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The tower societies of medieval Florence
By Paul R. Harrison
Master’s Thesis, San Jose State University, 2005
Abstract: This thesis addresses the topic of the tower societies of medieval Florence during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. It examines their origins and how they evolved from the fall of Rome to the advent of the commune. It also examines how they were constructed and organized. In addition, the towers became the target of the new popular government, the Primo Popolo, because they were seen as a threat to civic stability.
Research on this subject reveals that the towers were not the sole source of civic chaos and disorder, but instead they were a key element of the complex communal social order. The towers played an important role in managing the early commune. The toweres provided security, protection, and social order in Florence. Once the Primo Popolo began to destroy the towers, the commune removed one of the key controlling agents. As a result, chaos and violence plagued the city for nearly a century.
When looking at a panoramic view of modern Florence from Fiesole, one cannot help but be amazed at how it has maintained its overall visual continuity with the Renaissance city of lore. The significant monuments stand out just as stunningly as they did in the fourteenth and fifteenth century, giving the viewer the same overwhelming appreciation travelers must have felt when approaching the city six hundred years ago. One can clearly see the jewel of the city, Santa Maria del Fiore. Its wonderful dome, designed by Brunelleschi, and its adjacent campanile, designed by Giotto, still inspire and dominate the city. One can easily see the Palazzo Vecchio and the general outline of the third circuit of walls. The careful and diligent observer can make out several important monuments, but he must be aware that the view of the city as we know it today is a stagnant view of Florence.