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, city, Italy
Florence (flôrˈəns, flŏrˈ–), Ital. Firenze, city (2021 est. metro area pop.709,064), capital of Tuscany and of Firenze prov., central Italy, on the Arno River, at the foot of the Apennines. Florence, the jewel of the Italian Renaissance, is one of the world's great historic cities. It is a commercial, industrial, and tourist center and a rail junction. Tourism is the main industry, which is supported by the manufacture of glassware, precious metalware, leatherwork, ceramics, clothing, shoes, and art reproductions. The Univ. of Florence is an international cultural center, and the National Library is in the city. Only one bridge, the Ponte Vecchio (14th cent.), survived World War II, and now several modern bridges span the Arno.

Points of Interest

It is impossible to mention here all of the city's monuments, most of which date from the 13th to 15th cent. The Gothic cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (begun 1296) has a dome (1420–34) by Brunelleschi; nearby are the slim campanile (269 ft/82 m high) designed by Giotto, and Andrea Pisano and Lorenzo Ghiberti created their famous bronze doors for the baptistery. The large Franciscan Church of Santa Croce is the Florentine pantheon and has frescoes by Giotto, a crucifix by Donatello, and fine works by the Della Robbia family, Rossellino, and others. The Church of Santa Maria Novella (1278–1350) has frescoes by Masaccio, Orcagna, and Ghirlandaio; fine cloisters; and a facade (1470) by Alberti. Some of the best works of Fra Angelico are in the museum of the Monastery of St. Mark. Important frescoes by Masolino, Masaccio, and Filippino Lippi adorn the Church of Santa Maria del Carmine. The Church of San Lorenzo contains Michelangelo's tombs of the Medici; many works by Donatello; and the Laurentian Library, which holds approximately 10,000 manuscripts. The oratory of Orsanmichele (originally a wheat granary; rebuilt 1337–1404) has a tabernacle (14th cent.) by Orcagna. On a hill overlooking the city is the Romanesque basilica of San Miniato al Monte.

On the Piazza della Signoria are the Palazzo Vecchio, which contains frescoes by Vasari and sculptures by Michelangelo; the Loggia dei Lanzi (later 14th cent.), which has the Perseus (1533) of Cellini; and Ammanati's Fountain of Neptune (1576). The Uffizi Museum, housed in a Renaissance palace designed by Vasari, contains great collections of paintings, especially by Botticelli, Masaccio, and Piero della Francesca. The Pitti Palace (15th–17th cent.) also houses fine paintings, particularly by Raphael, Andrea del Sarto, and Titian. Behind the Pitti Palace are the terraced Boboli Gardens (1550), a good example of Italian landscaping architecture. Other important art museums include the Academy, with works by Michelangelo; the gallery in the Bargello palace, with works by Donatello; and the archaeological museum, with Etruscan, Egyptian, and Greco-Roman art. Among the other numerous medieval and Renaissance palaces, the Medici-Riccardi, Strozzi, and Rucellai deserve special mention.


Florence was the site of an Etruscan settlement and later became a Roman town on the Cassian Way (the modern Piazza della Republica is on the site of the Roman Forum). In the 5th and 6th cent. A.D. the city was controlled, in turn, by the Goths, Byzantines, and Lombards. It became an autonomous commune in the 12th cent.

In the 13th cent. the Guelphs (who were propapal) and the Ghibellines (who were proimperial) fought for control of the city. By the end of the 13th cent. the Guelphs held control, but they then split into warring factions, the Blacks and the Whites, best remembered because Dante, a Florentine, was banished (1302) as a White Guelph. Warfare raged, too, with other cities, notably Pisa, as the merchants and bankers of Florence made their own fortunes and that of the city; the sale of Florentine silks, tapestries, and jewelry brought great wealth. Florence grew as a result of war, absorbing Arezzo, Pistoia, Volterra, and Pisa. Growth was temporarily halted in 1348, when the Black Death killed approximately 60% of the city's population.

Florence became a city-state and in the 15th cent. came under the control of Cosimo de' Medici, a wealthy merchant and patron of the arts. Although republican forms were kept until the 16th cent., the Medici family ruled, and Lorenzo de' Medici, who held power from 1469 to 1492, was able to put down the Pazzi conspiracy (1478), instigated by Pope Sixtus IV.

Under Lorenzo and his successors, Florence was for two centuries the golden city, with an incredible flowering of intellectual and artistic life. The list of artists working in the city was headed by Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, and Donatello. There were also numerous poets and scholars active in Florence, and the Accademia della Crusca was established (1582). A school of music flourished in the city during the Renaissance, and the earliest operas, Peri's Dafne (1594) and Euridice (1600), were performed there.

Political life continued to be turbulent. The Medici were expelled by a revolution in 1494, the fiery religious reformer Savonarola briefly held power (1494–98), and Machiavelli was a diplomatic representative of the republic. The revolt against the Medici was over by 1512, but another revolution (1527–30) established a new republic, which, however, was forced to surrender to Emperor Charles V after a heroic defense.

