"Cultured Florence"
A senior oration by Arthur Leigh Storm1
delivered June 14, 1893
transcribed and annotated by Laura Dettloff, October 1999
The splendid period of the Itallian (sic) renaissance2, lasting from 1300 until 1580 found its climax in the city of Florence3 during the administration of Lorenzo de Medici4.
Let us then, so well as our unromantic nineteenth century minds will permit, be carried back, in thought, 400 years, Let us imagine ourselves standing on the gentle slope of the vine clad hills overlooking Florence. The day is drawing to a close; below us lies a city of magnificent marble palaces and churches the spurs and domes of which stretch themselves far skyward as if to catch a last kiss from the setting sun which transforms their snowy whiteness into radiant gold; as a suitable setting for this dazzling picture is the rich green valley, dotted with fields of moving corn, and fairly teeming with flowers and verdure, while the surrounding hills are covered with luxurious vines and olive trees.
Through the center of all this beauty flows the Arno5 on its journey to Pisa6 where its pure, life giving water shall become busy with the salt of the sea.  Across the valley and far beyond loom up the towering peaks of a spur of the Apennines7standing like sentinels to guard this favored spot from the chill north winds.  Every where is vegetation so lavish and fruitful that it seem as if the city itself, in all its marvelous beauty, must have sprung up from the fertileness of the soil.
Such is the impression gained by a distant prospect, but may not distance lend its proverbial enchantment. Let us enter the very heart of the city.  Here one is even more charmed and astonished at the exquisiteness of detail apparent on every hand.  At every turn you are brought face to face with a perfect extravagance of decoration, sculptures and paintings are not confined to art galleries, but its peoples, from the highest of the humblest, learn daily lessons of the beautiful from this superb architecture and magnificent decoration both external and internal with which they come in contact in every walk of life, filled as the city is with works of art, which have never been excelled.
The capital of Tuscany8at the time of which we speak had become the center of the learning and culture of the world, and had attained a magnificence of which (unknown word) had never dreamed and has been most aptly called the “Modern Athens”9.
If this was a second Athens10 who then was the Pericles11 of this period; and who were the great men that made it so illustrious?
The illustrious family of the Medici12 had at last, after many struggles, subdued all their enemies and in this city which had been noted for its spirit of democracy, made themselves supreme.13
When Lorenzo, commonly called the Magnificent, came into power he resolved to confirm the supremacy of this ancient house by encouraging a taste for pleasure, luxury, literatum, and the fine arts.  Himself a poet and scholar, and pressed of a marvealous (sic) claim of character he soon gained the form of the learned, cultured and influential men of the times; favored by great wealth he filled the city with marble and houze (sic) statuary and superb painting.
As but a few years previous the Turks had taken Constantinople, many of the most noted men of letters of this city fled to Florence, carrying with them Turk learning and ideas14.
Lorenzo made his palace the literary centre of Italy, the historian speaks thus; “All the young men, who had abandoned themselves with enthusiasm to the study of the arts and letters, who rendered a sort (unknown word) to ancient literature, who studied the Grecian philosophy and who were accused of preferring even the religion of the ancient Romans to that of the church, were, at the same time, devotedly attached to the Medici.”
The ancestor of Lorenzo, Cosimo de Medici15, had founded the Platonic Academy16 at the head of which at the present time was Ficino17.  Politian18, who professor of Greek and Latin eloquence and who wrote elegantly in Latin, Greek and Hebrew verse and composed equally well and with much purity in prose, was an inmate of Lorenzo’s palace and a teacher of his children.
Pico19, (undecipherable phrase) descended of far illustrious and wealthy family, whose wit and learning were positively dazzling, had taken refuge at the court of Lorenzo.  Pico had a truly great mind which shone with brilliant lustre, in the splendid circle of Florentine scholars.
Lorenzo was also the patron of Michealangelo20, whose statuary has rivalled (sic) that of old greek sculptors and whose “Last Judgement and other famous paintings21 have never ceased to be the admiration and wonder of posterity. There were besides Rapheal and a host of other sculptors, artists, and architects whose names still live as being first in their profession.
Scholarship was not neglected; the great university founded in 134822 was divided into six schools.  Those of Theology, Jurisprudence, Medicine, Belles Lettres, Greek and Latin literature and Astronomy to Florence came men from all Europe to receive or finish their education.
Colet23 and Erasmus24 studied in Florence and here received their zeal for the new learning and for reform which made them such a power for good in the world.
Such was the outward show of this the Athens of the Fifteenth Century.
But alas! It was the old story of the whited (undecipherable word).  The city was as corrupt in morals as it was rich in material wealth and learning.  The marble palaces and pure architecture were but awkward symbols having no correspondence in the heart and reflecting nothing of the corruptions that was hidden there.  The intelligence and culture were unsurpassed at that time, but their religion was semi-pagan and their morals vile.
Into the midst of this learning and vice came the zealous reformer Savanarola25 who boldly proclaimed the fearful punishment that must overtake the state and church in consequence of their corruptness and although his life became fanatical his words were prophetic of the revolution that was soon to follow.
In speaking of the debased condition of the city we must not forget that there were the days of Machiavelli26 and that Rome itself, the head of the Christian church, was even worse in the matter of morals than Florence27.
While we deplore its vice and corruptness we cannot but cherish a fond regard for the city which was the home of Dante28, (unknown word), Angelo, Rapheal29 and Savanarola, the city which has preserved and given to posterity much of the learning of the ancients and where men from the entire continent received an education and an (unknown word) which when they went forth around the peoples of Europe and paved the way for the emancipation of the minds of a downtrodden humanity.
       A.L. Storm
Carlisle, May 11, 1893

