Arch 343: Cities in History


Lecture 9: Medieval Cities, Bruges and Florence

Dr. Richard Ingersoll, Rice University Cities and History

The Advent of the Closed City

Every time we use a term to categorize a city, the "Islamic" city, the "hellenistic" city, and today, the "medieval" city, we set up a frame that can easily be broken. The Islamic city may be characterized by the dominant religion of Islam, but it has other less specific aspects connected to trade and to time that make it not only Islamic but also medieval, or mercantile, or expansionist, or multi-ethnic, or whatever the case may be. The city is never one thing, and it never stops changing, even if like Venice it is physically being frozen and purposely kept unchanging, the life it contains is never static and will never remain in the same categorical frame, tourists meeting for cappucino to discuss the city's charm are not the same as black-robed nobles meeting in the Broglio to discuss the city's fate.

The medieval city enjoys a special mythical status in Western culture, and is a category that is tremendously fuzzy, referring to a vague time and implying certain formal characteristics, like winding, narrow streets. In the imagination, the medieval city is littered with formidable castles and soaring cathedrals, and is the habitus of fairy tales. The term "medieval," the time in between, presumes that Roman culture and Renaissance culture, the bookends that enclose it, were somehow superior, better organized, more like us on our path to ultimate efficiency. So medieval also comes to represent a time when cities disappeared or closed in on themselves, when language is confused, the clarity of Latin dissipated into numerous barbaric vernaculars. For various reasons the middle ages was a time dominated by a religious distrust of cities and a military abuse of them, a time that interrupted the progression toward the achievement of a technical and social perfection that often is justified as the ultimate goal of human culture.

These are preconceptions, and in some way misconceptions. As Henri Pirenne, the great historian of medieval cities pointed out long ago, cities did not disappear after the dismantling of the Roman Empire, and for at least four centuries after the Sack of Alaric in Rome, that is until the 9th century, the trade networks that had sustained an interdependence of cities in the accumulation of wealth continued, although at a much reduced scale. It is only with the antagonism to Islam, that western Europe became greatly limited in its trading possibilities. In Italy, the Lombards and other invaders, inherited the cities of the Romans, and adapted to urban traditions. In particular, the new religion of Christianity became the religion of their states. The papacy attempted to continue the unifying structure of the empire in the organization of the Church, and for many cities during the middle ages, the bishop as representative of the central religious authority of Rome, had the authority of a provincial governor analogous to those of the empire. The Church's diocese replaced the empire's civitas. Many cities of Roman origin became cathedral cities, with the church and bishop's palace as the new urban focus.

In places with a Roman past, the frazzling we observed in Damascus was quite similar: densification began to alter the clarity of the street patterns, straight roads were made crooked by overhangs crossing over the street and shops blocking it, the attempt to fortify individual family compounds, created impediments and blind alleys. The authority of the city was fragmented and could no longer control the plan of the city as a whole; thus the building of the parts, the concentration on enclaves, began to determine the plan. The transformation of the grid of Florence from the 4th to the 12th century shows this dynamic process of pinching and clogging the urban pattern and filling it in with solid enclaves. The city was greatly reduced in size, walls thrown up, invasions and sacks change the fabric. After the period of invasions subsided a new landed gentry created reproduced in the city the same sort of fortified castle-like compounds built to defend their estates in the countryside. The solid works of the Roman past, such as the amphiteater's structure was recycled during the next expansion to serve as the foundations for housing. The closed medieval city gathered around three solid enclaves: the castle, the cathedral, and the monastery.

Feudalism and Medieval Enclaving

Much of western Europe by the late 9th and 10th centuries had been politically fragmented into feudal estates arrived at through sometimes arbitrary acts of force or fate. This geographic reapportionment of the Roman Empire was directly due to the constant incursion of nomadic warriors from the north and the east, who destabilized the military security of larger territories, but indirectly it was just as much a consequence of a significant drop in population and the ebbing of international trade. The historic wave carried marauding invaders until at least the year 1000, and as we shall see, the mobile invader usually had a certain military advantage over the settled defender, in particular because they had nothing to lose.