Under the restored Medici, Florence went on expanding and controlled most of Tuscany. In 1569, Cosimo I de' Medici was made grand duke, and Florence became the capital of the grand duchy of Tuscany. The grand duchy, ruled by the house of Hapsburg-Lorraine after the extinction (1737) of the Medici line, was annexed to the kingdom of Sardinia in 1860. Florence was the capital of the newly founded kingdom of Italy from 1865 to 1871. Relatively few of the art treasures of Florence were harmed in World War II; the flooding of the Arno in Nov., 1966, however, caused extensive damage, which art experts sought, with considerable success, to repair.


, cities, United States

Florence. 1 City (2020 pop. 40,184), seat of Lauderdale co., NW Ala., on the Tennessee River near Muscle Shoals and adjacent to Wilson Dam (a national historic landmark); inc. 1818. It is in a cotton and mineral area yielding coal, iron, bauxite, and asphalt. Power from the Wilson Dam and state dock installations have stimulated the growth of diversified industries. The mountain lakes in the area attract many tourists. The Univ. of North Alabama is in the city. Of interest are Pope's Tavern (1811), once a stagecoach stop and later a Civil War hospital, and a Native American mound, with a museum.

2 City (2020 pop. 39,899), seat of Florence co., NE S.C., in a farm and timber area; inc. 1871. The city is an important focal point for railroads (with extensive repair shops and yards) and developed as an industrial and trade distribution center. Florence manufactures a wide variety of goods, and tobacco and cotton are grown. During the Civil War it was a transportation and supply point and served as the site of a prison camp. It is the seat of Francis Marion College and a branch of the Univ. of South Carolina. An experimental station affiliated with Clemson Univ. and a U.S. agricultural laboratory are also there. Florence has museums, and nearby is a national Civil War cemetery.

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(Firenze), a city in central Italy; one of the country’s most important economic and cultural centers. Capital of the province of Florence and the region of Tuscany. Situated on the Arno River in the center of an intermontane basin. Population, 464,900 (1975).

Florence is an important transportation junction. Industry is represented by instrument-making and the production of machine tools and electrotechnical, electronics, chemical, and other industrial equipment. Diesel engines, photographic equipment, and astronomical instruments are also manufactured. Other important industries are the chemical industry, petroleum refining, the production of textiles, clothing, leather goods, wood products, furniture, glass, foodstuffs, and tobacco products, and the printing industry. In addition, Florence produces jewelry and fine handicrafts. The city has a university, dating from the 14th century. Other cultural and educational institutions include scientific research institutes, libraries, and a conservatory, as well as the Academy of Fine Arts and the La Colombaria Tuscan Academy of Science and Literature. Florence is one of Italy’s main tourist centers.

Florence was founded by the Romans in the first century B.C. on the site of an Etruscan settlement. In the tenth and 11th centuries it was part of the margraviate of Tuscany. Located at the junction of several trade routes, the city became, in the 11th century, a center for banking, commerce, and handicraft production, mainly cloth weaving. In 1115 it became an independent commune. In the mid-13th century the popolani gained ascendancy over the feudal aristocracy; in 1293, Europe’s first constitution directed against the nobility, the Ordinances of Justice, was adopted, depriving the feudal lords of their political rights. In 1252 the city began minting the gold florin, which became the common currency throughout Europe.

It was in 14th-century Florence that early capitalist relations first emerged; manufacturing developed, primarily in the workshops of the lana (wool-merchants’) and silk-manufacturers’ guilds, which relied chiefly on hired labor. New forms of exploitation led, in 1345, to the first strike in history, headed by the wool carder Ciuto Brandini and, in 1378, to the uprising of the ciompi (artisans of the wool industry), who established their own government. The suppression of these popular movements led to the establishment of the Albizzi oligarchy (1382–1434) and, in 1434, to the establishment of a signory (tyranny), such as that of the Medici.

From the 14th to 16th centuries, Florence was the leading center of the Italian Renaissance. Important Renaissance figures who lived and worked in Florence included Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio, Donatello, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Machiavelli, and Guicciardini. In the late 15th century, the city entered a period of economic decline. Contributing factors were the rise of the English cloth-weaving industry, which challenged Florence’s dominance, the establishment of new trade routes after the discovery of America, and foreign invasions. In 1494 a popular uprising led to the expulsion of the Medici and the establishment of a republican regime led by Girolamo Savonarola. In 1512 the Medici, assisted by foreign troops, were restored to power and ruled until 1737, except for an interval between 1527 and 1530.