1)  "Arthur Leigh Storm" - Author of this senior oration written and delivered in 1893, Storm graduated from Dickinson College in 1893.  Storm was born on September 13, 1871 to John and Harriet (Brown) Storm in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania.  He attended preparatory school at the Hackettstown Seminary in New Jersey.  At Dickinson, Storm was involved in many extra-curricular activities which included being a member of the Phi Kappa Psi and Theta Nu Epsilon fraternities, the Belles Lettres Society, the prophet of the class of '93, and treasurer of the Hackettstown Seminary Club.  Storm graduated with a degree in architecture and went on to become an architectural draughtsman.  He worked for Rankin and Kellog of Philadelphia from 1893 until 1902 and with George B.  Post of New York.  Storm was married to Katharine Allen Broleston of Philadelphia on November 4, 1903 and lived in New York for the latter part of his life.

2) "Italian Renaissance" -  A term used to characterize a period of rediscovery of Greco-Roman civilization, an emphasis on reason, glorification of the individual, a focus on secularization, and great achievements in science, art, and architecture that took place from 1300 to 1580.  This period in history began in Florence with the help of the Medici family, and soon after spread throughout the rest of Europe.  [Gordon, Irving. World History - Second Edition.  (New York:  Amsco School Publications Inc, 1996), 124.]

3)  "Florence" - The capital of the Tuscany region in Italy, located one hundred forty five miles northwest of Rome. Was at one point the capital of Italy from 1865 to 1871.  Achieved preeminence in finance, commerce, learning and the arts in the fourteenth through sixteenth centuries and found fame as the most important city of the Renaissance period. ["Florence", Encyclopedia Brittanica Online]

4)  "Lorenzo de Medici" - (1449-1492)  A poet and patron of the arts, Lorenzo was also an excellent statesman known as "Lorenzo the Magnificent".  He is known to be the most brilliant ruler of his famed family, and was the sole ruler of Florence from 1478 through 1492.  During his rule he created the Council of Seventy, a governing body.  He was nearly assassinated by the Pazzi family in 1478, but managed to survive the attack.  Lorenzo de Medici was known for his role in the beginning of the Renaissance, as he was extremely interested in the arts and financed many projects within Florence.  Although economic conditions deteriorated during his reign, he is still known as one of the most brilliant Italian rulers in history. ["Lorenzo de Medici", Encyclopedia Brittanica Online]

5)  "Arno" - The principle stream of the Tuscany region in central Italy which flows one hundred fifty miles to the sea. ["Arno River",  Encyclopedia Brittanica Online]

6)  "Pisa" - A city in central Italy within the Tuscany region.  It lies on the Arno River and is home to the famous "Leaning Tower of Pisa".  It was once occupied by the Florentines in the early 1400's and is now the principle urban centre of Italy. ["Pisa", Encyclopedia Brittanica Online]

7)  "Apennines" - Mountain range running north to south throughout the length of Italy. ["Apennines", Encyclopedia Brittanica Online]

8)  "Tuscany" - A region in west central Italy which lies along the Tyrrhenian and Ligurian seas and has an area of 8,877 square miles. ["Tuscany", Encyclopedia Brittanica Online]

9) "Modern Athens" - A term used by the author to describe the fact that Florence was much like the golden years of early Athens during the Renaissance period.  There was a return to the Greco-Roman age during the Italian Renaissance. While I was not able to locate this term anywhere, the author of the oration may have either coined the phrase himself or found it within a book.