One trend in the late empire that had profound economic significance was the creation of latifundi, huge estates meant to avoid the high taxes of the cities that became self- sufficient entities. This will evolve into the feudal system in the 9th century, when as Pirenne says: "an economy of exchange was substituted for an economy of consumption...each demesne (or estate) constituted from this time a little world of its own." A feudal desmene typically was composed of 300 farms, about 10,000 acres of land. The monarch of the region is the theoretical owner and the bishop or high nobility the titular owner, managing the property like a tenant-in-chief, owing service to the crown in the form of knights or arms. The land was worked by serfs, people who were not free to move, or own property, and who were required to give at least half of the yield of the land they worked to the local aristocrat, or vassal, who in turn owed tribute and military service to the regional lord.

When trade was revived in the 11th century, the feudal castles, known now as bourgs, that were closest to the trade routes or were able to draw the route toward them, became the nuclei for a market-based city. The castle in Hereford precedes other urban features such as the cathedral. The bourg, which often became an urban nucleus, was not always a precedent to urban formation but inserted into a growing complex, such as Gloucester in England, a small roman castrum town that first had its cathedral and t hen attracted a castle with its lord. Or Hereford, a trading town that grew around the year 1000, and from a crossroads fair attracted a castle and a cathedral.The attraction of the city to the lower classes was that if they could establish residence there they could become property owners and get free of feudal obligations--thus the saying "the city air makes you free" (Stadtluft macht frei). Enterprising castle lords speculated on this desire for freedom, realizing that there was more to be gained in taxes than from feudal agricultural surplus. Monasticism

The historic wave affecting Europe between the 4th and 9th centuries was also made of plagues and abandonments. And of course it carried high religious fervor and fanaticism. Military issues had always determined status in the Hellenistic and Roman world, the equestrian class being higher than the infantry. A Roman emperor was always treated as a military commander first. Something outside of the chain of command occured between 300 and 1000, however, that altered military effectiveness. Post-empire life will be in some respects much more influenced by military events due to the greater instability of urban settlements, but there will also be a significant pacifist element in culture, in which humility, prayer, and cultivation of the after life replaced the more worldly concerns of conquest or defense. The pursuit of a spiritual alternative led many to the non-military solution of monasticism, a utopian flight from the city that resulted in small, self-selected groups of non-reproducing monks, who produced a remarkably disciplined settlement of a timeless and rigid social and architectural order as an antidote or antithesis to the moral, military and progressive nature of the secular city of the Romans. St. Augustine (354-430, De civitate Dei), a bishop from North Africa, theorized that if the civitas was predicated on justice, then Rome, or any city built by man would not be able to provide it because of the treatment of women and slaves and the other excluded members of society. The City of God, where true justice could only be found in a Heavenly Jerusalem, where all mankind gave up the vanity of this world and joined together in a state of humble pilgrimage.

I would never want to give the impression that Christianity is necessarily a pacifist religion--after all Constantine won his battles in the name of the cross, and the Church will constantly be taking sides in wars, and eventually during the Renaissance become an actively aggressive military power. Let's just say that Christianity among other things has the potential to inspire interpretations in favor of pacifism with the parable of turning the other cheek. And it is this potential for non-participation that is interesting as a component of the city, or sometimes as an alternative to the city.

Monasticism was already widespread in the Middle East during the lifetime of Christ-- his teaching may in fact have been derived from the monastic cult of the Essenes, a Judaic brotherhood who like Christian monks took vows of chastity and increased their numbers by adopting abandoned children and training them, devoting much of their daily life to prayer and reading the scriptures. Monasticism is of course not limited to Christianity but is found in most major religions--Islam has its Sufis, Buddhism its monks--in any case it implies a life separated from the daily obligations of the world of the city, devoted expressly to prayer, work, and study. Christian monasticism followed the examples established in Syria and North Africa, of retreating to caves and inaccessible places. Monks will remove themselves to mountaintops and islands and isolated sites that are really the opposite of the city as a demonstration of anti-worldliness. Perhaps the most extreme example was the case of St. Simeon Stylites, a 5th century mystic living in Syria, who spent thirty years chained to the top of a 60 foot high column. A great octagonal shrine was built around the column in reverence for his high example and a monastery for those who would follow his practice of self denial was attached to one side. But no matter how far monks retreated from the world, it is curious to see how much they brought urban organization in their architecture, and military discipline to their way of life.

