Veduta della catena (1887) by Francesco PetriniPalazzo Vecchio Museum
The famous Veduta della Catena (Chain Map) displayed in the Palazzo Vecchio (Old Palace), in the exhibition section ‘Tracce di Firenze’ (Traces of Florence), is a huge, 19th-century pictorial reproduction of a xylograph housed in the Kupferstichkabinett (Museum of Prints and Drawings) in Berlin: a 15th-century prototype attributed to Francesco Rosselli. Its name is derived from the padlocked chain that frames the map.
The drawing, an important source of information on the urban layout of Florence in the latter part of the 15th century, is the first known example of such a detailed topographical depiction of the whole city, including its buildings and dense road network. Despite the date inscribed on the 19th-century painting (Florence circa 1490), the view can be dated back to around 1471, based on the presence of the ‘sphere’ atop the dome of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, and the completed façade of the basilica of Santa Maria Novella, and also to 1482 based on the absence of the dome on the basilica of Santo Spirito. The artist in the foreground on the right, drawn from behind in the act of sketching the city walls, enables us to establish the viewpoint of the bird’s-eye-view painting, situated to the north-west of the city, in line with the bell tower of the church of Monte Oliveto.
Although drawn with topographical objectivity, and with modern intentions of realist perspective, the representation of the urban layout has been slightly altered by modifications introduced by the artist, such as placing the large dome of the cathedral in the center, as the symbolic cornerstone of the city, and showing the main façades of the most important buildings.
The cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, originally dedicated to Santa Reparata, is the symbol of Florence, with its dome ‘rising above the heavens, large enough to cast a shadow over all the Tuscan people’. The construction of the current basilica began in 1296 under the direction of Arnolfo di Cambio, and the works, including Giotto’s new bell tower, proceeded in stages between the 14th and 15th centuries. In 1420 the dome was commissioned, designed by Filippo Brunelleschi as a free-standing, double-shell dome. On March 25, 1436, on the occasion of the Florentine New Year, Santa Maria del Fiore was consecrated by Pope Eugene IV. The façade, as yet unfinished, was completed in the 19th century by the architect Emilio De Fabris in a neo-gothic style. Inside the cathedral are the equestrian statues of the condottieri Giovanni Acuto and Niccolò da Tolentino (frescos by Paolo Uccello and Andrea del Castagno respectively), and The Last Judgment, a work by Giorgio Vasari and Federico Zuccari that decorates the inside of the dome. Many of the works that were formerly housed in the cathedral, including The Pietà by Michelangelo, are now on display in the cathedral’s museum.
The Baptistery, dedicated to Saint John the Baptist, patron saint of Florence, is built on the site of a building from the Roman era, that according to tradition was a temple dedicated to Mars, the god of war. It was consecrated by Pope Nicholas II in 1059 and over the two centuries that followed, was decorated under the patronage of the Arte di Calimala, one of the greater guilds of Florence. The building is octagonal in shape with linear geometry, simple and elegant in two tones of marble: white from Luni and green from Prato. The three bronze doors were the work of Andrea Pisano and Lorenzo Ghiberti, with the latter responsible for the most famous of them: the Gates of Paradise. Inside, there is a distinctive, luxurious, inlaid floor and marvelous mosaic decoration around the apse and the dome, the work of Jacopo Torriti, Coppo di Marcovaldo, and Cimabue.
"PALAZZO DEI SIGNORI"
In 1299, construction began on a building to house the Priors of the Arts and the Gonfaloniers of Justice. The original core of the building, attributed to Arnolfo di Cambio, is a severe, quadrangular structure built in ashlar of pietraforte, Florentine sandstone, and includes defensive elements such as the tall tower, chemin de ronde, and battlements. Over the centuries, the palace underwent many modifications and was known by various names. Originally named the Palazzo dei Priori (Palace of the Priors), and then the Palazzo della Signoria (Palace of the Lordship), it was later renamed the Palazzo Ducale (Ducal Palace) when, halfway through the 16th century, Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici moved in, and a group of artists under the direction of Giorgio Vasari transformed it into a sumptuous mansion. When Cosimo moved his court to the new Palazzo Pitti, at the end of the 1500s, the building became known as the Palazzo Vecchio.
