In 1485, when the Comune of Prato began building a pilgrimage church to house a miracle-working image of the Virgin Mary, it found itself at odds with the Florentine government because the site of the proposed church was in an area of military sensitivity. In a story which sees popular religious enthusiasm pitted against national defense strategy, both sides imposed restrictions upon the committee appointed to choose a design. When these restrictions are analyzed they reveal that the first project, by Giuliano da Maiano, was abandoned because it came too close to the adjacent castle thereby infringing the restriction imposed by the Florentine government; that Giuliano da Maiano's project was much larger than has hitherto been suspected; and that Lorenzo de' Medici's role was, in all likelihood, less that of artistic dictator than that of political and artistic arbiter in a dispute between the Comune of Prato and the Florentine magistracy in charge of military affairs, the Dieci di Balìa.

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