‘You cannot sell liberty for all the gold there is’: promoting good governance in early Renaissance Florence

You cannot sell liberty for all the gold there is: promoting good governance in early Renaissance Florence

By Peter Howard

Renaissance Studies, Vol.24:2 (2010)

Abstract: During the Medicean ascendancy in Renaissance Florence, the city’s Dominican Archbishop, Sant’ Antonino Pierozzi, used the power of the pulpit to ensure that deeds undertaken by citizens were motivated not by self-interest (bonum particulare), but rather by the honour of God and the good of the republic – the common good of all (bonum commune). This article considers a range of texts from which he derived a language to express his particular vision of the city and its governance.

I argue that preachers kept the idea of libertas alive in the consciousness of the city’s inhabitants by drawing on sets of words that had both historical and contemporary resonance. Indeed, in the case of Florence and Archbishop Antonino, direct verbal borrowings served, at least implicitly, to link particular utterances to a long tradition and to shared ideals originating in the city’s past.

The article concludes with an examination of his hitherto unrecognized borrowings from the treatise on the cardinal virtues by Henry of Rimini OP, addressed to the citizens of Venice of the late 1290s, and with a reflection on how these words, envisaged for the polity of another time and place, had potency and authority within contemporary circumstances.

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