PRATO, a, city and bishop's see of Italy, in the province of Florence, on the north edge of the alluvial plain which extends between Florence and Pistoia. By rail it is dis-tant from the former city 111 miles and from the latter fn. The cathedral of St Stephen, which stands in a square surrounded by houses of the 16th century, is partly of the 12th and partly of the 14th and 15th centuries. The facade, in alternate bands of white calcareous sand-stone and green serpentine, has a fine doorway and a bas-relief by Luca della Robbia ; but the most striking external feature is the lovely open-air pulpit at an angle of the building, erected (1428) by Donatello and Michelozzo for displaying to the people without risk the Virgin's girdle, brought from the Holy Land by a knight of Prato in 1130. The chapel of the Girdle has frescos by Agnolo Gaddi and a statue of the Virgin by Giovanni Pisano ; and the frescos in the choir are considered the most im-portant work of Fra Filippo LIPPI (q.v.). The municipal palace also possesses a collection of Lippi's paintings. Prato is a busy industrial town, the seat of a great straw-plaiting establishment, paper-mills, brass-foundries, and outside of the gates which pierce the old city walls several small suburbs have grown up. The city had 13,410 inhabitants in 1881 (inclusive of the suburbs, 15,510) and the commune 16,641.
Prato is said to be first mentioned by name in 1107, but the cathedral appears as early as 1048 as the parish chnrch of Borgo Cornio or Santo Stefano. In 1313 the town acknowledged the authority of Robert, king of Naples, and in 1350 Niecola Acciajoli, seneschal of Joanna, sold it to the Florentines for 17,500 florins of gold. In 1512 it was sacked by the Spaniards under General Car-dona. In 1653 it obtained the rank of city.