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Social Classes of the Renaissance

The people of Renaissance Florence, like most city–states of the era, were composed of four social classes.  The nobles owned much of the land, and lived on large estates outside the city walls.  They behaved according to the rules of chivalry and distained the merchants.


The merchants were the newly rich, who gained wealth in industries like wool processing, boat making and banking. The merchants sought to protect their wealth by controlling the government and marrying into noble families. They became patrons of great artists in order to gain public favor. The middle class of Florence was composed of shopkeepers and professionals.

At the lowest level were the workers, who did not have job protection and were very dependent on their employers.  Workers who violated rules could have their wages withheld or could be discharged from their jobs.  As difficult as their lives were, however, these urban workers were better off than the peasants who lived in rural areas.

Farinata degli Uberti

Farinata degli Uberti (died 1264), was an Italian aristocrat and military leader. He appears as a character in Dante Alighieri 14th-century epic poem Divine Comedy.

Palazzo Ducale The Doge's Palace in Venice, Italy. The palace was the residence of the Doge of Venice, the supreme authority of the Republic of Venice. Today it is a museum.

The Peasant Dance is an oil-on-panel by Flemish renaissance artist Pieter Bruegel the Elder, painted in c. 1569.


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Mr. Donn has an excellent website that includes a section on the Renaissance.

To cite this page (MLA):

Dowling, Mike. "Social Classes of the Renaissance at" Updated August 4, 2014 . Web. Date of Access. <>