In 1532 the Florentine state, which included a considerable part of Pisa, Leghorn (Livorno), and other cities, became a duchy; in 1569 it became the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, and Florence was named its capital. From 1801 to 1807, Florence was the capital of the Kingdom of Etruria, a dependency of Napoleonic France. In 1848 and 1849 it was one of the main centers of the bourgeois revolution. In 1860 it became part of the Sardinian (from 1861, Italian) kingdom, and from 1865 to January 1871 it was the capital of the unified Kingdom of Italy. In 1943 the city was seized by fascist German troops and became the foremost center of the Italian resistance movement. It was liberated in August 1944 in a combined operation by partisans and Anglo-American troops.

The Roman period is reflected in the rectangular plan of the city center. Ruins of medieval fortifications have also been preserved. Most of the city’s buildings, which have made Florence famous as a repository of proto-Renaissance and Renaissance architecture, are concentrated on the right bank of the Arno. On the Piazza del Duomo stands the Baptistery of San Giovanni (consecrated in 1059 and completed in the 13th century), famous for its bronze doors; the south doors (1330–36) are the work of Andrea Pisano, and the north doors and east doors (the Doors of Paradise, 1425–52) are by Lorenzo Ghiberti. Also on the piazza is the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (begun 1296; architect, Arnolfo di Cambio; dome, 1420–36; architect, Brunelleschi; enlarged in the 13th and 19th centuries), whose campanile (1334-c. 1359) was designed by Giotto and others and contains reliefs by Pisano.

On the Piazza della Signoria stands the Palazzo della Signoria, or Palazzo Vecchio (begun 1298; architect, possibly Arnolfo di Cambio; additions designed by G. Vasari and others made in the 15th and 16th centuries), which is now a museum. The Loggia dei Lanzi (c. 1376–80; architects, Benci di Cione and S. Talenti) contains sculptures by Giambologna (Giovanni da Bologna), B. Cellini, and others. The piazza contains other structures, as well as works by Giambologna, Donatello, and others and a copy of Michelangelo’s David.

Florence’s architectural monuments include many churches, notably San Miniato al Monte (begun 1014) and Santa Maria del Carmine (1258), whose Brancacci Chapel contains frescoes by Masaccio (1425–28) and other masters. Other churches include Santa Trinità (1258–80; additions made in the 14th and 16th centuries) and Santa Maria Novella (c. 1278-c. 1360; facade, 1456–70; architect L. B. Alberti), with frescoes by Masaccio, D. Ghirlandaio, Filippo Lippi, and P. Uccello. The interior of the church of Santa Croce (begun in the late 13th century) contains works by Donatello, Benedetto da Maiano, and others; the church is also noted for the marble tomb of Michelangelo (1570; artist, G. Vasari) and the Pazzi Chapel (begun 1429; architect, Brunelleschi), now a museum. The facade of the church of Orsanmichele (begun 1290; architects Arnolfo di Cambio and others), contains niches with sculptures by Ghiberti, Donatello, A. del Verrocchio, and others. The church of San Lorenzo (1422–26; architect, Brunelleschi) includes the Old Sacristy (completed 1428) and the New Sacristy, which houses the Medici Chapel (begun in 1520; architect, Michelangelo), the funerary monument to Lorenzo and Giuliano Medici, the statue of Madonna Medici, and the Laurentian Library (1524), all by Michelangelo. Also notable is the church of Santo Spirito (begun 1444; architect, Brunelleschi).

The palazzi of Florence include the Pitti Palace, which houses the Palatine Gallery; the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi (1444–60; architect, Michelozzo), now a museum; the Palazzo Rucellai (1446–51; built by Rossellino according to plans by L. B. Alberti); the Palazzo Strozzi (begun 1489; architect, Benedetto de Maiano); the Palazzo Pandolfini (c. 1520; architects, Raphael and G. da Sangalla); and the Palazzo degli Uffizi, now the Uffizi Gallery. Other famous buildings include the Spedale degli Innocenti, or Foundling Hospital (1421–44; architect, Brunelleschi), now a museum. Structures built in the present century include the main railroad terminal (1930–36; architects, G. Michelucci and others) and the stadium (1929–32; architect, P. L. Nervi). Several Renaissance villas are located near Florence, including the villa of the Medici in Carreggi (c. 1443).

Florence’s many museums include the Museo dell’ Opera del Duomo, the Museo Nazionale (Bargello), which houses Florentine sculpture and decorative and applied art of the 14th to 17th centuries, and the Academy of Fine Arts, which features art of the Florentine school. The Home Museum specializes in art of the 14th to 16th centuries, and the Museo della Casa Buonarotti contains works by Michelangelo. The Archaeological Museum houses Egyptian, Etruscan, and Roman artifacts.


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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


a city in central Italy, on the River Arno in Tuscany: became an independent republic in the 14th century; under Austrian and other rule intermittently from 1737 to 1859; capital of Italy 1865--70. It was the major cultural and artistic centre of the Renaissance and is still one of the world's chief art centres. Pop.: 356 118 (2001)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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Vanantha Kandasamy (Indian Institute of Technology, Madras); Florentin Smarandache (U.