Francesco da Barberino

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Francesco da Barberino

Francesco da Barberino via

Francesco, son of Neri di Ranuccio, was born in Barberino val d’Elsa in 1264 under the pontificate of Pope Urban IV.
Originally from Semifonte, the family took refuge in Barberino after the Florentines conquered and destroyed the hated castle in 1202. In “life of Messer Francesco Barberino”, by Federico Ubaldini (1610-1657) we read the meaning of the name of this town:

“… this place, before its narrow walls, was called Barberino from being well bearded, and fortified to face the Sanesi, similar to two others with a conforming name, similarly built in the borders of the Florentine Republic itself”.

According to Ubaldini himself, Neri’s family was forced to reside in Barberino for some time after the surrender of Semifonte, as, having been close to the Emperor, they were among those listed in the agreement between Semifonte and Fiorenza which was prevented from access to the victorious city, but even when the ban lapsed, Neri himself gave up on going there given the continuous struggles that divided the city, preferring the quiet of the Valdelsano town.

Life of Francesco da Barberino

Francesco was born here, but his father certainly arranged for him to grow up in Florence so that he could study and improve his education and training as best he could. In the last decade of the 13th century, Francesco moved to Bologna where he became a notary. In 1296, upon the death of his father, he returned to Barberino but shortly after he moved to Florence where, from 1297 to 1303, he was an episcopal notary, signing the deeds always with the place of origin, omitting the name of the Ghibelline father.

Around 1303 he married and had five children.

Francesco and the stilnovisti

In Florence, he approached the group of stilnovisti and in particular Dante Alighieri and Guido Cavalcanti, also mingling with the painters Cimabue and Giotto. His first literary production, now lost, dates back to this period, the rhymes for a Costanza, the Flores novellarum, as well as starting work on his main works

  • An illuminated page of Francesco da Barberino’s Offociolum via

    “love documents”, made in sixteen years and written in verse,

  • “Regiment and customs of women” (1318-20) treatise in 20 parts, on the education of girls and pleasant treatises on daily life
  • and “the Officiolum”, believed to have been lost and luckily rediscovered in 2003.

The officiolum is the oldest known text of prayers produced in Italy so far, richly illuminated where there are many images of the afterlife and paradise, some clearly inspired by the Divine Comedy.

Condemned to exile as a Ghibelline, he left Florence in 1304. He stayed briefly in Padua, then in Treviso, and finally spent a five-year transalpine period between 1309 and 1313, where he was at the papal Curia of Clement V in Avignon, and also at the courts of Philip the Fair, in Paris and of Louis the Stubborn, in Navarre.

In 1313, left a widower, he married in second marriage Barna di Tanuccio Rinieri, with whom he had other children.

He returned to Italy but could not yet return to Florence, due to his pro-imperial sympathies. Only around the years 1317-1318 did he return to Florence, where he settled definitively to devote himself to the profession of notary, universally appreciated for his legal competence. At that time he lived with his wife “in populo sancti Florentii” (Novati).

It took another 28 years for him to be allowed to devote himself to political activities but in 1345 he was elected councillor of the Republic together with his son Filippo and at the beginning of 1348 he reached the priory. The influence he exercised as jurisperist in the economic and financial world is attested by numerous documents as well as by his appointment as consul, together with Francesco Salviati, of the College of Judges and notaries, which took place in 1347.

Surrounded by the esteem of his contemporaries, Francesco probably died of the plague in Florence at the beginning of April 1348 and his body was buried in S. Croce.

Francesco da Barberino is one of six characters who meet in the narrated tour “Barberino Nascosta”, a way to rediscover the stories of an ancient Tuscan village told by its characters.

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