Benvenuto Cellini (15001571). Autobiography. The Harvard Classics. 190914.
I WENT off in the direction of Santa Maria Novella, and stumbling up against Fra Alessio Strozzi, whom by the way I did not know, I entreated this good friar for the love of God to save my life, since I had committed a great fault. He told me to have no fear; for had I done every sin in the world, I was yet in perfect safety in his little cell.
After about an hour, the Eight, in an extraordinary meeting, caused one of the most dreadful bans which ever were heard of to be published against me, announcing heavy penalties against who should harbour me or know where I was, without regard to place or to the quality of my protector. My poor afflicted father went to the Eight, threw himself upon his knees, and prayed for mercy for his unfortunate young son. Thereupon one of those Radical fellows, shaking the crest of his twisted hood, stood up and addressed my father with these insulting words:1 Get up from there, and begone at once, for to-morrow we shall send your son into the country with the lances.2 My poor father had still the spirit to answer: What God shall have ordained, that will you do, and not a jot or little more. Whereto the same man replied that for certain God had ordained as he had spoken. My father said: The thought consoles me that you do not know for certain; and quitting their presence, he came to visit me, together with a young man of my own age, called Pierro di Giovanni Landiwe loved one another as though we had been brothers.
Under his mantle the lad carried a first-rate sword and a splendid coat of mail; and when they found me, my brave father told me what had happened, and what the magistrates had said to him. Then he kissed me on the forehead and both eyes, and gave me his hearty blessing, saying: May the power of goodness of God be your protection; and reaching me the sword and armour, he helped me with his own hands to put them on. Afterwards he added: Oh, my good son, with these arms in thy hand thou shalt either live or die. Pier Landi, who was present, kept shedding tears; and when he had given me ten golden crowns, I bade him remove a few hairs from my chin, which were the first down of my manhood. Frate Alessio disguised me like a friar and gave me a lay brother to go with me.3 Quitting the convent, and issuing from the city by the gate of Prato, I went along the walls as far as the Piazza di San Gallo. Then I ascended the slope of Montui, and in one of the first houses there I found a man called Il Grassuccio, own brother to Messer Benedetto da Monte Varchi.4 I flung off my monks clothes, and became once more a man. Then we mounted two horses, which were waiting there for us, and went by night to Siena. Grassuccio returned to Florence, sought out my father, and gave him the news of my safe escape. In the excess of his joy, it seemed a thousand years to my father till he should meet the member of the Eight who had insulted him; and when he came across the man, he said: See you, Antonio, that it was God who knew what had to happen to my son, and not yourself? To which the fellow answered: Only let him get another time into our clutches! And my father: I shall spend my time in thanking God that He has rescued him from that fate.
Note 1. Un di queli arrovellati scotendo la cresto dello arronzinato cappuccio. See above, p. 31. The democrats in Cellinis days were called at Florence Arrabbiati or Arrovellati. In the days of Savonarola this nickname had been given to the ultra-Medicean party or Palleschi. [back]
Note 2. Lanciotti. There is some doubt about this word. But it clearly means men armed with lances, at the disposal of the Signory. [back]
Note 4. Benedetto da Monte Varchi was the celebrated poet, scholar, and historian of Florence, better known as Varchi. Another of his brothers was a physician of high repute at Florence. They continued throughout Cellinis life to live on terms of intimacy with him. [back]