10)  "Athens" - The capital of Greece.  Many of classical civilization's intellectual and artistic ideas originated here.  Athens has been considered to be the birthplace of Western Civilization. ["Athens, Greece", Encyclopedia Brittanica Online]

11)  "Pericles" - Served as head of the Athenian government from 461-429 BC.  He opened government service to all men, began the practice of paying salaries to public officials, and encouraged very democratic ideals within the city.  The period of his reign is often known as the "Golden Age of Athens" and was the height of Athenian democracy.  [Gordon, Irving.  World History - Second Edition.  (New York:  Amsco School Publications Inc, 1996), 42-43.]

12)  "Family of the Medici" -  The Medici's were an Italian bourgeois family that ruled Florence and Tuscany for most of the period between 1434 and 1737.  They first amassed a fortune in the wool industry and then took over the banking and made a fortune there as well.  They were not soldiers, and instead of going to war would typically bribe their enemies with gold.  They favoured the middle and lower classes, often angering the wealthy upper-class.   The entire family was passionate in their love of the arts, letters, and architecture.  All of the Medici's were patrons of the arts, especially Lorenzo de Medici, who was credited with encouraging the beginning of the Renaissance in Florence. [Gordon, Irving.  World History - Second Edition.  (New York:  Amsco School Publications Inc, 1996), 124.]

13)  The Medici family had to face many struggles while coming to power and throughout their reign.  They were able to achieve wealth and power through their involvement with the banking industry.  Their many struggles to keep their family in power included being constantly harassed by the upperclassmen, who resented their favouring of the lower classes.  Cosimo de Medici was once imprisoned by the Albizzi family who were competing with the Medici's for control of Florence.  He escaped death only by bribing a jail hand with gold.  Lorenzo de Medici was also nearly killed in an assassination attempt .  The Pazzi family, who had taken the business affairs of the papacy away from the Medici's, collaborated with Pope Sixtus IV to kill Lorenzo de Medici on Easter in 1478.  Lorenzo escaped the attempt on his life alive. ["Medici", Encyclopedia Brittanica Online]

14)  "Turks had taken Constantinople.." - In 1453, Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks, ending the Byzantine Empire.  Important scholars, writers and artists fled to Florence around this time.  [Gordon, Irving.  World History - Second Edition.  (New York:  Amsco School Publications Inc, 1996), 86.]

15)  "Cosimo de Medici" - (1389-1464)  Known as "Cosimo the Elder", he was originally in charge of the Medici family bank.  He came into Florentine rule in 1434.  In 1458 he created a Senate with one hundred members.  Cosimo de Medici brought together the Council of Florence, which became one of the most important successes of foreign relations during that time.  The Platonic Academy was founded under his rule.  He was also known for his construction of beautiful churches and buildings, and his organization of the search for ancient texts. ["Medici", Encyclopedia Brittanica Online]

16)  "Platonic Academy" - Established in Florence during the second half of the fifteenth century, it was the center of learning and teaching of Christian Platonism.  This theory conceived of all forms as the creative thoughts of God, and was extremely popular during the Renaissance period.  It inspired much artistic innovation. ["Platonic Academy", Encyclopedia Brittanica Online]

17)  "Ficino" - (1433-1499)  Italian philosopher, linguist, and theologian.  His translations and writings generated the Florentine Platonist Renaissance.  He became head of the Platonic Academy in 1462 and was later ordained as a priest in 1473.  He stated that men naturally tend toward religion and that all religions have a measure of truth. ["Platonic Academy", Encyclopedia Brittanica Online]

18)  "Politian" - (1454-1494)  Italian poet and humanist.  He was sent to Florence in 1469 where he caught the attention of Lorenzo de Medici with his writings.  He was taken in by the Medici's and trusted with the education of Lorenzo's children. He was one of the people mainly responsible for the reevaluation of vernacular literature.  In 1480 he was appointed as the Florentine chair of Latin and Greek. ["Politian", Encyclopedia Brittanica Online]

