For centuries, Italy was the battleground of the rival heads of Christendom. They had had numerous troubles, in which first one and then the other party succeeded, but on the night on which our great drama opens, the leading citizens of Nocera, a small town in central Italy, were gathered together in all their state on the Saturday before Palm Sunday. 1396 A.D. Their business was of a most serious nature, as the notorious Biordo de Michelotti, leader of a powerful band of mercenaries, had sent them a threatening demand, and they were about to receive his envoys. Two emissaries entered, clothed from head to foot in plate mail, and presented their demands. These were to the effect that the citizens were to surrender the keys of the city to Biordo and were to receive him as their lord. Nocera had been practically independent up till now, merely owing a nominal allegiance to the Pope, who had claimed to succeed to the Duchy of Tuscany. Naturally, they were unwilling to submit to a ...
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