May 3 -- the birthday of Niccolo Machiavelli in 1469: Ironic, perhaps, for one renowned as a sceptic in his own time, suspected of atheism, certainly anti-clerical, because May 3 is the Catholic Christian feast of the Finding of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem by Saint Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine. This is the high point of the story from the 'Golden Legend' depicted most famously by Piero della Francesca in Arezzo. Of course Machiavelli was baptized a Christian (perhaps -- to speculate -- on May 9, which was the secondary feast day of his name-saint Nicholas who died or was 'translated' to heaven that day: latterly, of course, transmuted into jolly Saint Nick). Whether Machiavelli died a Christian is debated still. Is it perhaps fitting that he died in 1527 on June 21: the traditional date for the summer solstice, hence a scientific date or perhaps a somewhat more pagan than Christian date? Still, the summer solstice was doubly commemorated in Machiavelli's Florence. In the city's ancient heart, the Baptistery of San Giovanni, as recorded by the fourteenth-century historian Villani, the summer solstice sun through the then-open oculus window illuminated a mosaic zodiac in the floor. And in the still-new cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore the fifteenth century physician-astrologer-astronomer Paulo Toscanelli had established an analogous effect in about 1468 whereby the summer solstice sun through a slit at the top of the cathedral's enormous cupola struck a precise point on the floor far below -- in this case, for astronomical calculations. Yet June 21 was also a sort of harbinger of the imminent civic festival of all festivals in Florence, that of the city's patron Saint John the Baptist on June 24. Happy Birthday to you, 'Machia' the patriotic Florentine -- thanks for your life!