19)  "Pico" - (1463-1494)  Pico della Mirandola was an Italian scholar of philosophy, law, Greek, Latin, Hebrew, and Arabic.  He expressed unorthodox religious ideas in his writings and praised the dignity of human beings.  He was repeatedly censured by the church for his ideas on religion.  He studied in Florence and became associated with the Platonic Academy under Lorenzo de Medici.  [Gordon, Irving. World History - Second Edition.  (New York:  Amsco School Publications Inc, 1996), 125.]

20)  "Michelangelo" - A Renaissance painter, sculptor, poet, and artist famous for his work on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.  Also created the famous statues "David" and "Moses". ["Michelangelo", Encyclopedia Brittanica Online]

21)  "Last Judgement and other famous paintings" - Located on the Sistine Chapel ceiling and painted by Michelangelo.  Other famous paintings by Michelangelo include "Holy Family", "Conversion of St. Paul", and "Crucifixion of St. Peter".  The "Last Judgement" was begun in 1534 on the altar wall and finished in 1541.  ["Last Judgement", Encyclopedia Brittanica Online]

22)  "The great university..." -

23)  "Colet" - (1466-1519)  John Colet was an English theologian and humanist. He promoted Renaissance culture in England.  He was educated in Florence and France.  Colet collaborated with Erasmus, inviting him to Oxford University in the 1490's.  He was appointed dean of St. Paul's Cathedral in 1504 and founded the St. Paul School in 1509. ["Colet", Encyclopedia Brittanica Online]

24)  "Erasmus" - (1466-1536)  Dutch humanist and scholar.  Wrote Praise of Folly in which he ridiculed superstition, upper-class privileges, prejudice, and church abuses.  Remained a faithful Catholic while pushing for internal reform of the church.  His use of satirization encouraged people to think about reforms. [Gordon, Irving.  World History - Second Edition.  (New York:  Amsco School Publications Inc, 1996), 125.]

25)  "Savanarola" - Preacher sent to Florence in 1482 under the rule of Lorenzo de Medici.  He preached against the tyrannical abuses of the Medici government and introduced a democratic government in Florence.  He felt he could found a city of God in Florence and was not respected within the church.  He was hated by Lorenzo de Medici and was eventually excommunicated and executed. ["Savanarola", Encyclopedia Brittanica Online]

26)  "Machiavelli" - (1469-1527)  Born in Florence, Machiavelli served as Florentine secretary and diplomat.  He was dismissed from office when the Medici's regained control of the government in Florence.  He wrote The Prince , a work on the relationship between government and ethics.  He described in his work what really takes place within a government and championed the philosophy that "the end justifies the means".  [Gordon, Irving. World History - Second Edition.  (New York:  Amsco School Publications Inc, 1996), 126.]

27)  "Rome was worse in morals..."  - The author is referring to the fact that Rome was more corrupt within the church, than was Florence.  The Reformation began in the early 1500's due to the vast amount of problems within the Catholic church.  Church officials in Rome had begun to claim supremacy over civil authority and church taxes were becoming a heavy burden.  Renaissance ideals led some to question the religious powers and authority of the Church.  Worldliness, nepotism, simony, and the sale of indulgences were all major moral problems affecting the church during the Renaissance period.  The people lost respect for the church.  [Gordon, Irving.  World History - Second Edition.  (New York:  Amsco School Publications Inc, 1996), 134.]

28)  "Dante" - (1265-1321)  Italian writer, born in Florence.  He served Florence in various governmental positions until he was exiled by another political party.  He was the first to write an important work in the vernacular The Divine Comedy, and is known as "the father of the Italian language".   [Gordon, Irving.  World History - Second Edition.  (New York:  Amsco School Publications Inc, 1996), 125.]

29)  "Rapheal" - (1483-1520)  Renaissance painter best known for his Madonna's.  Rapheal was influenced by many other major artists in both Rome and Florence, and was taught by Leonardo DaVinci and Michelangelo.  His first major work was "Giving of the Keys to Saint Peter", which is located in the Sistine Chapel.  ["Rapheal", Encyclopedia Brittanica Online]

 The pictures above the title of this section are Lorenzo de Medici.