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As early as the 8th century mention of a castle appears in documents, but Empoli began to take shape after 1119 around the parish church of Sant'Andrea. Feud of the Guidi counts, in 1182 it swore allegiance to the Florentine Republic. After the battle of Montaperti in 1260, which marked the defeat of the Florentine Guelphs, the famous Ghibelline parliament was held in the palace of the Guidi counts, afterwards known as the Palazzo Ghibellino. It was then that Florence was saved thanks to the generous words of Farinata degli Uberti, quoted by Dante in his Divine Comedy (Inf.X).
The center of Empoli consists of Piazza Farinata degli Vberti. The most important historical buildings of the city overlook the arcaded square: the Palazzo GhibelIino, seat of the Museo di Paleontologia and the Archivio Storico, and the Palazzo Pretorio, formerly the Town Hall. But by far the most noteworthy building, the oldest and most important, is the famous Collegiata di Sant'Andrea. Although the church was mentioned in a document of 780, the present building was begun in 1093, The facade in two-colored marble marks the western boundary of the diffusion in the territory of the aristocratic architectural style of Forentine Romanesque.
The church of Santo Stefano (14th-15th cent,) and the adiacent Convent of the Augustinians (16th cent.), seat of the Biblioteca R.Fucini, stand not far off. Inside the church are important remains of frescoes anci sinopias by Masolino da Panicale, a splendid marble Annunciation by Bernardo Rossellino and fine paintings of the Tuscan 17th century.
The Ferruccio Busoni's Birthplace (1866-1924) stands in Piazza della Vittoria close by. It is currently a museum dedicated to the great musician and a Study Center named after him (visit must he requested in advance).
Pontorme, on the road to Florence, is a hamlet of Empoli, from which the painter Jacopo Carrucci known as Pontormo (1494-1556) came. The two famous panels painted by Pontormo around 1519 of St. John Evangelist and St. Michael Archangel, key examples of the Mannerist trend, are in the right transept of the parish church of San Michele. The house where the painter was born stands on the main street that runs through the hamlet.
Empoli glassware - The working of glass, an artcraft tradition that dates back centuries, is still one of the most important activities of the zone. Articles in glass, white, colored, crystal and the traditional Empoli green, are made in the glassworks which have lost none of their charm.
The Museum of the Collegiata of S. Andrea
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