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Palazzo della Signoria

Palazzo Vecchio is located in Piazza della Signoria in Florence and is the seat of the municipality of the city. It represents the best synthesis of the fourteenth century civic town architecture and one of the most famous civic buildings in the world.
Originally called " Palazzo dei Priori" , in the 15th century it became " Palazzo della Signoria ", named after the main organism of the Florentine Republic ; in 1540 it became a Doge's Palace , when Duke Cosimo I de 'Medici made it his residence; finally the name Old took it after 1590 when the court of Duke Cosimo moved into the "new" Palazzo Pitti .
From 1865 to 1871 it was the seat of the Parliament of the Kingdom of Italy , while today it houses the Mayor of Florence and various municipal offices. There is also a museum , which allows you to visit the magnificent rooms where they worked, among others, Agnolo Bronzino , Ghirlandaio , Giorgio Vasari , and where are exhibited works by Michelangelo Buonarroti , Donatello , Verrocchio .
The building has gradually expanded towards the east, reaching a whole block and extending the initial fourteenth-century parallelepiped to four times the size, with a plan that recalls a trapeze whose facade is only the shorter side. On the main ashlar facade, the Tower of Arnolfo is one of the emblems of the city.

In this ancient Roman city of Florentia there was the ancient Roman theater, which had a semicircular stalls towards Piazza della Signoria and the scene more or less along the current Via dei Leoni.
In the excavations still underway (started in the early 2000s) a series of rooms were excavated in the basement, without affecting the load-bearing masonry, which gave birth to various remains of different eras. Among the most interesting there are three rooms, accessible to the public since December 2008, where traces of the floors of the theater stage were found, with a piece of column that had to break when the scene was demolished. Later remains of wells were later excavated, coins, amphorae and jewels and a skeleton of children, which should date back to the first century (studies are under way).
In the early Middle Ages the area was densely built, with houses and tower-houses very similar to those still visible in the quadrilateral over the nearby Via della Condotta .

The new Palazzo dei Priori
At the end of the 13th century, the city of Florence decided to build a palace in order to provide magistrates with effective protection in those turbulent times, while at the same time celebrating their importance. The palace is attributed to Arnolfo di Cambio , architect of the Duomo and the Basilica of Santa Croce , who began to build it in 1299 . The palace at the time called Palazzo dei Priori was built on the ruins of the Palazzo dei Fanti and the Palace of the Executor of Justice , already owned by the Ghibelline family of Uberti , expelled in 1266 . He incorporated the ancient tower of the Cow using it as the lower part of the tower in the façade. This is the reason why the rectangular tower (94 m) is not in the center of the building. After the death of Arnolfo in 1302 , the palace was completed by two other masters, in 1314 . Also in the undergrounds were used as prisons the ancient cavities under the arches of the Roman theater of Florentia .

From March 26, 1302 (at the beginning of the year according to the Florentine calendar ) the building was the seat of the Signoria , or the city council headed by the Priors , and the Gonfalonier of Justice , a middle ground between a mayor and a head of government with a charge that lasted for a very short period. The first construction phase ended in 1315 .
The current building is the result of other successive constructions and extensions, completed between the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries . The Duke of Athens , Gualtieri VI of Brienne began the first changes in the period ( 1342 - 1343 ), enlarging it towards Via della Ninna and giving it the appearance of a fortress. Other important changes occurred in the period 1440-60 under Cosimo de 'Medici , with the introduction of Renaissance-style decorations in the Sala dei Dugento and the first courtyard of Michelozzo. The Salone dei Cinquecento was built instead from 1494 during the Republic of Savonarola .

The residence of the Duke
Between 1540 and 1550 it was the house of Cosimo I de 'Medici , who commissioned Vasari to further enlarge the palace to accommodate the needs of the ducal court. The construction site was the place of fundamental experience for many artists, including Livio Agresti and Pier Paolo Menzocchi .
The building doubled its volume as a result of additions on the back. The last enlargement dates back to the end of the 16th century when Battista del Tasso and Bernardo Buontalenti arranged the rear part as presented today.