St. Benedict, (480-543) a monk from central Italy, had the greatest influence on the movement in Europe when he wrote his little book on the rules of a monastery, explaining how every hour of the day was to be occupied by work, devotion and prayer (ora et labora). The monk's life is regimented like that of a soldier's and the conceptual plans for early monasteries resemble the order of a castrum military plan. The earliest document describing one is the plan of St. Gall, made sometime around 800, which shows the orderly arrangment of religious, living and working quarters. The great body of the church, like a covered hall or basilica, is offset by the void of the cloister, a rectangular or square court, slightly smaller than the enclosed Hellenistic urban spaces such as the imperial fora, but usually larger than the courtyard of a house. The artfully shaped void of the cloister instead of being an active public space for the community, was its antithesis, a purposefully uneventful space of silence and contemplation, with a green center, for a group that often respected vows of silence. The plan with its clear orthogonal links was like the memory of the order of the lost city. It was not only written culture that was preserved in the monasteries but also a language of architecture and planning.

Monasteries such as the fictional St. Gall were small cities unto themselves, like the feudal estates, and often had a feudal relationship with local peasants. Although in Benedict's original rules the monks were to do all of the work themselves, the revised rules by orders such as the Cluniacs, created a theocratic division of labor, with monks specialized in learning and religious functions, served by their dependents. Monasteries were even involved in trade.

One thing monasteries lacked, however, was military force, and many of the early examples, such as St Benedict's original monastery at Monte Cassino, and even its second version, which has been reconstructed in this perspective, were destroyed by marauding invaders. Monasteries were usually positioned in defensible sites and often attracted towns that settled around them and eventually became involved in their defense. The monastery as an institution and a form is important to the discourse of the European city on the one hand because they maintained the rational typologies of an earlier urban order that had lapsed during the devastation of the cities, but also because they often gave rise to the idea of a new city (such as we saw in Venice), or provided pockets of order as new additions to cities, such as the convents built for the mendicant orders during the 13th and 14th centuries--the soft armature I previously mentioned in reference to the Franciscan and Domenican convents in Venice.

The Soft Armature

A soft armature is a term I invented to indicate that in the carpet-like urban patterns of medieval cities like Cairo or Venice there are occasional breaks, usually devoted to religious institutions like mosques and medresa in Cairo or monasteries and hospitals in Europe, that constitute local pockets of orthogonal order. It is an armature only in that you expect every once and awhile that there will be this kind of highly structured element graced with monumental architecture and with columnated open space; it is soft because it usually bleeds into the carpet and does not makes definitive links from piece to piece for an overall coherent urban structure.

The ancient hellenistic city had large buildings and usually a temple mount or Akropolis as a strong vertical element, but the buildings themselves were not conceived vertically. The order in the city was achieved through coordinated horizontal organization or columnated spaces, of wide buildngs like baths and theaters--breadth not height was the modicum of good urban importance. For the post antique city verticality became the new legible order of the city. On the horizontal plane, most cities were often as confusing and snarled as Venice, but they always offered strong vertical elements as signals of hierarchy: the cathedral and its bell towers and steeples, the towers of fortified castles, the towers of important citizen's compounds, and the bellfry of the municipality, once that institution took hold. The shape of the city became pyramidal and soaring: be it a town that grew from an earlier Roman city like York, where the cathedral overwelmed the rest of the skyline, or one based on a monastery like Le Mont Saint Michel, which used its rocky site to climb to the sky, or a new cathedral town like Chartres, which promoted itself as a pilgrimage site, or a castle town, or a crossroads trading center like Troyes that grew up around the international fairs of Champaigne. This same quest for vertical expression was present in the new founded towns that appeared after the year 1000, like Delft, towns that had a high degree of integral planning. The spire or tower were the points of orientation of the soft armature of medieval cities.

When the Cathedrals were White

About the year 1000, the map of the Mediteranean showed the great expanse of Islamic states on the south, the large but fragile byzantine empire to the East, the Holy Roman Empire, unified under Charlemagne but in no way ressembling the administrative control of the old Roman Empire, the Frankish kingdom to the west. Europe was divided into an infinity of substates, duchies, church controlled territories, and city-states such as Venice. In Germany for instance of 120 towns, 40 were controlled by bishops, 20 by monasteries, and 60 by castles. Until the revival of international trade, the towns of Europe were fairly static. In the Domesday book written in England after the Norman invasion of the 11th century, it is explained that there were 13,000 villages in England, with none having a population greater than 8,000, and most of them located at a distance of no more than two miles. Market towns were found at a distance 7 miles from each other.

Almost every city in the medieval west is dominated by the cathedral, at first the site of power of the bishop, but as power shifted to the middle classes a great collective artifact and built mother for the people. The cathedral was a book in stone of the lessons of Christian virtues: charity, humility, respect. As the fortunes of medieval cities increased in the 12th century, the cathedral was boosted into a new program for a fantastic gravity- defying enclosure that lept above the city on flying buttresses, pushing beyond the logic of structure to ever greater heights and ever more marvellous filtering of light. The pointed arch of Gothic cathedrals is both a symbol pointing to heaven and the key to a new flexibility that allows through rotated groin vaults to deposit the load of the roof on points. If the City of God was impossible to attain because of mundane requirements of daily life, a substitute could be sculpted of stone. The cathedral came to represent the city, and in some cases like Chartres, rising in the distance above the wheat fields as prominently as the acropolis of an ancient city, it was the city.

The confusion of authority between church, state, local and international, feudal allegiance and craft or trade based allegiances, was reflected architecturally in the Medieval city as we shall see. This conflict partly accounts for the atomized quality of most medieval cities. Atomization is that phenomenon of things being related contingently but not comprehensively, what we have also called piecemealism, like each of the Venetian islands, which share adjacencies but are generally lacking a comprehensive order between the parts.

Bruges

As the feudal order was breaking down in the 12th century, the more enterprising lords saught to attract commerce. Among the most successful were the Counts of Champagne who set up seasonal trade fairs for merchants from the northern industrial cities of Flanders and the Italian merchants. By guaranteeing safe passage and protecting the mechanisms of exchange and credit, instant urbanism occured on the outskirts of these small bourgs. Troyes set about to build a new cathedral from the new wealth it received. The fairs were at first held outside the city walls on fair grounds where long rows of tents were assembled. They generally lasted for two months and allowed foreignors to bring their wares for international clients. The walls of Troyes built in 1250 enclosed long strips of commercial streets extending from the intersection of the city's canals that bear reminiscent of the activites of the fair: street of money changers, court of meetings, street of spice, etc.

It may seem surprising that the major good that inspired this new wave of mercantilism was cloth--fashion if you like. Silk wool, and flax, which need to be carted, process, woven, and marketed. The Champagne Fairs declined with the arrival of Atlantic shipping and the promotion by the Counts of Flanders of allowed Bruges to become a central node in international exchange. Bruges grew from a fortified bourg at a river crossing to be a great emporium.

