Showing posts with label 1418. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1418. Show all posts

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


15 April 2017

Filippo Brunelleschi – architect

Genius who designed the largest brick dome ever constructed

Brunelleschi's Dome dominates the Florence skyline
Brunelleschi's Dome dominates the Florence skyline
One of the founding fathers of the Renaissance, Filippo Brunelleschi, died on this day in 1446 in Florence.

He is remembered for developing a technique for linear perspective in art and for building the dome of Florence Cathedral.

However, his achievements also included sculpture, mathematics, engineering and ship design.

Brunelleschi was born in 1377 in Florence. According to his biographer, Antonio Manetti, and the historian Giorgio Vasari, his father was Brunellesco di Lippo, a notary. Filippo’s education would have equipped him to follow in his father’s footsteps but because he was artistically inclined he was enrolled in the silk merchants guild, which also included goldsmiths and metal workers, and he became a master goldsmith in 1398.

Luigi Pampaloni's 1838 statue of Brunelleschi in Piazza Duomo
Luigi Pampaloni's 1838 statue of
Brunelleschi in Piazza Duomo
In 1401 he entered a competition to design a new set of bronze doors for the Baptistery in Florence. His entry and that of Lorenzo Ghiberti are the only two to have survived.

In the first few years of the 15th century, Brunelleschi and his friend, Donatello, visited Rome together to study the ancient ruins. It is believed they were the first to study the physical fabric of the ruins in any detail.

Brunelleschi’s first architectural commission was the Ospedale degli Innocenti, (Foundling Hospital) in Florence. It had a long loggia and impressive high arches. Later he used similar features in his designs for chapels in Florence.

In 1418 a competition was held for a design for the dome of the new cathedral in Florence, Santa Maria del Fiore. The original designs made provision for a dome when building began in 1296 but no one had been able to work out how to construct one on such a scale. Again the two main competitors were Ghiberti and Brunelleschi, with Brunelleschi winning and receiving the commission.

The dome was to take up most of the rest of Brunelleschi’s life and its success has been attributed to his technical and mathematical genius. Hence it became known as Brunelleschi’s Dome.

The loggia within Brunelleschi's Ospedale degli Innocenti
The loggia is a feature of the Ospedale degli Innocenti
He used more than four million bricks in the construction and invented a new hoisting machine for raising the masonry to the dome, inspired by Roman machines used in the first century AD.

Away from his architectural work, Brunelleschi was also granted the first modern patent for his invention of a river transport vessel. In 1427, he built an enormous ship named Il Badalone to transport marble to Florence from Pisa up the Arno river. Unfortunately, the ship sank on its maiden voyage,

After Brunelleschi’s death, at the age of around 69, his body was placed in the crypt of the cathedral in Florence. Inside the entrance is his epitaph: ‘Both the magnificent dome of this famous church and many other devices invented by Filippo the architect, bear witness to his superb skill. Therefore, in tribute to his exceptional talents a grateful country that will always remember him buries him here in the soil below.’

Brunelleschi's Dome illuminated at night
Brunelleschi's Dome illuminated at night
Travel tip:

Brunelleschi’s Dome was finally put in place in 1436 and the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore was consecrated by Pope Eugene IV on 25 March that year. The dome remained the largest in the world until others were constructed using new materials that had been developed for building in modern times. But Brunelleschi’s Dome, the first in history to be built without a wooden frame, is still the largest brick dome ever constructed.  The sculptor Luigi Pampaloni created a statue of Brunelleschi in about 1838, placing it in Piazza del Duomo in a position from which Brunelleschi appears to be looking up at his work.

Hotels in Florence by

Travel tip:

The Ospedale degli Innocenti, literally Hospital of the Innocents, is a magnificent building that still stands in Florence. Brunelleschi was commissioned to design it in 1419 and it is now regarded as a notable example of early Italian Renaissance architecture. The loggia with its nine semi-circular arches faces on to Piazza Santissima Annunziata, a square that is not far from Galleria dell’Accademia, which houses Michelangelo’s sculpture of David.

More reading:

Gian Lorenzo Bernini - the Florentine who helped shape Rome

Why Carlo Maderno's facade of St Peter's attracted criticism

Antonio Palladio - the world's favourite architect

Also on this day: 

(Picture credits: Florence skyline by Rufus46; Ospedale degli Innocenti by Warburg; Dome at night by Petar Milosevic; all via Wikimedia Commons)