During the period that Florence was the capital of Italy, the palace housed the Chamber of Deputies and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Today it is the Town Hall of Florence and a museum that charts the history of the palace using the evidence contained in the building itself, and the decorative furnishings of its sumptuous rooms. Among the most significant works it houses are Donatello’s Judith and Holofernes, Bronzino’s paintings in the Chapel of Eleanor, and the lavish ornaments in the Salone dei Cinquecento (Hall of the Five Hundred), where you can also see the famous sculpture The Genius of Victory by Michelangelo.
"C.D.M LUCA PITTI"
Palazzo Pitti was built by the Pitti family, based on a design by Filippo Brunelleschi, but executed by his student, Luca Fancelli: the two-floor structure is built in pietraforte ashlar. In 1549, Cosimo I de’ Medici and his wife, Eleanor of Toledo, acquired the palace for their new residence. Bartolomeo Ammannati was hired to extend the palace, to transform it into a ducal mansion – the project included the creation of a grand entrance courtyard. The Boboli Gardens, designed by Niccolò Tribolo, were established on the hill behind; an elegant and fantastic example of an Italian park dotted with sculptures in harmony with the natural landscape. The modifications continued in several stages until 1783.
The basilica of San Lorenzo is one of the oldest churches in Florence, consecrated in 393 by Saint Ambrose, and dedicated to the martyr Lorenzo. It was completely overhauled in the 15th century under the patronage of the Medici family, who assigned the project to Filippo Brunelleschi; the architect adopted a uniform module of eleven Florentine branches, in plan and elevation, which allowed him to develop rhythmic and measured spatial articulation. The basilica contains the tombs of the Medici family, starting with that of Giovanni di Bicci in the Old Sacristy. Throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, the complex was extended with the construction of the Medici-Laurentian Library, designed by Michelangelo, and the Medici Chapels, composed of Michelangelo’s New Sacristy, and the sumptuous Cappella dei Principi (Chapel of Princes). Michelangelo also designed the basilica’s façade in rough stone, which remains unfinished.
"S. BASTIANO. GLINNOCENTI"
Located in the Piazza della Santissima Annunziata (Holy Annunciation), the Ospedale degli Innocenti (Hospital of the Innocents) began life as an orphanage, providing orphans with shelter, medical care, and education. The abandoned children would be placed on a ‘wheel’, a revolving stone that can still be seen at the entrance to the loggia. The hospital was designed by Filippo Brunelleschi, commissioned in 1429 by the Arte della Seta, the silk guild of Florence, and patron of the complex. His style is evident in the elegant portico in the piazza, based on proportional and geometric ratios, and which in the late 1400s was decorated by Andrea della Robbia with a series of glazed terracotta tondi depicting swaddled putti. The hospital opened for business in 1445 and even now, in addition to the Museo degli Innocenti (Museum of the Innocents), it has a number of facilities for education and refuge.
Veduta della catena (1887) by Francesco PetriniPalazzo Vecchio Museum
The existence of a church dedicated to Saint Minias the martyr is documented from the 8th century, but the construction of the current structure took place in the 11th century, on the orders of the bishop Ildebrando, and was finished in 1207. The basilica of San Miniato al Monte (St. Minias on the Mountain), that rises from a hill to the south-east of the city, is one of the best examples of Roman architecture in all of Italy; its façade (displaying the symbol of the Arte di Calimala, the patron of this church from the end of the 13th century) offers an elegant and geometric two-tone pattern of white and green marble (not visible in the detail of Veduta della Catena). Likewise, the inside demonstrates a meticulous balance of proportions and spatial articulation over three levels, with the raised presbytery, and the crypt in the basement. There is a fantastic floor inlaid with marble, with vegetal and zoomorphic motifs, the renaissance chapel of the cardinal of Portugal, and the sacristy, containing a series of frescos depicting the Stories of Saint Benedict (who originally commissioned the church), painted by Spinello Aretino.
