Coluccio Salutati: The King Maker of Florence

Coluccio Salutati: The King Maker of Florence
24 April 2016 0 Comment

We know much about the great Florentine families like the Medici and the Strozzi from the early 14th century through to the 16th century and beyond. We are told with their intelligence and ruthless pursuit of profits and a genuine love of their city they open up the doors to the birth and flowering of the Florentine Renaissance. But without one man, even these great families would probably have floundered as powerful families did throughout Europe. This man was an intellectual Titan with the cunning of a street vagabond and it was he, Coluccio Salutati that steered the fortunes of Florence through the treacherous waters of European and Church skullduggery and in doing so laid the foundation of her great social, economic and artistic success as a great and powerful city that demanded respect from as far away as Russia.

Who was Coluccio Salutati?

In his youth in Bologna he took up the study of law but soon abandoned it as unsuited to his temperament. When his father died, leaving him an orphan, he overcame his repugnance and apprenticed himself to a notary. After the fall of the Pepoli in Bologna (1351), Coluccio returned to his birthplace, Stignano, and later (1367) became chancellor of the commune of Todi (north of Rome in Umbria today), and of Lucca (1371), and of the Papal Curia at Viterbo. In 1375 he assumed the office of chancellor of the Florentine signorie (elected lords ruling as despots), which he held for 31 years until his death, taking part in the complicated and turbulent politics of the city and of Italy generally. His Latin letters to other states were so effective that the tyrannical Duke of Milan, one of the targets of his scorn, said that a thousand Florentine horsemen were less damaging than Salutati’s epistles!

One of the great Humanist's of the Renaissance. 

Although Salutati’s life was filled largely by political and administrative matters, he also developed a keen interest in Humanism, writing treatises and private letters on philosophical questions and on literary and textual criticism and influencing and patronizing a number of disciples, including Poggio and Leonardo Bruni. He sought out and welcomed the Byzantine scholar Manuel Chrysoloras, whose arrival in Florence in 1396 was one of the great events of the Renaissance, renewing as it did a general interest in Greek. Even in his advanced age, Salutati himself began studying Greek. He was also a bibliophile and collector of “lost” manuscripts; part of his large library of ancient Latin and medieval authors went to San Marco’s, in Florence. This magnificent collection of manuscripts nurtured the collective Florentine intellect and remained a very real and influential presence of a truly wise man for generations; a man who took Florence by the hand and led it into the light of greatness.

Coluccio Salutati was born February 16, 1331 in Stignano in  Tuscany and died May 4, 1406 in Florence, having become one of the great Humanist’s of the day and Florence’s greatest chancellor.

Peter Kilby
About the Author

Peter Kilby is an artist, writer, story-teller, journalist and avid traveller who has lived and worked in Italy since 1987. He created Perfect Traveller to bring the world of art and history closer to you. Download the “free” Perfect Traveller app and enjoy the best audio tours available; about Italy today and yesterday. Sign Up to this website and submit your travel stories and become part of the Perfect Traveller community.

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