Romanesque baptistery in the Republic of Florence, Italy
Florence ruled by Matilda of Canossa
The last of the Carolingian Holy Roman Emperors died in 924 AD. Then northern Italy – including Florence and nearby Genoa – fell under the power of the Counts of Canossa. First Boniface III ruled Italy, then his daughter Matilda. They kept the peace all over Italy and encouraged trade in the Mediterranean. Florence did very well under their rule. In 1059, Florence was able to rebuild its Christian baptistery in a beautiful Romanesque style.
Florence becomes a republic
When Matilda died without children in 1115 AD, Florence became independent, and established a republican system of government where many men (though not women) had some voting rights.
Florence Duomo (cathedral)
Guelphs and Ghibellines
Most of the 1200s in Florence saw intense fighting between two rival political groups, the Guelphs and the Ghibellines.
The people of Florence exiled the poet Dante for being a Guelph. In the late 1200s, Florence began building a big new cathedral, though various problems made it take a long time to build.
Was Florence richer than other cities?
Florence did better after Genoa defeated Pisa, very near Florence and a major rival, in 1284 AD. In 1293, Florence’s government passed new laws protecting the rights of the citizens.
Florence and the Black Death
Like most other cities in Eurasia, Florence suffered terribly from the bubonic plague of 1348. The writer Boccaccio, for instance, lost his stepmother and many friends.
By the end of the 1300s, most of the power fell into the hands of a few rich families like the Medici. Florence did well. In 1406, with Genoa losing control of its possessions, Florence got control of Pisa. But a lot of people were angry about losing their political power.
Bibliography and further reading about the history of Florence: