son, and caused him to beheaded.

One branch of the family settled in France, where they were received with honour at the Court of Francis I.


CHRONOLOGY. (A.D.)

Buontalenti, Bernardo 1536-1608

Cappello, Bianca d.-1587

Cronaca, Il 1454-1509

Ferruccio, Francesco, murdered 1530

Ghirlandaio, Ridolfo 1485-1560

Giovanni di San Giovanni 1576-1636

Henry VII., Emperor, attacked Florence 1312

Pocetti, Bernardo 1542-1591

Ridolfi, Lorenzo de' ambassador to Venice 1425

" Nicolò de', beheaded 1417

Rinuccini in Ireland 1645

Tasso, Torquato 1544-1595

Vanni, Ottavio 1585-1643

Velluti Buonaccorso died 1296