9 October 2020

9 October

Fra’ Filippo Lippi - Renaissance painter

Mentor of Botticelli who led life of scandal

The controversial 15th century painter Fra’ Filippo Lippi, who famously eloped with a nun who had agreed to pose for him at a Dominican monastery in Prato, died on or close to this day in 1469 in Spoleto, a city in Umbria then part of the Papal States.  He was aged 62 or 63. Because of the scandalous nature of his life, there was speculation after his death that he had been poisoned, possibly by relatives of Lucrezia Buti, the nun who fell for his charms and was the mother of two children by him.  Aside from his colourful private life, Lippi was an important figure in the development of painting.  Himself influenced by Masaccio and Fra’ Angelico, he developed a signature style of his own that was colourful and decorative and characterised by clarity of expression.  His own influence was seen in the works of his pupil Sandro Botticelli and his son, Filippino Lippi.  Born in Florence in 1406, the son of a butcher, Lippi was orphaned when he was two years old. Until he was eight, he lived with an aunt, who then placed him in a Carmelite convent. In 1420 he entered the community of friars at the Monastery of Santa Maria del Carmine in Florence.  Read more…


Gabriele Falloppio – anatomist and physician

Professor made key discoveries about human reproduction   

Gabriele Falloppio, one of the most important physicians and anatomists of the 16th century, died on this day in 1562 in Padua.  Often known by his Latin name Fallopius, he lived only 39 years yet made his mark with a series of discoveries that expanded medical knowledge significantly.  He worked mainly on the anatomy of the head and the reproductive organs in both sexes and is best known for identifying the tubes that connect the ovaries to the uterus, which are known even today as Fallopian tubes.  He also discovered several major nerves of the head and face, and identified many of the components of the hearing and balance systems.  Falloppio described all of the findings of his research in a book published a year before he died, entitled Observationes anatomicae.  Educated initially in the classics, the death of his father plunged his family – noble but not wealthy – into financial difficulties, prompting him to pursue the security of a career in the church, becoming a priest in 1542. He served as a canon at the cathedral in his native Modena.  Falloppio retained an ambition to study medicine, however, and when the family’s finances had improved sufficiently he enrolled at the University of Ferrara.  Read more…


Vajont Dam Disaster

Catastrophic flood may have killed 2,500

Prone to earthquakes because of its unfortunate geology, Italy has suffered many natural disasters over the centuries, yet the horrific catastrophe that took place on this day 53 years ago in an Alpine valley about 100km north of Venice, killing perhaps as many as 2,500 people, was to a significant extent man-made.  The Vajont Dam Disaster of October 9, 1963 happened when a section of a mountain straddling the border of the Veneto and Fruili-Venezia Giulia regions in the Friulian Dolomites collapsed in a massive landslide, dumping 260 million cubic metres of forest, earth and rock into a deep, narrow reservoir created to generate hydroelectric power for Italy's industrial northern cities.  The chunk of Monte Toc that came away after days of heavy rain was the size of a small town yet within moments it was moving towards the water at 100km per hour (62mph) and hit the surface of the reservoir in less than a minute.  The effect was almost unimaginable.  Within seconds, 50 million cubic metres of water was displaced, creating a tsunami that rose to 250m high.  The dam held, but the colossal volume of water had nowhere to go.  Read more…


Salimbene di Adam – historian

Friar's records provided important information on history of Italy

Salimbene di Adam, a Franciscan friar, whose yearly chronicles became a valued source for historians, was born on this day in 1221 in Parma in Emilia-Romagna.  Sometimes also referred to as Salimbene di Parma, he was the son of Guido di Adam, a wealthy Parma citizen. Salimbene entered the Franciscan Order in 1238 and served his novitiate in the Monastery of Fano on the Adriatic coast.  As Fra Salimbene, he led a wandering existence and never held any office in his order. He transferred from one monastery to another, meeting notable people and becoming an eyewitness to historic events.  In the 1240s he travelled to Lucca, Pisa and Cremona, and also visited France.  On his return to Italy in 1248 he went to Ferrarra where he stayed for several years. But he then went on his travels again, staying in Franciscan convents in northern Italy.  Fra Salimbene began to write his Chronicles (Cronica) in 1282 and continued to work on them until his death.  Organised as yearly records, the Chronicles cover the years 1168 to 1288 starting with the founding of the city of Alessandria to the south of Milan by the Lombard league.  Read more…


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