The basilica of Santissima Annunziata (Holy Annunciation), founded in 1250 by the Servite Order, is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and is the most important Marian sanctuary in Florence. Its primitive, simplistic construction was modernized in the 15th century with contributions from Michelozzo and Leon Battista Alberti. The works continued into the early decades of the following century and involved many famous artists, such as those who painted the frescos in the Chiostro dei Voti (Cloister of Offerings) in front of the church, including Andrea del Sarto, Jacopo Carucci, otherwise known as Pontormo, and Rosso Fiorentino, for the new consecration of the basilica which took place in 1516. Inside, where the most visually impressive decoration dates from the 17th and 18th centuries, is the Cappella dell’Annunziata (Chapel of the Annunciation), built in the 1440s to Michelozzo’s design to safeguard the image of the Annunciation, an object of fervent devotion, with its baroque canopy.
Church and convent of San Marco
The church is part of the convent of San Marco, founded on a primitive monastery of Sylvestrine monks, and entrusted to the Dominican Order in 1435 by Pope Eugene IV. Two years later, on the initiative of Cosimo I de’ Medici, the forefather of the Medici dynasty and proponent of the vicar of the order, Antoninus of Florence, the restoration of the complex began; Michelozzo was commissioned to carry out the works, while the decoration and frescos were entrusted to Giovanni da Fiesole, later known as Beato Angelico (Blessed Angelic One), and his collaborators. The church was consecrated on the night of the Epiphany in the year 1443, in the presence of the Pope. At the end of the 16th century, and well into the 17th century, it underwent numerous modifications as decreed by the Counter-Reformation; the neo-classical façade, for example, dates from the 18th century. Among the illustrious monks of the convent was Girolamo Savonarola, then a prior, who was known for his diatribes against the decadence of society. Today, the former convent of San Marco houses a museum of the same name.
"PORTA SAN NICOLO"
The gateway, dedicated to the patron saint of the region, San Nicola di Bari, was built in 1324 and probably based on a design by Andrea di Cione, also known as Orcagna. It is one of the tower-gateways along the city walls allowing access into the city. It began construction in 1284 under the direction of Arnolfo di Cambio, and was finished in 1333. The tower was one of the east-facing defensive cornerstones, as was the Torre della Zecca (Zecca Tower) on the opposite side of the river. It was not lowered in the 16th century, unlike all the other gateways to the city (high medieval structures were thought to have been easy targets for artillery), since the hill of San Miniato offered a natural protection. Today, it is the only Florentine gateway that retains its original height.
The design of the grand Franciscan basilica of Santa Croce (Holy Cross) is attributed to Arnolfo di Cambio, although construction continued after his death, concluding around the end of the 14th century. The building was consecrated in 1443 by Pope Eugene IV. The façade, however, was completed in the mid-19th century by Nicolò Matas, in a neo-gothic style. The inside is rich with masterpieces, including Donatello’s wooden Crucifix and Giotto’s splendid series of frescos in the Bardi and Peruzzi chapels. Giotto’s student, Agnolo Gaddi, decorated the Cappella Maggiore (Great Chapel) with the Stories of the Legend of the real Cross, after which the church was named. In the 19th century, the basilica garnered recognition due to the illustrious men from the fields of politics, art, music, and literature who were buried there. Ugo Foscolo, who died in England, expressed his wish to be buried in Santa Croce beside the monuments in memory of figures such as Michelangelo and Galileo; others who rest there include Gioacchino Rossini, Leon Battista Alberti, and Vittorio Alfieri, to name just a few. The basilica became known as the ‘Temple of the Italian Glories’.