The name was officially changed when Cosimo moved to Palazzo Pitti in 1565 and called the previous Palazzo Vecchio residence while the Piazza della Signoria maintained its name. Vasari also built a path, the Vasari Corridor , which still connects Palazzo Vecchio to Palazzo Pitti, crossing the Arno on the Ponte Vecchio . Cosimo I also moved the government administration and the magistrates in the adjacent Uffizi .

Contemporary history
The palace gained new importance when it was the seat of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies of the Kingdom of Italy in the period 1865 - 71 , when Florence became the capital of the Kingdom of Italy .
The great part of Palazzo Vecchio is currently a museum, but it has remained the symbol of the local government, being in fact still today the seat of the Municipality of Florence and the city council.

The outside
The main façade gives the impression of solidity thanks to the external finish of rustic ashlar stone . It is divided into three main floors by stringcourse cornices , which underline two rows of Neo-Gothic marble mullioned windows with trilobed arches, added in the eighteenth century to replace the original ones.
The ancient part is crowned by a jutting gallery supported by corbels on round arches and characterized by a Guelph- type battlements (with a squared top), while the tower has a Ghibelline battle ("dovetail"). Each corbels was decorated with a sculpted head, human or animal, of which some bronze specimens are still visible. Some of these arches are equipped with drains that could be used, for defensive purposes, to throw on any invading hot oil or stones.
In the four cantonate of the gallery there were as many niches with stone marzocchi . The French door and the terrace are late additions.

Arengario and entry
The raised platform in front of the building is the so - called arengario or aringhiera , an area that takes its name from the "railing" that once enclosed it and which was eliminated during the nineteenth-century restoration by Giuseppe Del Rosso . The staircase itself also turned on the left side, but was cut with Renaissance interventions. From this place the priors attended the city ceremonies on the square. During the government of the Duke of Athens ( 1342 - 1343 ) the aringhiera was further defended by two anti-persecutors and other elements. Since the fifteenth century was decorated with sculptures that, if not replaced by copies or slightly moved, you can still admire.
The oldest are the Marzocco and the Giuditta and Oloferne ( 1455 - about 60 ), both works by Donatello , replaced by copies for their preciousness (the Marzocco is preserved at the Bargello , the Giuditta inside the palace). These statues were once more on the square.
Michelangelo's David marked entry from 1504 , the year of its completion, until 1873 when it was moved to the Academy . A copy is in its place since 1910 , flanked by ' Ercole and Caco di Baccio Bandinelli, a sculptor who was very criticized for his "boldness" to approach one of his works to the masterpiece Michelangelo.

In front of the jambs of the portal are the two marble terms , the men's one by Vincenzo de 'Rossi and the female one by Baccio Bandinelli which incorporate a typology of classical statuary: in ancient times they supported a chain that served to block the entrance.
Above the main door there is a decorative marble frontispiece dated 1528 , with the rounded monogram of Christ the King. In the center, flanked by two lions, is the trigram of Christ , surrounded by the inscription Rex Regum and Dominus Dominantium ( Jesus Christ , King of King and Lord of the Lords). This inscription, made by the gonfalonier Niccolò Capponi in 1551 , dates back to the time of Cosimo I and replaced the previous inscription inspired by Savonarola : although not all sources agree about the ancient transcription, it must have sounded something like Iesus Christus rex florentini populi SP decree electus , meaning that Christ was the ruler of the city and that (implied) no one would ever dare to "dispossess" the Christ by taking the command of Florence. Cosimo I subtly substituted her with that presence, indicating Christ yes King, but King of kings and Lord of lords .
Another bronze plaque commemorates the plebiscite of March 15, 1860 that allowed the union of Tuscany to the Kingdom of Italy .

