Who Owned Florence?: Religious Institutions and Property Ownership in the Early Modern City

In: Journal of Early Modern History
Justine Walden Institute for Research in the Humanities, University of Wisconsin-Madison Madison, Wisconsin USA

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Nicholas Terpstra Department of History, University of Toronto Toronto, Ontario Canada

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This study employs a 1561 tax census to survey estimated property incomes in Florence with particular attention to lay and ecclesiastical religious institutions. Its key findings are five. First, religious institutions were collectively the wealthiest corporate entities in the city, holding one fifth of all residential properties and one third of all workshops, and drawing 20.2 percent of all property income generated within city walls. Second, many were civic- and lay-religious institutions such as confraternities and hospitals. Third, the property income of religious houses was distributed across multiple organizations while that held by the Florentine diocese was concentrated in a few. Fourth, among religious orders, Mendicant houses had a larger urban presence than the older contemplative houses. Fifth, the property holdings of the formally defunct military-religious order of the Knights of S. Jacopo signal the deftness with which some institutions adapted to new circumstances. Overall, this survey of property incomes helps quantify the shape of power in the Florentine religious universe.

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