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At that time the Burghers had not begun, as in the security of their prosperous days, to people the surrounding hills with vi Uas, where peaceful husband- MEDIEVAL VINCIGLIATA. But between the mother city — the Etruscan and Eoman Fiesole — on the hill, and the daughter, Florence, growing to beaut}^ in the field of Flowers in the plain, there were the strong- holds of a few nobles, guarding the heights around the new city.
One of these fortresses was Vincigliata, which stands high on a rocky eminence to the East of Fiesole, its towers and battlements outlined against a darker hill behind it, whose summit shows another square massive castle, standing boldly out against the blue sky.
The want of an historical guide to Vin- cigliata lias often been deplored by Englisli- speaking visitors, and I have herewith endea- voured to supply this key to the meaning of the Castle. In seek- ing the story of Vincigliata Castle and its PREFACE. Medieval Vincigliata 3 The decline 22 The restoration 29 Descriptive.
complete restoration, giving a clear picture of the middle ages.
Dante speaks of them in Paradiso, XVI, 112 : Cosi facean h padri di color o, Che, sempre che la vostra Chiesa vaca, Si fanno grassi stando a consistoro. As surely as your Church is vacant, flock Into her consistory, and at leisure There stall them, and grow fat." (Cary's trans.) Here then we find these same lay ecclesiastics with the exclusive custody and claim to the tithes of the Church of San Martino near the Badia, and they were also the founders of another Florentine Church which still bears their name — San Michele Visdomini.
They were one of the oldest Florentine families; a certain Buonaccorso Visdomini was knighted by Charlemagne, in A. 802 ; and a Cerrettiero fought under the Em- peror Henry I in 1002.
This deed executed at Vincigliata would imply that the four brothers were in possession of it at the time ; MEDIEVAL VINCIGLIATA.
They fled from Florence with the other Guelphs after the defeat at Montaperti ; but we find a second Cerrettiero, who won an unenviable notoriety as favorite counsellor of the hated Duke of Athens, and with difficulty saved himself from the MEDIEVAL VINCIGLIATA. book in the Magliabechian Li- brary (The Priorista di Griuliano Ricci) says : " In early times the Visdomini were said to have been most noble and ancient gentlemen of the Gruelph faction, who in 1215 lived in San Martino, and had possessions and towers ; thej^ changed their name and arms several times." The Tosinghi, della Tosa, etc. Whether the Visdomini held the Castle of Vincigliata for a term of centuries, or a term of years, is not re- corded, as there is a hiatus in the documents respect- ing it till early in the 14*^ century, when we find it in the possession of Bocca and Giovanni di Scarlatto : they in 1318 ceded their rights of lordship to Griovanni di Bartolo Usimbardi, who with his brother Barnaba and his son Niccolo were the next inhabitants.
9 fury of the populace when the Duke was driven out in 1343. The Usimbardi were well known in Florence till the 13**" century, when some of them emigrated from the city during the civil wars of that time, and retired to the Val d' Elsa where they became citizens of im- portance at Oolle.* * In the 16*^ century one of the family named Francesco became father of three eminent sons : Usimbardo bishop of Golle, Pietro bishop of Arezzo, and Lorenzo secretary to the Grrand-Duke Ferdinand I. A certain Bastiano Usimbardi was sent by the Re- public to Majorca in 1422 to make a treaty of com- merce.
They must have been guilty of e MEDIEVAL VINCIGLIATA.
greater crimes than this however, for in 1348, the Commune decreed the utter destruction of Castel di Poggio.