Bruges is in the lowlands between France and Holland in the heart of a major textile producing area; like Venice highly urbanized and with a minimum of landed gentry and peasants. It takes its name from its function as a bridge across the Reie River, where a small castle town was set to regulate commercial traffic. The city was favored by a literal historic wave in 1134 when a storm altered the configuration of the coast and brought Bruges within one mile of the sea, the port of Damme was set up and the river was used as a canal to bring goods to the city, with at first the major trading partner being England across the channel. The counts of Flanders who were the lords of the city allowed it to have an annual trade fair beginning in 957 and guaranteed privileges for those involved in commerce to build in the city in the form of freehold estates. The traders, shops, money changers and such were allowed to deal outside of the gates of the bourg or castle compound, in an area called a Faubourg, meaning outside the bourg. The new residents of the faubourg as they grew wealthier separated into economic classes, the Poorters, the commercial elite from the draper craft were analogous to the nobility of Venice. They formed a self-governing body that communicated with the Counts of Flanders and were allowed to own property. The craftsmen were not allowed to own land and thus did not have the same juridical rights. The Poorters met in a special hall with a tall tower, the Poorterslodge, located at the head of the river where goods would first be sited entering the city. Already by the 12th century the city had become self-governing with a council of elected officials and a large collection of magistrates which among other things collected customs taxes and supervised the public works on canals and markets that would make the city attractive and efficient for foreign merchants. Once the Genovese in the 1270s had perfected the Atlantic route from the Mediteranean, the fortunes of the city escalated as the central merchandising site for wool and linen in the world. The new port of Sluis was opened in 1290. Major alterations to urban form would follow, financed from the revenues put on exchange and consumption.

New walls were thrown up in 1297 trebbling the size of the city which was quickly filled in with new palaces and warehouses. The old moats were now used as canals facilitating the transport of goods. Legislation was reaffirmed that only tile roofs could be used as a fire safety measure and the city paid for every third tile. The streets were widened and the city government paid for demolitions: one of the first instances of eminent domain. The streets were cleaned every week at the expense of the city. The city also financed the construction of a great hall for storing and selling wool, the Waterhalle which spanned the river, so that the bundles could be unloaded in a covered space. In 1377 the Belfry, attached to the central markets and the tallest tower of its time, and not unlike the function of the campanile in Venice--it was a secular belltower, a great timepiece regulating the city that gave it a vertical core. The city also invested in public waterworks to bring clean water to the town and sponsored the hospital of St. Johns.

The foreign merchants were the wealthiest residents of Bruges, often having their own palaces or compounds. Sixteen nations were represented in Bruges, and half of these were from Italy. Among the wealthiest natives were the inn-keepers and one in particular, the vander Beurs family, gave their name to an institution, the bourse or stock exchange, that would stick as one the key ingredients of capitalism. The plaza in front of their inn, which was two steps away from the Poorterslodge, was next to the compound of the Genoese and the Florentines. It was a space analogous to the market of the Rialto in Venice, where prices were determined and information about investments was relayed. Bruges was a much smaller city than Venice, at its height in only had 40,000 residents (about a tenth the size of Venice). The lower classes succeeded in the 14th century in gaining representation, but switches in the world market and the decline of the Flemish textile industry were imminent, plus the silting up of the Reies River made access difficult to Bruges by the end of the 14th century.

Unlike Venice, those who had the greatest capital, the foreignors, had no commitment to the city, and when water access and markets became more favorable in Antwerp further east, they pulled out of Bruges without second thoughts, leaving a financial vacuum. From Bruges the center of European exchange moved to Antwerp, then to London and Amsterdam in the 16th and 17th centuries. Bruges establishes a pattern to be followed by Antwerp and Amsterdam of public investment in infrastructure, waterworks, street building, and monumental civic structures to encourage the processes of exchange from which the population would gain residuals. The art of space making in Bruges was not as refined as that of Venice, for instance the major square was lined with narrow, step-gabled buildings each not more the 15 to 25 feet wide and did not have the look of consciously shaped space. Although the patronage was usually guided by the Council, the elements were added piecemeal and the spaces were cut out of dense fabric as residual rather than figural.

