Petrarch Laura Francesco Petrarch and Laura For a woman he would never know
For a woman he could never have
He should change the world forever
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I have lately been travelling through France, not on business, as you know, but simply from a youthful curiosity to see the country. I finally penetrated into Germany, to the banks of the Rhine itself. I have carefully noted the customs of the people, and have been much interested in observing the characteristics of a country hitherto unknown to me, and in comparing the things I saw with those at home. While I found much to admire in both countries, I in no way regretted my Italian origin. Indeed, the more I travel, the more my admiration for Italy grows.

This timeline is in need of additions. If you know of any special dates relevant to Petrarch's life please let me know and I will add them.

View a map of Europe in 1300 (300 Kb)

    • October, Pietro (Francesco Petrarch's father) is exhiled from Florence.


    • July 20th - Petrarch is born in Arezzo (just south of Florence) at dawn to Pietro di Parenzo di Garzo (Ser Petracco dell'Incisa) and Eletta Canigiani. (view his family tree)


    • The family moves to Ancisa (Incisa), not far away.


    • Gherardo, Petrarch's brother is born.


    • Laura de Noves, daughter of the Knight Audibert de Noves is born in Avignon.


    • Family goes to Pisa to meet the new Emperor Henry VII.


    • Family moves to Avignon. But because it is now the home of the Pope there is no housing and the family lives in Carentras, a small town just outside the city.


    • Petrarch goes to school in Montpellier with Gherardo. It is here that Francesco requires a surname and so chooses Petrarca (Petrarch in English), a name based on one of the names his father was known as (Petracco/Petraccolo). His named appeared as "Franciscus Petracchi" in the school's registration.


    • Petrarch's mother dies.


    • Petrarch goes to Bologna to study law with Gherardo. Petrarch despises the untruthfulness of law.


    • January 16, Laura de Noves marries Hugues II de Sade (Petrarch and Laura have not yet met).
    • Petrarch buys his first book. Inscribed in the book, "In the year 1325, in the month of February, in Avignon, I bought this book, De civiate Dei, from the executors of Don Cinzio, the chanter from Tours, for the price of 12 florins."


    • Petrarch's father dies and he returns to Avignon. Studying law was his father's wish and now with his death Petrarch abandons it.
    • He writes Philologia a comedy which is later lost.


    • April 6th, (Good Friday*) - Sees Laure de Noves (Laura) for the first time at Easter mass in the church of Sainte-Claire d'Avignon. It is for her that he writes the 366 poems of his Canzoniere which he works on for the rest of his life.


    • Petrarch finishes his Minor Orders of the church and enters the service of Cardinal Colonna.
    • Travels to Lobez and Toulouse.



    • Petrarch climbs Mount Ventoux
    • Petrarch begins to write Rerum vulgarium fragmenta also called Il Canzoniere sometime between 1336 and 1338.


    • Petrarch travels to Flanders and the Brabant, then goes to Rome for the first time.
    • Petrarch's first child, Giovanni is born. The relationship between the two was a disappointment to Francesco. He describes him as "Intelligent, perhaps even exceptionally intelligent, but he hates books"


    • Petrarch begins to write Africa.
    • Petrarch begins to write De viris illustribus. This work contains 24 biographies on figures from Antiquity from Romulus to Trojan.


    • Petrarch received an offer for a poetic crowning from the university of Paris and the senate in Rome at the same time; he accepts Rome's offer.


    • Petrarch is crowned poet laureate in Rome on Easter Sunday (April 8th) by Orso dell'Anguillara, a roman noble. Petrarch's speech calls on a rebith of classical wisdom and poetry. He develops the idea of the laurel being the symbol for poetic and literary immortality.


    • Petrarch reorganizes his Il Canzoniere between 1342 and 1347.
    • Writes Rerum Memorandarum Libri, an incomplete treatise on the cardinal virtues.


    • Writes Psalmi poenitentiales containing seven prayers and confessions.
    • In April Gherardo, Petrarch's brother, becomes a Carthusian monk. This causes Petrarch to examine his faith and write Secretum.
    • Writes Secretum. It is composed of three imaginary dialogues between Petrarch and St. Augustine, who speak in the presence of Lady Truth. The Secretum is a "secret" book, intended for private meditation; Petrarch kept it by him for the rest of his life. It reflects his sense of inner crisis and depression, resolved by Augustine's wise counsel and recollection of his readings, particularly Virgil, Ovid, and Augustine's Confessions.
    • Petrarch's daughter Francesca is born, she later bares grandchildren of Petrarch, one of which dies from the plague.
    • Travels to Naples once again and visits many Italian cities along the way there and back.


