The Buondelmonti was a wealthy Florentine family that belonged to the landed gentry. Knowledge of this family dates the twelfth century. The Buondelmonti become one of the most important families in Florence thanks to good investments: while they were not merchants and bankers, like the Medici, they were very interested in politics.
The Buondelmonti bought beautiful palaces in Florence, attained important public offices, arranged marriages with rich Florentine families, and most importantly, have gone down in history for their bickering and commitment to the political struggle in Florence.
Coined by the character Robert Langdon in Dan Brown’s Inferno as “Florence’s bloodiest murder”, Buondelmonte de’ Buondelmonti’s death is said to have taken place 1216. The history of this event has been handed down mainly by Giovanni Villani (Florence, 1276-1348), a Florentine merchant and writer famous for his Nuova Cronica, which tells the story of Florence from antiquity to his death from the plague.
Buondelmonte was a brilliant, elegant, and rich young man who loved to quarrel. During a banquet in honor of a knighted noble, Buondelmonte de’ Buondelmonti and Uberto Infangati were sitting next to each other, given that they were great friends, and were eating from the same plate (as was often the case in medieval banquets).
A juggler removed the plate from under Buondelmonte, a gesture of disrespect, thereby provoking his anger.
A knight present at the banquet – Oddo Arrighi – tried to defend the jester, to whom Buondelmonte retorted the serious insult: “You lie through your teeth.”
From these words a brawl ensued, in which Buondelmonte wounded Arrighi in the arm. At this point the conflict between the two protagonists of the story fits into the struggles that involved the most important Florentine families for decades.
The Buondelmonti family belonged to the faction of the Guelphs, while its opponents were part of the Ghibellines.The family of Arrighi and his supporters (Amidei, Uberti, and Lamberti) stated that the insult could be appeased by arranging a wedding for Buondelmonte.
The young Buondelmonte was in fact rich and handsome, and is said to have fallen in love with many girls when he would cross the Ponte Vecchio on horseback from Oltrarno, where he lived.
A niece of the wounded (Oddo Arrighi) was probably in love with Buondelmonte, but she was neither rich, nor beautiful, nor noble. As such, a marriage to her would serve as a fitting punishment for Buondelmonte.
Initially Buondelmonte accepted the wedding to avoid facing retribution from his opponents, but then completely changed his mind (on account of another woman, according to tradition).
This second offense could not be forgiven!
Buondelmonte’s enemies once again gathered in a church to discuss the sentence that should be imposed on the young man. The death sentence was carried out on Easter morning of 1216, during the wedding procession of Buondelmonte, as he was about to marry his new fiancée.
It was the same Oddo Arrighi who would deliver the deadly blow, after dropping him from his horse.
The wedding procession became a funeral procession, and all citizens of Florence saw the young bride support the lifeless body of Buondelmonte.
This sad spectacle moved the Florentine citizens, even those who had condemned the actions of the young Buondelmonte, and provoked protests urging respect for the laws of the city.
The murder was carried out on the Ponte Vecchio, under the statue of Mars.
In a Florence already divided by political struggle, the fact that a faction met in a church, condemned a Florentine nobleman to death, and subsequently killed him in front of everyone made a terrible impression on all the Florentines.
This shocking episode has remained entrenched in the memory of the Florentines as one of the most frightful events to have ever happened in Florence.
Pictures by www.gonnelli.it and Wikipedia