Florence

One of the great trading partners in Bruges was Florence, and some of her incredibly wealthy bankers, in particular the Medici, had representatives stationed there. Florence, which is often offered as the epitome of the Renaissance city, is actually a fine example of the Medieval city. Until the rise of the Comune (the municipal government), it was contended over by the ecclesiastic authorities, by local feudal lords, by invading feudal powers, and by the Holy Roman Empire. Added to this chessboard of bishops, knights, and kings, was a new factor, not just the pawns that represent powerless peasants, but the craftsmen or producers, the more mobile commercial sector that will attract capital surplus to the city.

Florence had a succession of walls that can be read in the street patterns of a modern map; but within those walls, there were other sets of walls, where the islands of the Roman grid were taken over to create consorterie, family alliances protected by a fortified compound, each with one or more towers from which to keep a lookout for neighbor- enemies in times of feuding. [A glance at San Gimignano, a town controlled by Florence to the south where these consorterie with towers still exist in the form they would have had in 12th century Florence show these austere towers with arrow slit windows rising with the density of a modern highrise city]. The feudal towers were as symbolic as they were functional, indicating the status of the family. There were at least 90 of them in the center of Florence, but today only a few remain, and these were order to be lowered to the height of the palaces at the end of the 13th century, the moment when the magnates or urban nobles were excluded from the municipal government.

The mid-14th century Palazzo Davanzati is a fine example of the sort of palace that succeeded the tower houses, now with a symmetrical facade, nicely articulated with rusticated masonry, a bottom portal that would open for business on the ground floor, generous rounded arch windows above, and a top storey loggia or belvedere. The house was still defensible but had lost the fierce details.

The question of authority in the Medieval city often came up due to external threats, attacks by other cities or marauders. The elite could either turn to the Church to resolve its disputes, or to representatives of the Emperor, or else to an impromptu assembly. A common practice arose of appointing an outsider, a podesta, for short terms of one or two years, a noble person with no local conflicts of interests to serve as an objective arbiter and even a military leader when the town was under attack. The first Podesta was sent to Florence in 1193. So aside from the bishop's palace and the various fortified compounds, a common building that sprouted up in the 11th and 12th century was the Palace for the Podestˆ--the outside arbiter. Like the Bargello palace in Florence, built in the 1250s, these were usually fortified compounds, castles in the city, with narrow windows, and with crenellations for battle positions on its parapets, a sign both of the authority of the resident and the warlike nature of the city with its competing factions.

The placement of the largest structures in Florence, the town hall and the Cathedral demonstrates the historic antipathy between the power of the bishop and that of the republican comune. During the 13th century the population doubled to 100,000, making it one of the largest cities in Europe. Florence had well developed cloth industries and from the profits of this it developed a formidable banking industry to the extent that the standard currency used in the 14th century was known as the florin. Unlike Venice and Bruges, the nobility, which was derived from a squabbling feudal aristocracy, lost its authority in municipal politics during the mid 13th century to the emerging bourgeois class of cloth merchants and bankers, the officers of the well-organized upper guilds, or arti maggiori.

When the new town hall was commissioned in 1298, it was called the Palazzo del Popolo, the palace of the people, meaning those who have the right to participate in the government--today after the intervening years of monarchy it is called Palazzo Vecchio, the old palace. Notice that it is also conceived of as a fortified castle. The elected officials were to live in this compound during their two month terms, not unlike those living in the tholos in ancient Athens. The palace could be seiged by dissident nobles or by factions that disagreed with policy.

Florence underwent a fairly coordinated rethinking at the end of the 13th century under the artistic guidance of the sculptor Arnolfo da Cambio, who was responsible for the new palace, the new series of walls, which gave Florence a girth she never was able to fill until the late 19th century, and a series of new towns in the provinces ruled by Florence. San Giovanni Vald'arno, structured on three parallel streets which are proportionately measured and divided by a central piazza for the palace of the Podesta and the major religious buildings, is an interesting depiction of the type of hierarchical and rational order that the dreamed of in the old city. It is one of hundreds of new towns that were created all over Europe, especially where there were contested borders or major trade routes, during the 13th and 14th centuries. If they were constructed for military purposes, they were known as bastides and almost always followed a rigid orthogonal composition, usually structured on a grid, leaving a void in the center for public open space and civic institutions. 35 bastides were built in Gascony where England and France disputed territory: Monpazier, founded in 1284, around the time of San Giovanni, shows how similar and international the idea of the new town was.

