Revolt of the Ciompi (1378)

Insurrection of the lower classes of Florence in 1378 that briefly brought to power one of the most democratic governments in Florentine history. The ciompi ("wool carders") were the most radical of the groups that revolted, and they were defeated by the more conservative elements in Florentine society.

A struggle between factions within the major ruling guilds triggered the uprising. Members of the lower classes, called upon to take part in the revolt in late June, continued to agitate on their own during the month of July. They presented a series of petitions to the Signoria (executive council of Florence) demanding a more equitable fiscal policy and the right to establish guilds for those groups not already organized. Then, on July 22, the lower classes forcibly took over the government, placing one of their members, the wool carder Michele di Lando, in the important executive office of gonfaloniere of justice. The new government, controlled by the minor guilds, was novel in that for the first time it represented all the classes of society, including the ciompi, who were raised to the status of a guild.

But the ciompi were soon disillusioned. Their economic condition worsened, and the new government failed to implement all their demands. Conflicting interests of the minor guilds and the ciompi became evident. On August 31 a large group of the ciompi that had gathered in the Piazza della Signoria was easily routed by the combined forces of the major and minor guilds. In reaction to this revolutionary episode, the ciompi guild was abolished, and within four years the dominance of the major guilds was restored.