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Matteo Palmieri the heretic. Blame the floods.

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Matteo Palmieri the heretic. Blame the floods.

Blame the flood. A flood is always an unfortunate event and in Florence they really know something about it... the one in 1557 caused a really curious collateral damage, actually, a disastrous one. This was the case for Matteo Palmieri, who died in 1475. Are you lost? Then let's start again.

Matteo Palmieri, born in Florence in 1406, an outstanding diplomat, a great visionary man with a great political career closely linked to the Medici family - appointed by them vicar in the lands of the domains of Florence – Gonfaloniere of the Company, prior, Gonfaloniere of Justice, many times ambassador of Florence.

A guy who knew a lot and wrote a lot: in his 'De temporibus' he had written the history of the world, from the beginning until 1499, whilst in the 'Historia florentina' the events of the war between Florence and Pisa at the beginning of the century. Palmieri died with great pomp in 1475, leaving various written works, some of them published posthumously. Certainly some were soon forgotten among the library shelves or in the archives of some institutional office of the city of Florence: the latter fate was definitely that of a very special book written by Palmieri between 1450 and 1465, entitled 'The Life City'... and this brings up to the terrible floods of September 13, 1557.

That day half of Florence was buried by the waters, only Ponte Vecchio withstood the fury of the floods, the streets were submerged, buildings swept away and among them one of the judicial offices of today's Proconsolo Street, the road that from St Florence Piazza goes towards Piazza Duomo past the Bargello National Museum. Hundreds of books were carried away by the flood, many were saved, some were stolen, others simply picked by hand and, among these, it is said that the flood brought to light the book written by Matteo Palmieri: 'The Life City'.
It was a work in blatantly esoteric style: clearly cloning Dante Alighieri's work, the Florence-hailed diplomat wrote 100 chapters with afterlife stories describing the essence of the soul and containing theories on occult astrology and dreams on the celestial sphere,.

In short, the 1557 flood brought to life the text which quickly became the domain of all of Florence: notables, politicians, nobles and clerics were aware that Palmieri's 'Life City' not only searched for the essence of the soul among mysterious practices, but mostly that it stated that this pre-existed the body. Such a statement could not be accepted nor forgiven and the secular and religious authorities of the Tuscan city then railed against Palmieri after his death and gave him a huge sentence.

The 1557 flood brought Florence to declare Matteo Palmieri a heretic and deny the value of all his writings: his body was exhumed and deported from the family Chapel in the cemetery and buried in un-consecrated ground outside the city. 

'The Life City', for this reason, was the subject of several studies in the following centuries: a book with limited value which today, however, is said to have inspired Michelangelo. The text is now available as a manuscript in the National Library of Florence thanks to the activity of several 20th century scholars.

By Insidecom Editorial Staff

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