Veduta della catena (1887) by Francesco PetriniPalazzo Vecchio Museum
One of the symbols of the city of Florence, the Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge), spans the river Arno at its narrowest point. It is no coincidence that in the Roman city of Florentia, the path of the river was conceived at about that height. Throughout the centuries, the bridge has been repeatedly damaged and destroyed by floods; one of the most violent occurred in 1333, following which the bridge was rebuilt on three solid arches by Neri di Fioravante (or Taddeo Gaddi, according to Vasari). In 1442, the city authorities decided to relocate the butchers and grocers, who added small constructions protruding over the river. Toward the end of the 16th century – after the ‘Vasari Corridor’ was erected, built by Giorgio Vasari on commission from Cosimo I de’ Medici to connect the Palazzo Vecchio to the Palazzo Pitti, and which passes over the bridge – the unpleasant smells coming from the stores led to them being re-designated for goldsmiths and silversmiths.
"CASA DEL M.C. LO MEDICI"
The construction of the Medici Palace, as a city residence for the family, was assigned to Michelozzo, Cosimo il Vecchio’s most trusted architect. The works began in 1444 and finished in 1462. The façade, in pietraforte articulated with biforate windows, is divided into three stories of gradually decreasing height: embossed ashlar on the ground floor, squared masonry on the first floor, and refined stonework on the second floor. Inside is the exquisite Cappella dei Magi (Chapel of the Magi), where a fresco by Benozzo Gozzoli depicts a series of the main figures of the Medici family. In 1540, Cosimo I de’ Medici took up residence in Palazzo Vecchio, from where he later moved to the new ducal mansion of Palazzo Pitti. The former Medici dwelling was purchased in 1659 by the Riccardi family, who commissioned the new extension works under the direction of Giovanni Battista Foggini. It is therefore known today as the Palazzo Medici Riccardi.
The church of Santa Maria del Carmine is part of the convent of the monks of the Carmelite Order, and was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin of Carmelo. Construction began in 1268, evidenced by the Roman-gothic elements visible on its sides, and finished in 1476. Its transformation continued through subsequent centuries until 1771, when damage caused by a devastating fire prompted the church’s radical refurbishment. The Brancacci chapel, at the end of the right transept, was miraculously saved; it contains a famous series of frescos, showing the Stories of Saint Peter painted by Masolino and Masaccio, and completed by Filippino Lippi. They were commissioned by Felice Brancacci, an influential player in local politics, in the 1420s. The result is a masterpiece of Renaissance painting, studied and admired by generations of the greatest Florentine artists: Michelangelo himself would copy certain details from the series.
"ORTO S. MICHELE"
The name commemorates the presence of a monastery with kitchen garden lands, upon which a small church was built in the 8th century dedicated to San Michele archangel, San Michele in Orto (Orsanmichele). At the end of the 13th century it was replaced by a loggia for the grain market, rebuilt and renovated in the following century: grain was stored on the upper levels, while on the ground floor a church was newly dedicated to San Michele, representative of the Florentine arts. Set in the outer tabernacles, a series of the patron saints of the guilds were sculpted by the most important artists of the period, including Lorenzo Ghiberti, Donatello, and Nanni di Banco. Inside the church, clearly demonstrating the original function of the loggia, is the majestic tabernacle with marble inlay by Andrea di Cione, better known as Orcagna.
"LA LOG(I)A D S SIGNORI"
This large loggia, known as the loggia of the Signoria, of Orcagna, or of Lanzi, was built by Benci di Cione and Simone Talenti between 1376 and 1382 in the Piazza della Signoria, next to the Palazzo dei Priori (now known as the Palazzo Vecchio) to provide a covered area for public meetings and ceremonies of the city’s government. For a long time its construction was wrongly attributed to Andrea di Cione, or Orcagna. The name ‘Loggia dei Lanzi’ however, derives from the German mercenary soldiers, known as Landsknechts, that made up part of Cosimo I de’ Medici’s guard corps, who were stationed there, or perhaps those who set up camp there in 1527 en route to Rome for the infamous sacking of the city. The structure consists of three large, rounded arches, and is now an open-air museum: among the many sculptures exhibited there are the Perseus by Benvenuto Cellini and the Rape of the Sabine Women by Giambologna.
