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Francesco Petrarch Biography | Poet

Photo of Francesco Petrarch

The family of Petrarch was originally of Florence, where his ancestors held employments of trust and honour. Garzo, his great-grandfather, was a notary universally respected for his integrity and judgment. Though he had never devoted himself exclusively to letters, his literary opinion was consulted by men of learning. He lived to be a hundred and four years old, and died, like Plato, in the same bed in which he had been born.

Garzo left three sons, one of whom was the grandfather of Petrarch. Diminutives being customary to the Tuscan tongue, Pietro, the poet's father, was familiarly called Petracco, or little Peter. He, like his ancestors, was a notary, and not undistinguished for sagacity. He had several important commissions from government. At last, in the increasing conflicts between the Guelphs and the Ghibellines—or, as they now called themselves, the Blacks and the Whites—Petracco, like Dante, was obliged to fly from his native city, along with the other Florentines of the White party. He was unjustly accused of having officially issued a false deed, and was condemned, on the 20th of October, 1302, to pay a fine of one thousand lire, and to have his hand cut off, if that sum was not paid within ten days from the time he should be apprehended. Petracco fled, taking with him his wife, Eletta Canigiani, a lady of a distinguished family in Florence, several of whom had held the office of Gonfalonier.

The Life of more

A Chronological Summary of Petrarch's Life




Born at Arezzo, the 20th of July.


Is taken to Incisa at the age of seven months, where he remains seven years.


Is removed to Pisa, where he remains seven months.


Accompanies his parents to Avignon.


Goes to live at Carpentras.


Is sent to Montpelier.


Is removed to Bologna.


Returns to Avignon—loses his parents—contracts a friendship with James Colonna.


Falls in love with Laura.


Goes to Lombes with James Colonna—forms acquaintance with Socrates and Lælius—and returns to Avignon to live in the house of Cardinal Colonna.


Travels to Paris—travels through Flanders and Brabant, and visits a part of Germany.


His first journey to Rome—his long navigation as far as the coast of England—his return to Avignon.


Birth of his son John—he retires to Vaucluse.


Commences writing his epic poem, "Africa."


Receives an invitation from Rome to come and be crowned as Laureate—and another invitation, to the same effect, from Paris.


Goes to Naples, and thence to Rome, where he is crowned in the Capitol—repairs to Parma—death of Tommaso da Messina and James Colonna.


Goes as orator of the Roman people to Clement VI. at Avignon—Studies the Greek language under Barlaamo.


Birth of his daughter Francesca—he writes his dialogues "De secreto conflictu curarum suarum"—is sent to Naples by Clement VI. and Cardinal Colonna—goes to Rome for a third and a fourth time—returns from Naples to Parma.


Continues to reside in Parma.


Leaves Parma, goes to Bologna, and thence to Verona—returns to Avignon.


Continues to live at Avignon—is elected canon of Parma.


Revolution at Rome—Petrarch's connection with the Tribune—takes his fifth journey to Italy—repairs to Parma.


Goes to Verona—death of Laura—he returns again to Parma—his autograph memorandum in the[Pg viii] Milan copy of Virgil—visits Manfredi, Lord of Carpi, and James Carrara at Padua.


Goes from Parma to Mantua and Ferrara—returns to Padua, and receives, probably in this year, a canonicate in Padua.


Is raised to the Archdeaconry of Parma—writes to the Emperor Charles IV.—goes to Rome, and, in going and returning, stops at Florence.


Writes to Andrea Dandolo with a view to reconcile the Venetians and Florentines—the Florentines decree the restoration of his paternal property, and send John Boccaccio to recall him to his country—he returns, for the sixth time, to Avignon—is consulted by the four Cardinals, who had been deputed to reform the government of Rome.


Writes to Clement VI. the letter which excites against him the enmity of the medical tribe—begins writing his treatise "De Vita Solitaria."


Visits his brother in the Carthusian monastery of Monte Rivo—writes his treatise "De Otio Religiosorum"—returns to Italy—takes up his abode with the Visconti—is sent by the Archbishop Visconti to Venice, to negotiate a peace between the Venetians and Genoese.


Visits the Emperor at Mantua.


His embassy to the Emperor—publishes his "Invective against a Physician."


His embassy to John, King of France.


Leaves Milan and settles at Venice—gives his library to the Venetians.


Writes for Lucchino del Verme his treatise "De Officio et Virtutibus Imperatoris."


Writes to Urban V. imploring him to remove the Papal residence to Rome—finishes his treatise "De Remediis utriusque Fortunæ."


Quits Venice—four young Venetians, either in this year or the preceding, promulgate a critical judgment against Petrarch—repairs to Pavia to negotiate peace between the Pope's Legate and the Visconti.


Sets out to visit the Pontiff—is taken ill at Ferrara—retires to Arquà among the Euganean hills.


Writes his "Invectiva contra Gallum," and his "Epistle to Posterity."


Writes for Francesco da Carrara his essay "De Republica optime administranda."


Is sent to Venice by Francesco da Carrara.


Translates the Griseldis of Boccaccio—dies on the 18th of July in the same year.


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