A newly discovered travel account of a Florentine merchant visiting Canterbury and the shrine of Thomas Becket sheds light on late medieval devotion
A Florentine merchant’s visit to Canterbury Cathedral in 1444
BY Eugenio Sidoli, Margherita Palumbo and Stephen Parkin
In: Journal of Medieval History. Online: 22.10.2020
In fifteenth-century Florence, it was customary for merchants to write so-called ricordanze, family memories of different forms and types. Often recorded alongside the accounts of commercial activities, they were written into the proper ledgers and accounts. Of these, more than 500 have been preserved from Florence. These texts present us with lively insights into the family life of the ruling families in Northern Italy at the end of the Middle Ages and have been utilised in several monographs.
A recent find in a private collection – the ricordanze of Mariano Ughi from the 15th century – contains material elucidating his travels to England, Flanders, Sicily and a shorter trip to Montevarchi. The ledger, in which he wrote his diary also functioned as an account of his economic activities. As such it tells us about how the trading expedition was organised, gives us glimpses of the merchandise and the investments. But it also presents us with his story of how he visited both Santiago di Compostela and Canterbury, and took time to emerge himself in tactile and close-up interactions with the saintly relics curated and exhibited by the monks in charge. Both places are described in detail and the article is worth reading for its detailed descriptions.
Eugenio Sidoli, who recently discovered the quadernetto in a private collection, is currently working with colleagues on an edition of the notebook as well as other papers reserved in the archive of the Ughi family preserved in Florence in the Archivio di Stato.
Chaucer’s pilgrims on the road to Canterbury, from ‘The Siege of Thebes’, by John Lydgate, England, 1457–60, Royal MS 18 D II, f. 148r. British Library/Wikipedia