the byzantine and lombard and period - art and history of florence

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  2. The Byzantine and Lombard and Period  

The Barbarian invasions seriously impaired the importance of Florentia. In 405, even though gravely damaged, the city managed to halt the hordes of Radagaisus, which were defeated by Stilicho but later it could not avoid being involved in the disastrous Gotho- Byzantine war. Its strategic position as bridgehead on the Arno and strong point in the communications route between Rome and Padania explains why the city was so keenly contested between the Goths and the Byzantines. In 541-44 the latter erected a secondary city wall inside the old Roman city but in 552 even this failed to keep out the Goth, Totila. The new city walls were built utilizing the structures of various large Roman buildings: the Campidoglio, the reservoir for the water of the Baths, the Theater. A pair of coupled towers, whose foundations have recently come to light behind the remains of the side apses of Santa Reparata, terminated the fortifications of the small "Byzantine" city wall at the northeast corner. The wall was trapezoidal and its modest size testifies to the decline of the city, greatly depopulated (there may have been less than a thousand inhabitants) and reduced to a castrum. Meanwhile, in the early decades of the 6th century or even before, but certainly at the time of the late Roman city, the church of Santa Reparata was built. According to tradition, the Florentines built the church in 405, a tribute to the victory of General Stilicho's imperial troops over the Ostrogoths of Radagaisus. Around the end of the 6th century when the Lombards conquered northern and central Italy, Florence also fell under their dominion. This was the beginning of what may be considered the darkest period in the city's history. Cut off from the major routes, the main reason for its existence suddenly vanished. For their north-south communications, the Lombards abandoned the central Bologna-Pistoia-Florence route as being too exposed to the incursions of the Byzantines who still held control of the eastern part of Italy; and made use of a route further to the west that crossed the Cisa pass and reached Pavia and Milan via the Sarzana-Piacenza route.
In the Middle Ages this road, later to be known as romea or francigena, became the main continental artery between Italy and the countries north of the Alps. Similar reasons lie behind the Lombard choice of Lucca as the capital of the duchy of Toscana, a city that lay along the road they used for internal communications.
In any case, during the period of Lombard domination, especially after Queen Theodolinda had been converted to the church of Rome, a number of religious buildings were founded in the city. Among the others the Baptistery of San Giovanni (St.John the Baptist) although not of course in its present form and size. Indeed it seems that the original Florentine baptismal church was much smaller than the present one: it was most likely a small octagonal temple whose foundations are visible in the "subterraneans" of "bel San Giovanni".


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