The following is the Prelogue from the Ringling Chronicles, Book 1.
As one chapter in history draws to a silent close, it whispers for the beginning of yet another, usually on the heels of great suffering, hardship or conflict. Each generation has a few valiant leaders, men and women whose pride transforms their insatiable passion into lasting legacies, bookmarks in time. Occasionally, these chapters in history converge midstream, creating an intersection of ideas and concepts with serendipitous results. It's these crossroads which force history to lurch forward unexpectedly, changing our lives forever.
One such event occurred in the early 1400s, coinciding with the start of the Renaissance. Just prior to this time, as if part of some grand scheme to clear the path, nearly fifty percent of the population of Europe was purged from the earth by a horrific plague which spread from city to city, home to home, at wild fire speed. Believed to have come ashore in southern Italy, delivered by infected fleas astride the backs of scrawny rats; miniscule dark riders dispersing a cloud of death wherever they fled.
In Florence alone, tens of thousands of residents fell victim to the gruesome illness. Countless bodies were collected and dumped unceremoniously into mass graves, buried and forgotten like rotting trash.
During this unsettling time, one family of financial geniuses was beginning to strategically weave themselves into every strata of society, rising above the rest in power, wealth, and prominence. The Medici family was driven by a mad desire to create their lasting legacy, sponsoring a plethora of commissions for the arts while establishing a seemingly unstoppable political dynasty. At the same time, an influx of Greek scholars acted as a catalyst for the humanist movement, sparking cult-like interest in classical literature, math, and science. These two chapters in history collided head on with cataclysmic results.
While one could argue for days who was the most universally renowned polymath of the Renaissance, Leonardo da Vinci or Michelangelo, the re-birth of history actually began years before with three passionate friends: Brunelleschi the architect, Donatello the sculptor, and Masaccio the artist. These visionaries redefined the boundaries of their respective genres, driven by a perfectionist mentality to hone their craft yet enslaved by their pride with a maddening desire to solidify their own place in time by creating art like no other. They would stop at nothing to succeed.
500 years later in the early 1900s these great artists, much like the plague which paved their way, were merely shadows of faded memories. Only their completed masterpieces permanently etched their place in history. During this era one of the richest men in the world was a larger than life character named John Ringling, the strategic genius behind the thriving Ringling Brothers Circus. But creating the largest circus in the world, dubbed the “Greatest Show on Earth” wasn't enough for John; his dream was to create his own timeless legacy, a breathtaking art museum modeled after the famed Florentine Uffizi Gallery, a spectacular tribute to his loving wife Mable.
Over the course of many years he assembled one of the greatest collections of Renaissance art in the world, housed next door to the Ca' d'Zan Mansion in the Ringling Art Museum in beautiful Sarasota, Florida.
In the end, even the museum wasn't enough for John. He became obsessed with the artists themselves and hungered for knowledge of the era, amassing an enormous library of books on the subject. He fantasized about going back in time and meeting the greatest artists of all history to understand what drove them, what fueled their fire, perhaps capture a glimmer of their passion. And that's when another intersection occurred and he finally found what he'd been searching for, the missing medallions of Leonardo da Vinci...