    • Petrarch writes Italia Mia in Parma. At that moment, Parma was in the middle of a war of overlords with troops from Milan about to lay siege to the valuable city.


    • Living in Verona Petrarch writes to Marcus Tullius Cicero in June. Completes the letter in December near Gaul.
    • Petrarch discovers Cicero's letters in Verona which inspires him to make a collection of his own letters, Familiares and, towards the end of his life, Seniles.


    • Petrarch writes De vita solitaria a treatise composed of two books and dedicated to Philippe de Cabassoles, bishop of Cavaillon.
    • Also writes Bucolicum carmen. Poem in 12 eglogues. Each poem deals with a different topic, among others, an allegory of Petrarch's poetic crowning (no. 3), the plague of 1348 (no. 9) and the death of Laura (no. 10).


    • Petrarch writes De otio religioso a treatise composed of two books and dedicated to the Chartreux monks of Montrieux, where his brother Gherardo lived.


    • April 6th, Good Friday - Laura dies. Either from the Black Plague that same year Avignon suffered its worst epidemic or of cinsumption, following a pulmonary tuberculosis resulting from eleven childbirths.


    • Petrarch and Giovanni Boccaccio meet for the first time.
    • Travels to Rome for the jubilee Year.


    • Begins to write I Trionfi a series of Italian poems inspired by his love for Laura.


    • Petrarch moves back to Italy for the rest of his life. His first stop to Milan.


    • Petrarch writes De remediis utriusque fortunae. This treatise on good and bad fortune was written between 1354-60 and contains two books of 122 and 131 dialogues respectively. Petrarch dedicated it to Azzo da Correggio.


    • Travels to Basle and Prague.


    • Petrarch sends his son Giovanni to live in Avignon, until this time Giovanni had stayed with Petrarch. Giovanni later dies of the plague.


    • Petrarch begins compiling Epistolae familiares. It ends up being a compilation of 350 letters written between 1325 and 1366 and sorted into 24 books; the first version dates back to 1359 and contained 20 books. They are dedicated to Ludwig van Kempen.


    • Travels to Paris
    • In October writes to Homer.


    • Giovanni, Petrarch's son, dies of the plague.
    • Francesca, Petrarch's daughter, marries Francescuolo da Brossano who was named executor of Petrarch's testament.
    • In June Petrarch moves to Padua.
    • Terminates Familiares and initiated a new collection, Seniles.


    • In the fall Petrarch moves to Venice.
    • Francesca gives birth to Eletta.
    • Francesca and family move to Venice to avoid the plague.



    • Francesca gives birth to a second child, Francesco, whom Petrarch adored.


    • Petrarch moves to Arqua, just south of Padua.
    • Writes De sui ipsius et multorum ignorantia and dedicates it to Donato degli Albanzani.


    • Francesco, Petrarch's grandson dies.


    • Petrarch writes Testamentum. Petrarch's last will and testament, written in Padua on August 4, 1370. His heirs, among others, are Gherardo (his brother), Boccaccio, Francesco Da Carrara, Lombardo della Seta, Bonzanello da Vigonza, Tommaso Bombasi, Giovanni a Bocheta, Donato degli Albanzani, Giovanni Dondi dall’Orologio, Francesco da Brossano, Bartolomeo da Siena detto Pancaldo (a servant) and Jean and Pierre Clermont dit Monet.



    • Petrarch finishes Il Canzoniere. The first part contains 263 poems written during Laura's lifetime and the second part contains 103 poems written after her death. A total of 366, some say some poem to represent each day of the year.


    • July 19 - Petrarch is found dead by his daughter Francesca, slumped over his desk as he worked on yet another great work. As one writer put it; He died with a pen in his hand, and Laura in his heart.

      He was buried in the parish church. Six years later, his remains were transferred to a sarcophagus built in Arquà by his son-in-law.

View a map of Europe in 1400 (300 Kb)

*Notes: Some dates are known to be certain days, for example Good Friday in 1327 is when Petrarch first met Laura and then when she dies years later. These days are by Petrarch's calendar, a calendar which changes in the 16th century to fix leap year problems. Therefore, April 6th, 1327 is a Friday by his calendar, but a Monday by ours.

I had got this far, and was thinking of what to say next, and as my habit is, I was pricking the paper idly with my pen. And I thought how, between one dip of the pen and the next, time goes on, and I hurry, drive myself, and speed toward death. We are always dying. I while I write, you while you read, and others while they listen or stop their ears, they are all dying.

© Copyright 1999-2006
Peter Sadlon
Updated Sept 10th 2007

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