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Poggio Bracciolini (1380-1459) was a pioneer of Quattrocento humanism. He rediscovered many manuscripts of lost Latin classics in libraries north of the Alps, yet spent most of his career as apostolic secretary at the Curia, before returning to Florence as chancellor. His numerous writings document the growth and concerns of the humanist movement and provide an extremely valuable insider perspective on the political and ecclesiastical affairs of his day.
Poggio was present at the Church Council of Constance, where in 1417 he delivered a funeral oration for Cardinal Francesco Zabarella. Later in his life, Poggio revisited the genre to write fictitious orations eulogising five of his close friends. The numerous extant manuscripts of these texts demonstrate the enduring appeal of Poggio’s obituary rhetoric, which contributed much to the codification of the genre.
The eulogies set forth the characters and careers of six luminaries of the early Quattrocento. Three are intimately connected with the humanist movement in Florence: the scholar and chancellor Leonardo Bruni, the reclusive intellectual arbiter Niccolò Niccoli, and Lorenzo de’ Medici the Elder, the right hand of his brother Cosimo, who established the Medici hegemony. The other two lamented friends, Cardinals Niccolò Albergati and Giuliano Cesarini, represent, just like Zabarella, Poggio’s ideals for Church leadership.