The Loggia dei Lanzi in Piazza della Signoria
The name “Piazza della Signoria” comes from the Florence’s town hall, the Old Palace, that was previously called “Palazzo della Signoria”. Piazza della Signoria has been and still is the political focus of the city, visited by million tourists (and Florentines!) every year.
Piazza della Signoria was already a central square when Florence was a Roman town called Florentia. At that time it was surrounded by Roman baths and a theater, later they built there a church consecrated to San Romolo and a 5th century basilica.
Piazza della Signoria started taking shape in 1268, after the houses of the Ghibellines (those who supported the imperial party) were demolished by the Guelphs (those who supported the Pope). The square remained empty for many years and it was paved in 1358 for the first time.
Piazza della Signoria has been also the place where Girolamo Savonarola (the Dominican friar) with his followers, carried out the famous “Bonfire of the Vanities”: they burned gaming tables, books, works of poets and dresses.
Unfortunately for Girolamo Savonarola, Piazza della Signoria was also the place where he was hanged and then burned in 1498. Still today in front of the fountain of Neptune you can see a round marble plaque marking the spot where he was executed.
Piazza della Signoria was repaved in the 1980s and during the works they found an archaeological treasure: remains of a Neolithic site.
Among the buildings that you can find in Piazza della Signoria there are: the Old Palace, seat of the local government, the Uffizi Gallery, one of the most important museums of the world, the Palace of the Tribunale della Mercanzia, today the seat of the Bureau of Agriculture, the Palazzo Uguccioni, a beautiful Renaissance palace, the Palace of the Assicurazioni Generali and the Loggia dei Lanzi.
The history of the Loggia dei Lanzi
The Loggia dei Lanzi was built between 1376 and 1382 by Simone di Francesco Talenti (who also worked for the Church of Orsanmichele) and Benci di Cione, even if for years it was thought to be designed by Andrea Orcagna (and for this reason called Loggia dell’Orcagna).
At its origins the Loggia dei Lanzi held public ceremonies and the assemblies of people.
The name “Loggia dei Lanzi”, that is also known as “Loggia della Signoria”, comes from the period when the Grand Duke Cosimo I ruled over Florence: this place held the house of the so called Lanzichenecchi (landsknechts), German mercenary pikemen.
The Loggia dei Lanzi’s roof was transformed in a terrace – from which the members of the Medici family watched the ceremonies in Piazza della Signoria – by Bernardo Buontalenti, after the construction of the Uffizi at the rear of the Loggia.
The architecture of the Loggia dei Lanzi
The Loggia dei Lanzi consists of some wide arches resting on clustered pillars with Corinthian capitals, open to the Piazza della Signoria and adjoining the Uffizi Gallery.
The building is in contrast with the severe architecture of the Old Palace and is considered a clear example of an open-air sculpture museum of antique and Renaissance art.
Below the parapets on the façade of the Loggia dei Lanzi there are trefoils and the sculpture of the four cardinal virtues: Fortitude, Justice, Prudence and Temperance; they were realized by the artist Agnolo Gaddi. The four statues have a blue background with golden stars.
Antonio de’ Pucci realized the vault composed on semicircles and on the steps of the Loggia dei Lanzi there are the so called Marzoccos (originally located at Villa Medici in Rome), the heraldic lions that symbolize Florence.
On one of the side of the Loggia dei Lanzi there is a Latin inscription that commemorates the change of the Florentine calendar (which began on the 25th of March instead of the 1st of January) to the Roman one.
The other inscription is about the annexation of Milan, Venice and Rome to the kingdom of Italy, whose capital at that time was Florence.
The sculptures of the Loggia dei Lanzi
In the Loggia dei Lanzi you can find an amazing variety of sculptures, among the most famous:
- Rape of the Sabine Women, realized by the Flemish artist Giambologna. This manneristic sculpture is in the Loggia dei Lanzi since 1583. It is considered the first group representing more than a single figure in the history of European sculpture, to be realized without a dominant viewpoint. The peculiarity of the sculpture is that it can be seen from all sides;
- Perseus, realized by the Florentine artist Benvenuto Cellini. This bronze statue represents the mythical Greek hero holding the head of the Medusa in his left hand and his sword in the right. It seems that Perseus is both reflecting and frightened by his action. On the marble pedestal Benvenuto Cellini realized four bronze statues representing the Greek’s Goods: Danae, Jupiter, Minerva and Mercurius;
- Menelaus supporting the body of Patroclus, an ancient Roman sculpture from the Flavian era. This group stood originally at the end of the Old Bridge and it was realized from a Hellenistic Pergamene of the mid third century BC.
If you want to see the amazing sculptures of the Loggia dei Lanzi, join one of the tours offered by Free Tour Florence – Another Florence association.