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 oPalazzo Ducale wned 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.

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

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.


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Dowling, Mike. "Social Classes of the Renaissance at" Updated October 10, 2013 . Web. Date of Access. <>