From Florentine domination to the kingdom of Italy

Later in 1411, Ladislao di Durazzo put his war-prize city up for sale. It was bought on January 14 by the Florentines for 60,000 gold florins and became a territory of the Florentine Republic. In the meantime the Republic with Cosimo the Elder passed under the control of the Medici family (1430). Cosimo the Elder was succeeded by his sons Lorenzo and Giuliano, the latter was killed during the Pazzi Conspiracy. Lorenzo remained as the only Signore of Florence and his reign (1469-1492) was magnificent.

Family crests at Casali Palace

The Florentine happenings didn't shake the Cortonese, oppressed by the heavy taxes of their new masters, who wanted to recover the 60,000 florins paid to Ladislao. There weren't any attempts of revolt but the examination of the events brings to light a hostility felt by a large part of the population towards the Florentine government. It is known that the Signori of Florence, Cosimo the Elder and Lorenzo the Magnificent made appearances in Cortona, but it is not known how they were received. The expression "The Signori of Florence" was used with a scornful tone. In Florence, after Lorenzo’s death, the Republic was reinstated (1494). Pier Soderini, the brother of the bishop of Cortona, Cardinal Francesco, was named gonfalonier. However, the Medici returned to power (1512) with Giovanni, Lorenzo the Magnificent’s son, cardinal of the Holy Roman Church, and subsequently with Lorenzo II, the Thoughtful, and a turn of luck brought Cortona to the good side of the Medici. Cardinal Giovanni became, for unknown reasons, a close friend of Silvio Passerini, who came from a noble but not wealthy Cortonese family, which had an oxen standing on three hills as coat of arms. According to Annibale Laparelli ("Memorie Cortonesi") the Passerini family died out around 1650 with Luisia di Antonio’s death.

When Giovanni was appointed Pope (1513) taking the name of Leo X, Silvio Passerini was nominated his datary. Subsequently on July 1, 1517, he was made cardinal and assumed as his cardinal crest an oxen reclining below the Medici crest. When Leo X declared Passerini and his brothers the counts of Petrignano in a papal bull dated March 26,1519, even his brothers adopted the cardinal crest. In 1521, among other responsibilities, Passerini was conferred the title of bishop of Cortona. Silvio's good fortune at the service of the Medici came back to the city of Cortona: first Leo X named him governor of Tuscia and Umbria and then Clement VII made him governor of Florence. Leo X visited Cortona as a guest of the Passerini, on November 15,16 and 17, 1515: these were glorious days for the city. Two papal bulls, one beatifying Margherita and the other relative to indulgences, tied to the Cult of the Holy Cross of Brother Elias were released for the occasion and were a display of papal favors to the city. A manuscript of that time, discovered in the historical archives, contains valuable material about the visit of Leo X to Cortona. It has been recently released for publishing by the Etruscan Academy under the title “Leone X a Cortona”. The abundance of Cardinal Passerini’s wealth and power was further manifested by the artistic restructuring of the Palazzo del Popolo (which had become his property after the donation by the Captain of the people on behalf of city), by the construction of the impressive residence called Palazzone, which was rich in artwork, and by the donation to the head of the Cathedral of a precious and artistically crafted set of ceremonial vestments, which are now displayed at the Diocesan Museum.

Pietro Leopoldo

Cortona preserves important works of art of the Renaissance atmosphere inaugurated by Lorenzo the Magnificent and ended with Leo X. The most splendid of them are the paintings by Luca Signorelli (1445/50-1523), a well-known artist in the later years of the 1400's, who worked in his workshop in Cortona in the early years of the 1500's. Between Perugino and Raffaello he added a personality to their art with paintings in Loreto, Rome, Monteoliveto Maggiore and most of all in Orvieto, where the composition of his Final Judgment pre-dated and inspired Michelangelo.

At the beginning of the century, in 1509, a bull from Giulio II transferred the site of the cathedral from the mother church of the medieval quarter of San Vincenzo to the mother church of the medieval quarter of Santa Maria. Thus the decay of the ancient church of San Vincenzo begun and caused the demise of the cult and devotion to the martyr Vincenzo. The ancient parish church of Santa Maria was completely renewed and given a renaissance facade. In the year of the invasion of the troops of the Emperor Charles V (1529) and the successive Pillage of Rome, in order to avoid being pillaged and to save the city, Cortona paid to the imperial commander of Prince Philibert of Orange an enormous sum of money which mortgaged all of the city's resources, the civic as well as the religious holdings.

Cortona in 1860

In the following centuries, during the "War for the Duke of Castro" (1641-1649), the defense walls of the city were reinforced as it is attested by an epigraph found between the archways of the "Porta Bifora". In the same century many Cortonese artists from the Berrettini family were popular, mostly Piero (1597-1669) also called Pietro da Cortona. In the 1700's, the three Venuti brothers, Marcello (1701-1755), Ridolfino (1703-1763) and Filippo (1706-1768), became famous in the areas of literature and archaeology. They were involved in the foundation of the Etruscan Academy in 1727. In this same century after the enlightened reforms of Grand Duke Leopoldo, in 1799, Cortona resisted the attacks of Napoleon's troops (who were mainly Polish) and took back by force its independence in the form of an uprising in the Valdichiana known as "Viva Maria". In September 1803 Maria Luisa Infant of Spain, the widow of Ludovic of Borbone and queen of the Napoleonic Kingdom of Etruria, visited Cortona. She was the guest of the bishop, Florentine Filippo Ganucci (1802-1806) and stayed at Palace Mancini on Via Nazionale. The event is commemorated by two plaques placed at the side of the entry door of the bishops’ house and a stone plaque in the courtyard of Palace Mancini, now known as Ferretti. Elisa Bonaparte, Napoleon’s sister and Grand Duchess of Tuscany from 1808 to 1814, visited Cortona in September 1809. During her visit she spent a long time in the Etruscan Academy passing a great amount of time in the museum and in the library. After the fall of the last Grand Duke Leopoldo II (1826-1859), following a referendum of the citizens that is memorialized by a marble tablet placed on the external part of the Town Hall, the city was annexed to the "Kingdom of Italy " on March 12, 1860.