The Florentine Way of Death

- Leader, Anne*
Caring for and commemorating the dead is a fundamental human activity, as old, if not older, as human civilization itself. The COVID-19 pandemic has upended cherished burial rituals worldwide and has also renewed interest in the pandemic of 1348 that killed upwards of 60% of Europe’s population. Fourteenth-century authors have become newly relevant as their vivid descriptions of the plague seem ripped from today’s headlines. Florence, Italy, ranked among the largest European cities at the start of the fourteenth century and lost approximately half of her citizens in the summer of 1348, putting great stress on survivors torn between protecting themselves from illness and attending to the sick and dying. Italian poet and scholar Giovanni Boccaccio lamented the abandonment of funeral customs and bemoaned the many who died alone.

In this presentation, Dr. Anne Leader will present her award-winning research on burial customs in early Renaissance Florence, providing an overview of the memorial landscape of the city as Boccaccio and his contemporaries knew it and the ways in which Florentines reformed and renewed their interrupted memorial traditions.