A church smaller than the existing structure was documented in this area of the Oltrarno, a settlement of the Augustine order, in the late 13th century. The current basilica dates back to the 15th century. It was built to Filippo Brunelleschi’s design, largely after his death, and consecrated in 1481. The façade, with its elegant curvilinear profile, remains unfinished and was rendered in the 18th century, while inside there is clear evidence of Brunelleschi’s characteristic design: harmonious, rational, and perceptive articulations of volume; a regular model of span, as standard; features in serena stone that offer contrast with the light-colored render. The church’s altars display exquisite paintings from the 14th to the 18th centuries, including the Madonna with Child and Saints (Pala Nerli) by Filippino Lippi. In the sacristy is the famous Crucifix, a wood carving by Michelangelo in gratitude for the hospitality he received from the convent during his studies of anatomy. To one side of the church is the 14th-century refectory of the convent, decorated with an imposing fresco by Andrea di Cione, also known as Orcagna, and which today houses the Salvatore Romano Foundation museum, named in memory of the donor of the collection of medieval and Renaissance works displayed therein.
"PONTE A S. TRINITA"
The bridge across the Arno – whose name derives from the neighboring basilica of Santa Trinita – was constructed in wood in 1252, under the patronage of the Frescobaldi family. It collapsed in 1259 and was later rebuilt in stone, but even its more solid structure could not withstand the flood of 1333, that only spared the Ponte alle Grazie bridge. Reconstruction was very slow and continued into the beginning of the 15th century. Newly destroyed by a flood in 1557, it was rebuilt in pietraforte by Bartolomeo Ammannati, on commission from Cosimo I de’ Medici. The line of its three arches, in the baroque style, extremely effective from both a static and visual point of view, is thanks partly to recommendations from Michelangelo. The statues in the four corners are symbolic representations of the four seasons, and were added in 1608 on the occasion of the nuptials of Cosimo II de’ Medici and Mary Magdalene of Austria. The bridge was destroyed during the Second World War, but faithfully restored soon after using the original materials.
The basilica of Santa Trinita -- built as a modest construction in the 11th century as the center of the convent of Benedictine monks of Vallombrosa (inside the church are relics from Saint John Gualbert, the founder of the order) – was renovated in the 14th century in a gothic style. As the order grew in prestige, the building was extended and adorned with masterpieces: among the most important were the frescos with the Stories of Saint Francis and the panel Adoration of the Magi by Domenico Ghirlandaio in the Sassetti Chapel, but also the Madonna with Child by Cimabue, and the Adoration of the Magi by Gentile da Fabriano, now housed in the Uffizi Gallery. In the context of the reconfiguration decreed by the Counter-Reformation, the monks appointed Bernardo Buontalenti to renovate the presbytery by creating an imposing central altar, and to rebuild the convent. He was also responsible for the façade, a beautiful example of the late-mannerist style, with sculptures by Giovanni Caccini.
"S. MARIA NOVELLA"
In 1219, a delegation of twelve monks of the Dominican Order arrived in Florence; they took up residence in the city and many years later were assigned the small church of Santa Maria delle Vigne, directly outside the city walls. In the second half of the 13th century, work began on the construction of the new church, which concluded in the following century. The official consecration of the basilica of Santa Maria Novella did not take place until 1420, however, in the presence of Pope Martin V. The façade, of which only the lower section had been completed, was finished in 1470 by Leon Battista Alberti on appointment by the Rucellai family: it is one of the masterpieces of the Florentine Renaissance. In the second half of the 16th century, Giorgio Vasari, on appointment from Cosimo I de’ Medici, remodeled the gothic interior to conform to the precepts of the Counter-Reformation, removing the partition that separated the area reserved for the clergymen from the area for the worshippers, and rebuilding the side altars. Among the numerous artistic masterpieces in the church are Giotto’s Cross, Brunelleschi’s Crucifix, Masaccio’s Trinity, and the frescos in the Cappella Maggiore with Stories of Maria and Stories of San Giovanni Battista by Domenico Ghirlandaio, commissioned by the Tornbuoni family. The convent houses the Stories of Genesis painted on the walls of the Chiostro Verde (Green Cloister) by Paolo Uccello and other artists, and the Cappellone degli Spagnoli (Spanish Chapel), decorated with a magnificent series of frescos by Andrea di Buonaiuto.