The Duomo: The Touchstone of Florence
By Jordan Hillier
The First-Year Papers (2012)
Introduction: While European societies coped with the loss of the Roman Empire in the Middle Ages, Florence, Italy began an age of augmentation in transnational trade, city infrastructure, and wealth. Medieval Florence signifies an era in which the small Roman town transformed into one of the most powerful, populated cities in Europe with the help of the manufacturing and trading industries. Florence grew exponentially in size as Europeans began traveling to the city for vocational opportunities as well as a way to escape the rule of elite families, which led to the conquering of surrounding communities as well as the construction of monumental buildings. The growing wool industry and promise of international trade in the eleventh century, as well as the attempt of Europeans to escape feudal lords imperial power, led to the urbanization of Medieval Florence. The urbanized city’s power and wealth was ultimately displayed through the construction of the Duomo, the touchstone of Florentine architecture.
The Roman Empire crumbled in the sixth century, resulting in the continual disintegration of the Empire’s centralized political system, as well as other Roman policies, throughout European cities. As a result of the lack of authority that plagued Europe, wealthy individuals and families became influential factors in a country’s political system, as well as protectors and providers for peasants. However, this created a level of dependency on the wealthy, which often led to unfair treatment of the poor as well as a feeling of insecurity. The urbanization of cities throughout Europe began to take place as peasants started looking to escape this feeling of bondage to feudal lords. This migration into different cities, including Florence, was not only an attempt to escape reliance on the affluent, but also to achieve a better lifestyle through the trading possibilities that urban environments promoted. Florence’s population growth was a product of this logic, as people began to migrate into the city from the countryside because of the wool industry that began to prosper in the midst of the medieval era.