A Medieval Grain Market and Confraternity


This work provides a new narrative for Orsanmichele in the era before the Renaissance. It examines Orsanmichele from the mid-thirteenth century, as the piazza transformed into the city’s grain market. It considers the market’s tandem confraternity, with its stunning Madonnas over three successive loggias. It examines the grain market and confraternity from a social, economic, political, and artistic perspective. It provides extensive data on the Florentine grain trade, sales at the market, and the nexus between traders, political leaders, and the confraternity. The work suggests that developments at Orsanmichele during the medieval period formed the basis for the Renaissance structure.

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Marie D’Aguanno Ito, Ph.D. (2014), Affiliate Faculty, George Mason University, focuses on Florentine medieval economic, social, religious, art, and legal history. Dr. Ito is also an attorney and has practiced securities law for many years, with research papers and publications in both history and securities law.
Abbreviations and Conventions
List of Illustrations

 1 Orsanmichele: An Overview of the Volume

Part 1: The Market of Orsanmichele and Its Context

1 Background
 1 Demographic Changes and a Transforming City
 2 Political Changes and Challenges
 3 A Florentine Culture of Grain: Private Transactions Outside of Orsanmichele with Grain as a Traditional “Currency” of Business
 4 Florentine Consumption of Grain
 5 Chapter Conclusion: A Growing Population and Transitioning City in Need of Grain

2 The Florentine Grain Market at Orsanmichele
 1 Context for a Large Market: The Angevin Kingdom of Naples as a New Source of Florentine Wheat
 2 The Market’s Origins and Context
 3 Orsanmichele: Basic Market Features
 4 Products and Measurements
 5 Trading, Prices, Settlements
 6 Traders, Fair Dealing, and Supporting Features: An Overview
 7 Chapter Conclusion: A Complex Market Served Its Populace

3 Market Agents and Regulation
 1 Market Participants: International, Regional, and Contado Dealers
 2 Communal-Level Regulation: “Abundancia,” Export Bans, Sei della Biada, and Traders Serving in the Priorate
 3 Senior Guilds: The Calimala and Cambio in Relation to the Grain Business
 4 A Lesser Guild of the Grain Business: Oliandoli e Pizzicagnoli
 5 Apprenticeships for the Grain Trade and a Grain Dealer’s Profile
 6 Chapter Conclusion: Vigorous Market Participants and Oversight

4 Market Character: Lenzi’s Orsanmichele, and the Mercato Vecchio in Context
 1 Domenico Lenzi: A Mid-level Grain Trader
 2 Orsanmichele and the Mercato Vecchio Compared
 3 Chapter Conclusion: A Multilayered Trading and Regulatory Structure; A Focused Orsanmichele and a Varied Mercato Vecchio

5 Supplying the Market at Orsanmichele
 1 A Bounty from the South via Florentine Public–Private Trading: A Detailed Consideration
 2 A Florentine Mediterranean Grain Network, and Mechanics of Grain Transportation from the Southern Peninsula and Sicily to Florence
 3 Supplemental Acquisitions from Sicily and via Genoa
 4 Regional and Contado Markets
 5 Roads Supporting the Market, and Communal Engagement
 6 Chapter Conclusion: A Complex Supply System Sustained the Grain Market

Part 2: The Madonna and Confraternity of Orsanmichele

6 The Loggias and Madonna of Orsanmichele
 1 The Virgin Protects a Politically Vulnerable Market
 2 The Three Loggias of Orsanmichele, and the Virgin Wards off Heresy
 3 The First Loggia: The Saints and First Madonna, and St. Michael Yields to the Virgin
 4 The Virgin of the First and Second Loggias: Fresco as Opposed to Panel and Settings
 5 Portrayals of the Madonna of the Second Loggia
 6 Veiling, Location, and Context
 7 Chapter Conclusion: Reflections on the Madonna

7 The Madonna and Her Confraternity
 1 Founding, Miracles, and Growth of the Confraternity
 2 A Formula for Long-Term Success: The Structure of the Confraternity
 3 Prayer, Alms, a Communal Alliance, and Serving the Florentine Populace
 4 Market Time and Confraternity Time: Sharing Space in Sequence
 5 Political Struggles and a Setback: The Fallen Piazza and Its Restoration
 6 Chapter Conclusion: Reflections on the Confraternity

Part 3: A Florentine Dearth at Orsanmichele

8 A Year of Dearth, 1329–1330
 1 A Popular and a Market Perspective
 2 The Crisis of April 1329: A Popular Cry for Wheat, and the Market and the Commune’s Reaction
 3 Communal Measures to Control the Market: June 1329 into 1330
 4 The Commune, Market, and Confraternity United for the Greater Good
 5 Chapter Conclusion: A Creative Commune Works to End the Crisis

9 Famine as Opposed to Dearth, Stress Points, and the Market Preserved
 1 A Famine or a Dearth?
 2 A Critical Stress Point: Consumers from the Contado and Distant Locations
 3 Preservation of the Market as an Institution
 4 Chapter Conclusion: The Commune’s Success and a Resilient Market

Part 4: The End of the Grain Market at Orsanmichele and Conclusion

10 A Parting of Ways: The Confraternity Renounces Its Life-Giving Market
 1 A Physically Compromised Second Loggia
 2 The Flood of 1333
 3 Actions toward a New Loggia
 4 The End of the Grain Market at Orsanmichele

Conclusion: Vibrant Centuries before the Renaissance Loggia
Appendix 1: Selected Private Account Wheat and Grain Transactions Indicating the Price per Staio outside of the Market
Appendix 2: Selected Florentine Grain Exports from the Southern Peninsula and Sicily, 1276–1329
Appendix 3: Selected Grain Qualities at Orsanmichele
Appendix 4: Wheat and Grain Sales at the Market of Orsanmichele, 1329–1330
Appendix 5: Confraternity of Orsanmichele Officials, Communal Leadership, Traders
Appendix 6: Dearths and Other Events, Twelfth to Early Fourteenth Centuries
Appendix 7: Wheat and Grain Prices (Charts)
Appendix 8: Selections from Domenico Lenzi’s Account, Spring 1329
Appendix 9: Markets, Exchanges, and Orsanmichele’s Grain Market: Modern Market Traits and Basic Bibliography
University-Academic libraries; graduate, undergraduate students; research institutes/researchers; specialists in Italian and Florentine history, art, economics, agriculture, sustainability, other; possibly Italian government, Florentine city, and related Italian-Florentine bodies and societies.
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