You can find some bizarre facts while you’re researching. Author L. M. Elliott has immersed herself in Renaissance Florence for her new book, Da Vinci’s Tiger, where we meet Ginevra de’Benci, the fascinating real woman who sat for Leonardo Da Vinci’s first portrait. While doing all her research, she came upon some crazy facts about the Renaissance—here are ten of them that they probably didn’t teach you in history class.
1. Women were not allowed to stand in front of windows. Why? They would “inflame the carnal desires” of men walking below, and take those men “away from God.” AKA:
2. Pork rinds were a favorite renaissance snack. So really, you could justify this snack by citing historical and cultural precedent.
3. Women were told not to play wind instruments because it made your face look unattractive. Instead, women were encouraged to play stringed instruments like the lute or viola de gamba.
4. Men usually didn’t get married until they were 30—before then, they were not considered to be grown up enough for marriage.
Men in their 20s were called “giovannis” and considered irrational and controlled by baser instincts—they evidently roamed as gangs and were a particular delinquent problem for the city.
Women, on the other hand, were expected to be married by 16 or 17 years old.
5. There was an actual law limiting how much you could spend on your wedding. (If only that was still true.) That being said, weddings were huge events—Lorenzo de’Medici’s wedding lasted over three days and included five different banquets.
6. What was most likely to be the fanciest room in your palazzo? Your bedroom. This was the main room to receive guests and its swankiness implied the fertility of the lady of the house. (TMI, IMHO.)
7. There were over 60 churches within Florence’s city walls—or approximately one church per every 300 feet. We think Starbucks used this as their model.
8. If you look at Renaissance portraits, a lot of women’s hairstyles have hair covering their ears. Why? There was an old myth that the Virgin Mary got pregnant through her ear when she heard the word of God.
9. 12% of women—or approximately one in eight women—in Renaissance Florence were nuns.
10. The Medicis kept a pair of lions and some giraffes in one of Florence’s major squares. Apparently, the giraffes would occasionally escape and go wandering through the streets of Florence.
Want to learn more about Renaissance Florence, Leonardo Da Vinci, and the real life poet Ginevra de’Benci? Then check out Da Vinci’s Tiger by L. M. Elliott.
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