During the time of Arnolfo, Florence produced a collection of urban statutes for paving the streets, and later would add fire codes to these, insisting that facades be made in masonry to a nine foot level. The space for the piazza of the city hall was expanded in the beginning of the 14th cneuty by expropriating the property of the Uberti family who were punished for their affiliations with the Ghibellines. The front of the palace had a special set of seats, known as the arangario (from whence we get the term harangue) meant for public speeches, and to the side of the palace a special loggia for public meetings, the loggia dei Lanzi was added mid-century. The loggia had a special function in Florence and almost all important families had one attached to their palaces. It is analogous to the stoa in Athens, a permiable and visible space to do business or carry out ceremonies that can be observed by all in the interests of accountability. The Loggia del Bigallo, built for a religious confraternity, near the cathedral is one of several examples of the type, and later the loggia for the palazzo Rucellai, the famous work of Alberti will continue this republican tradition.

The major building in the city, the great cathedral of Santa Maria dei Fiori was begun in 1296, and purposely meant to be larger than St. Peter's in Rome. The wool guild, the Arte della Calimala was in charge of its administration. The project for the dome was already planned mid-century and enlarged to its final form under Brunelleschi during the next century. As in Venice, the preaching orders of the Franciscans and Dominicans were allowed to establish their convents at the edges of the developed parts of the city, where they served as nodes for future development, soft armatures again. The magistrates known as the Ufficiali della torre, the officials of the tower, adminstered most of the public works in the 14th century, including the Ponte Vecchio, which had to be rebuilt after being washed out in a flood. The shops lining either side were a means of financing the project.

Probably the most interesting bit of urban planning carried out during the medieval republic was the widening of via dei Calzaioli, the axis connecting the Duomo to the town hall. This required eminent domain to condemn and tear down parts of buildings, and the magistrates enforced a building code on all the reconstructed facades to be masonry with rounded arches. A similar edict went into effect for the buildings surrounding the apse of the Duomo. This was done both in the interests of fire safety, but also out of a taste for order and regularity, a sense of urban decorum. It shows the attempt to coordinate public space, not just building bit by bit as in Bruges, but thinking of the effect of the whole, thinking of streets in terms of axes. And space is understood in three dimensions as having a shape that should be regulated for the good of the community.

The maintenance of Florence, its paving, rebuilding of public features such as the Ponte Vecchio, the coordinated planning of urban space, was arrived at through the effort to resolve the marked conflicts present in the city. There is an attempt in giving regularity to the city fabric, in straightening and widening, making safe, but also in making decorous, to impose civility, to create the citizen. Architecture thus returns to a rhetorical role as in Greco-Roman times. The new city imagined through these urban regulations has harnessed the conflicts between the bourg, the nobility in its castles, the church and its bishops, dreaming of its city of God, and the faubourg market tugging at the old walls. The comune, the medieval republic formed by the merchant class, was founded upon conflict and produced a new rhetoric of urban consciousness, punctuated by strong acts of architecture-- the city hall and the new cathedral--in the effort to make all of the individual and competing parts of the Medieval city desire to belong to the whole.

Sources:
A. J. Morris, A History of Urban Form before the Industrial Revolution, 1994.
Wolfgang Braunfels, Monasteries of Western Europe, New York, 1972.
Joseph and Frances Gies, Life in a Medieval City, N.Y., 1981.
Jacques Le Goff, Medieval Civilization, 400-1500, New York, 1988.
Janet Abu-Lughod, Before European Hegemony, The World System A.D. 1250-1350, New York, 1989.
Mark Girouard, Cities and People, New Haven, 1985.
Giovanni Fanelli, Firenze, Bari, 1981.
Henri Pirenne, The Medieval City, Princeton, 1956.

Richard Ingersoll
Last Updated: 10.5.95
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