main information page)
The origin of the
city of Pitoia is linked to the northward expansion of the Roman
state, although one cannot exclude the possibility of previous
settlements by other peoples such as the Etruscans, whose presence
here is suggested by some archaeological artifacts found near
the present day piazza del Duomo (vs3).
At the beginning of the second century before Christ, when the
Romans engaged in a bitter war against the Ligurian peoples
in the Appenine hills, Pistoia was probably a fortified city
(oppidum) that served as a supply post for the legions. lts
name Pistoria, Pistoriae or Pistorium may be indicative of this
role because pistoria in Latin denotes the oven used for baking
With the extension of the Cassia road as far as Lucca, Pistoia
consolidated its importance in the territory even though the
only notable event that involved the city was the defeat of
Cataline and his followers in an undefined locality of the ager
pistoriensis in January 62 B.C.. In the fifth century Pistoia
became a bishopric and was brutally sacked by the Radagaiso
Goths (405 B.C.), The later Lombard rule was important for the
city which, because of its vicinity to the Byzantine border,
took on a primary strategic role and became a gastaldato (vs4)
- a compartment ruled by a viceroy - that answered directly
to the king. In this period Pistoia was surrounded by a city
wall (vs8) and the center of the city was organized around the
curtis domini regis (vs4).
Confirmation of the city's prominence can be seen in the authorization
to mint a silver coin: the Pistoian tremisse. During the eighth
century the important religious institutions (n.27/30/31) that
had been built outside the city wall marked the direction of
new urban development while in the next century the city's political
life was organized around the bishop's court (vs3).Little is
known about the domination of the Franks that followed Lombard
rule nor of the Ottolingian period when Pistoia, too, was caught
up in the development of the western world that was characterized
by a closed economy and a feudal kind of political system. The
Guidi and Cadolingi Counts rivaled with the bishop for control
over the city. The new millennium brought changes in the political
institutions; in 1105 the city was ruled by consuls, the most
ancient form of democratic rnagistracy, and in 1158 the podest?
or governor (vs12)) curbed the power of the bishop who had built
his fortified palazzo near the cathedral (vs11).
In 1177 the city passed its first statute, one of the oldest
in Italy. During the eleventh and twelfth centuries, Pistoia
distinguished itself for its strong economic growth; as a consequence
the city carne to control a large territory that exceeded what
is today the province of Pistoia. In this period, perhaps its
most glorious one, the city took on the Romanesque appearance
that is still today its main characteristic and a new city wall
(vs8)was built. Civic life was disrupted, however, first by
the struggles between opposing Guelf and Ghibelline factions
and later between White and Black parties.
The thirteenth century was a moment of serious political crisis
and Pistoia found itself caught between the two opposing powers
of Florence and Lucca. There were many battles with these two
cities; in the early fourteenth century the alliance of the
two resulted in one of the most painful pages in the city's
history: the siege of 1306 (vs8).
Throughout the century, Pistoia tried to free itself but was
placed under the rule first of Uguccione della Faggiola, Vinceguerra
Panciatichi (vs14) and Robert d'Anjou and then under Castruccio
Castracani who ruled for Lucca, in mid century, just when it
seemed like Pistoia was going to win back its autonomy, it entered
the Fiorentine sphere of influence, having been seriously dirninished
both demographically and economically by the disastrous plagues
of 1 348 and 1400.
In 1401 Pistoia lost its independence forever and became an
integral part of the Fiorentine dominions. On September 10 of
that year, after a true military incursion, some Florentine
soldiers succeeded in gaining the City Hall; Florence put their
own governor in office, thus wresting from Pistoia control over
a large part of its surrounding lands. Even the diocese was
subordinated to the one in Florence so that, from this moment
on, the city's bishops would come mostly from the Tuscan capital.
For the whole Medici era (fifteenth and sixteenth centuries)
Pistoia did not make its own history although it was a key player
in several noteworthy episodes. During the first half of the
1500s there was a continual flaring up of fighting between the
factions led by the noble Cancellieri and Panciatichi families.
It was this struggle to attain the few important political positions
available (vs16) that brought Machiavelli to the city in an
attempt to shed light on these violent incidents. He convinced
Florence to increase its power over Pistoia, thus undercutting
any appearance of local autonomy.
In the following years, the city prospered, as can be seen in
the many noble buildings that even today enhance the streets.
Peace was maintained until 1643 when the Papal troops surrounded
and besieged the city. The townspeople showed great courage
in their resistance (vs9). In the sarne century Pistoia witnessed
the ascendancy to the Papai throne of a representative of the
clty aristocracy: Cardinai Giulio Rospigliosi who took the name
of Clemente IX (vs47).
During the first half of the 1700s when the Grand Duke Giangascone,
the last descendent of the Medici, died Tuscany passed under
the rule of the Lorena family. Especially under the enlightened
Pietro Leopoldo, Pistoia enjoyed a prosperous period. The modernization
of the trans-Appenine roadways, with the road to Modena, restored
to the city its central role in free trade with the North which
had once been its oldest and primary activity.
At the end of the nineteenth century, all of Europe's attention
turned to Pistoia for the diocesan synod summoned, in agreement
with the Grand Duke, by Bishop Scipione de' Ricci, well-known
for his Jansenist ideas of radical church reform. The people
of Pistoia, just like Pope Pius VI, did not know what to make
of this high prelate's innovative ideas and he was forced to
leave the city a few years later (vs45).
At the end of the century Pistoia was occupied by French troops
led by the young general Napoleon. The next year all of Tuscany
was under French control. During Napoleonic rule Pistoia was
included in the Area of the Arno and became a municipality governed
by a French maire. With the Congress of Vienna and the restoration
in Tuscany, the Lorenas returned and took up the program of
reform initiated by Pietro Leopoldo. In 1851 the Maria Antonia
railway arrived in Pistoia from Florence and in 1864, after
the Unification of Italy, the Porrettana railway was completed.
Pistoia participated in the Risorgimento not only with the sacrifice
of Attilio Frosini, Sergio Sacconi and Torello Biagioni, killed
by the Austrians - not to mention the many others who fought
for independence - but also through the philanthropy and art
patronage of Niccol?Puccini (vs 21/22).
In 1848 the Grand Duke named Pistoia capital of a cornpartment
and it was given a prefecture; just three years later it was
degraded - as a punishment, it is said, for the city's pro-unification
stance - to the level of sub-prefecture. From 1849 to 1855 the
city was occupied by the Austrian troops that had been called
to assist the Lorenas. In 1860 the citizens of Pistoia voted
to join the kingdom of ltaly. Between the nineteenth and twentieth
centuties Pistoia began to take on a more modern appearance
as it underwent the process of industrialization; the San Giorgio
company from Genoa built a factory here for the budding automobile
industry. The city also promoted urban development even though
the surrounding countryside remained prevalently agricultural.
With the abolition of the city toll gates in 1909, the city
walls lost all their significance and they were partially torn
down (vs8) Later, whole medieval sections would be demolished
as a large part of the city changed its appearance.
During the Fascist period Pistoia was promoted to a provincial
capital. During the Second World War, the city was a center
of strong anti-German resistance and, especially in the countryside,
the consequences of the harsh retaliations were badly felt.
When the Partisans freed Pistoia on September 8, 1944 they found
a very badly damaged city. With the reconstruction Pistoia has
been transformed and today it is an important center for commerce
and industry, linked to the Fiorentine metropolitan area and
characterized by, among other things, a particular vocation
for tree and plant producing nurseries.