The coats of arms on the facade
Under the arches of the gallery in 1353 were painted a series of emblems that symbolize some particular aspects of the Florentine Republic and still today they photograph, in a certain sense, the fourteenth century political situation.
The series of nine coats of arms is repeated twice on the facade and two coats of arms are also found on the left side.
The first that you meet from the left is the red cross in the white field , which represents the insignia of the Florentine people and signals the public things in Florence.
Then we come across the red Florentine lily in the white field, the current city symbol, adopted by the Guelphs at the time of the Ghibelline expulsion in 1266 , overturning the Ghibelline coat of arms, painted a little further on, representing a white lily (as many in the Florence countryside) in the red field.

The next coat of arms started vertically between white and red and represents the link between Fiesole (whose coat of arms is in the white field) and Florence (whose ancient coat of arms was in the red field, in fact), which the Florentines always remembered as a relationship mother / daughter .
The fourth coat of arms are the golden keys in the red field and represents loyalty to the papacy . The fifth symbolizes the Lordship, with the inscription Libertas d'oro in the blue field, motto of freedom and independence of the city.

The next red eagle in a white field that attacks a green dragon is the emblem of the Guelph Party . The Guelph cities were characterized in the Middle Ages by a white / red coat of arms (Florence, Lucca , Pistoia ...), while the Ghibelline ones generally presented white and black colors ( Siena and Arezzo ).
After the already mentioned white lily in the red field, ancient Ghibelline symbol of the city, we find the coat of arms of the King of France, the three golden lilies in the blue field, Carlo and Roberto d'Angiò , the first foreign podestàs of the city.
The last coat of arms, set in black / gold bands and gold lilies in the blue field, is the weapon of Ludovico d'Angiò , king of Hungary .
On the left side above the arches of the small arches there are also some bronze zoomorphic figures . These sculptures, already in pietra serena , are leonine heads and other figures.

The Arnolfo tower
The Palazzo Vecchio tower was built around 1310 when the building was almost finished. Placed on the façade (probably inspired by the Castle of the Counts Guidi a Poppi ), it is supported only partially by the underlying walls, presenting the front side completely built in false (ie protruding with respect to the underlying structures) with an architectural solution that is both audacious and aesthetically pleasing.

About 94 meters high, the tower is not centered on the façade but is decentralized towards the south side of the same (to the right for those facing the building) because it rests on a pre-existing tower-house belonging to the Foraboschi called "della Vacca" because of the nickname given by the Florentines to the large bell that surmounted (the nearby street that connects Piazza della Signoria to Via Por Santa Maria is called via Vacchereccia always because of this bell). The presence of the tower is still today distinguishable from the walled windows on the part of the façade below the Arnolfo tower.
The body of the tower, in addition to the stairs, has a small room called the ' Alberghetto in which were held prisoners, among others, Cosimo the Elder before being condemned to exile ( 1433 ) and Girolamo Savonarola before being hanged and burned in the square on May 23, 1498 .
The bell tower, with ghibelline merlons (dovetailed), is supported by corbels with pointed arches, above which stands an aedicule with round arches supported by four massive masonry columns surmounted by leaf capitals. Three bells are attached to the cell:

  1. La Martinella , which recalls the Florentines at the meeting,
  2. The bell of the noon,
  3. The bell of the tolls (the largest).
Around one of the columns you can see the spiral staircase that allows you to climb on the roof.
On the top there is a large weathervane (more than two meters high) shaped like a Marzocco holding the pole surmounted by the Florentine lily: it is a copy, the original can be admired in all its grandeur inside of the building.
Looking at the shelves that support the balcony of the tower from below, we have the strange sensation that the corner ones do not rest on anything, like small inverted pyramids: it is a curious optical effect caused by the shadows at the corners.
The big clock was originally built by the Florentine Nicolò Bernardo, but replaced in 1667 by one made by Giorgio Lederle di Augusta and mounted by Vincenzo Viviani, which is still working.