At Italy On This Day you will read about events and festivals, about important moments in history, and about the people who have made Italy the country it is today, and where they came from. Italy is a country rich in art and music, fashion and design, food and wine, sporting achievement and political diversity. Italy On This Day provides fascinating insights to help you enjoy it all the more.

Friday, 2 November 2018

Gaspare Nadi - builder and diarist

Craftsmen kept chronicle for 50 years


The bell tower of the Palazzo d'Accursio in  Bologna was one of Nadi's projects
The bell tower of the Palazzo d'Accursio in
Bologna was one of Nadi's projects
Gaspare Nadi, a builder who became famous for the insight into life in 15th century Italy provided by a diary he maintained for half a century, was born on this day in 1418 in Bologna.

Nadi worked on several important buildings in Bologna, including the bell tower of the Palazzo d’Accursio and several churches. He built the library of the Basilica of San Domenico.

He attained the position of Master Mason in the local guild of bricklayers, whom he also served for many terms as guild manager and other official positions.

Yet it was the diary he began to compile in 1452 that became his legacy. Written in idiomatic Bolognese, it proved to be an extraordinary document, a source for historians seeking to understand how families and society functioned in the Italy of Nadi’s lifetime.

As well as detailing family issues, the diary explained much about the construction industry of the time, with entries about clients and remuneration, injuries suffered by workers, the times demanded to turn around projects and the workings of the guilds, even down to the taverns in which members met and the vineyards that supplied their wine.

Nadi's extraordinary diaries are still available to read today
Nadi's extraordinary diaries are still
available to read today
There were also references to broader topics such as the duties of the city corporations in relation to the maintenance of public order and the pursuing of thieves. Nadi described deliberations on how a defence force would be enlisted for circumstances in which the city was in danger from its enemies.

Nadi was born in a house on the Via dei Pelacani (now Via Giuseppe Petroni) in the parish of San Vitale in Bologna. His father, Filippo di Domenico, a tanner, died in 1427, after which his mother, Chiara, married Giacomo Senzabarba, a shoemaker.

He moved to Faenza at the age of 15, with the intention of pursuing a career in the law. Two years later he returned to Bologna but his step-father refused to maintain him there and he was forced to move out. Fortunately, he was given by friends help first to learn to read and write and then to find work.

He was apprenticed as a barber in 1436. However, the cost of training was prohibitive and he turned instead to learning how to build walls under the guidance of the master builder Bartolomeo Negri.  In May of that year, he helped the engineer Aristotele Fioravanti complete the bell tower of the Palazzo d’Accursio - also known as the Palazzo del Comune - in the centre of Bologna.

In 1444, after completing his professional training in Ferrara, he married Catelina di Antonio di Bernardo, the daughter of a Florentine tailor, and the following year he moved to live with his in-laws in Prato, where he continued to practice his profession.

Catelina bore him six children and six other failed pregnancies in the space of 13 years, which is thought to have contributed to her death in 1462, after which Nadi married twice more, losing his second wife, Francesca, and his eldest son, Girolamo, in an outbreak of plague.  His third marriage, to Caterina, was unhappy and Nadi moved out to live with another son, Giovanni.

He died in 1504 at the age of 85 and is buried in the parish church of San Vitale.

Bologna's Piazza Maggiore at dusk, looking towards the Palazzo d'Accursio - or Palazzo del Comune
Bologna's Piazza Maggiore at dusk, looking towards
the Palazzo d'Accursio - or Palazzo del Comune
Travel tip:

The Palazzo del Comune in Bologna’s Piazza Maggiore began life in the 13th century as Palazzo d'Accursio, the residence of the jurist Accursius. Over time, it was expanded and attached to adjacent buildings to house civic offices. In 1336 it became the seat of the Anziani - Elders - the highest magistrates of the city, and then the city's seat of government. In the 15th century it was refurbished under the designs of the architect Fioravante Fioravanti, who added the clock tower - Torre d'Accursio - in which Nadi installed the bell.

The Due Torri - the Asinelli and Garisenda towers - a feature of the Bologna skyline
The Due Torri - the Asinelli and Garisenda
towers - a feature of the Bologna skyline
Travel tip:

Via Giuseppe Petroni, where Nadi was born (known then as Via dei Pelacani) is in central Bologna, linking Piazza Giuseppe Verdi - home of the Teatro Comunale di Bologna, the city’s principal opera venue - with Piazza Aldrovandi, named after the geologist Ulisse Aldrovandi (1522- 1605). Piazza Aldrovandi has a permanent food market, with stands selling fruit and vegetable as well as cheese, fish and other produce on a daily basis. The Piazza Aldrovandi is only 550m along Strada Maggiore from the Due Torri - the Torre degli Asinelli, which is the tallest leaning medieval tower in the world, and its sister, the Garisenda tower - which represent one of the symbols of the city.

Also on this day:

1475: The death of Bergamo condottiero Bartolomeo Colleoni

1893: The birth of car designer Battista Pinin Farina

1906: The birth of film director Luchino Visconti



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