Author: Christine Contrada

Christine Contrada earned a Ph.D. in Italian Renaissance history from Stony Brook University in New York. She has taught Italian history and culture for over a decade. You can read about her adventures at
September 4, 2019

Rificolona and Marian devotion

As summer begins its slow wane, it offers a particularly poignant stage for the pulse of the city to reset and reflect. Every September 7, Florentines flood into piazza della Santissima Annunziata to celebrate the birth of the Virgin Mary. The feast day, which became popular in the Latin Church in the seventh century, is […]
July 3, 2019

The Medici and their guards at the Uffizi Gallery

While the eyes of the world are fixated on the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci, 2019 also marks the 500th anniversary of the birth of Cosimo I de’ Medici.     The second Medici duke was instrumental in stabilizing Medici rule after the collapse of the Florentine Republic. A quincentenary shines a direct […]
May 8, 2019

“The Innocents of Florence”: film review

"The Innocents of Florence" asks us to reconsider why the cradle of renaissance civilization offered a cradle to its abandoned babies. It was not humanitarianism, but it was humanism.
March 7, 2019

“Medici: The Magnificent”: fact and fiction

While watching season two of “Medici: Masters of Florence”, consider this: one should not assume magnificence, even if historical legacy does.
January 9, 2019

In a dark wood: Palagio di Parte Guelfa

At this time of year more than any other, Florence invites us to be cognizant of the complexities lurking in the liminal, transitional spaces that illuminate the city’s countless historical thresholds. Before we find ourselves like Dante, halfway through our lives, frightened and feeling like we are lost in a dark wood, we should remember […]
December 4, 2018

A piece of the Laurentian Library in London

Florence’s Laurentian Library, commissioned in 1523 by Pope Clement VII to celebrate his family’s political and ecclesiastical ascension to power, continues to be the home of numerous remarkable manuscripts. One of which, the Codex Amiatinus, has returned to England as a crown jewel in the critically acclaimed Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms: Art, Word, War exhibition at the […]
September 13, 2018

Horses in the lemon house

Horses were frequently represented in the cultural production of pre-modern Western societies. Paradoxically, because they are so common, the horse is an easy image to dismiss in favor of the exploration of more exotic themes, which explains why the horse often becomes an invisible beast of burden. The telling message of a modern Italian idiom […]
June 4, 2018

Anatomical drawings: Da Vinci great but not infallible

The inaccuracies of Da Vinci's anatomical drawings should not overshadow the boldness of his efforts. Rather, they should serve to highlight that his studies were only in their infancy.
February 7, 2018

The Silver Caesars

While place cards marking empty spaces is a typical sight in the museums of Florence, taking a stroll through the Bargello might cause one to wonder if they had missed a Michelangelo fire sale. A significant sampling of the great Renaissance artist’s works have been loaned to a major international exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum […]
December 4, 2017

Milton and Galileo

Viale Giovanni Milton is a modern street tucked against the Mugnone brook beyond piazza Liberta where the memory of John Milton is far removed from the historic center of Florence. Here, the English poet is out of sight—and out of mind. The fear that strikes while crossing the viale is not due to the threat […]