The Palazzo Vecchio, Florence

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The Palazzo Vecchio is the town hall of Florence, Italy. This massive, Romanesque, crenellated fortress-palace is among the most impressive town halls of Tuscany. Overlooking the Piazza della Signoria with its copy of Michelangelo's David statue as well as the gallery of statues in the adjacent Loggia dei Lanzi, it is one of the most significant public places in Italy.

The Palazzo Vecchio, Florence, Italy
The Palazzo Vecchio, Florence, Italy

Originally called the Palazzo della Signoria, after the Signoria of Florence, the ruling body of the Republic of Florence, it was also given several other names: Palazzo del Popolo, Palazzo dei Priori, and Palazzo Ducale, in accordance with the varying use of the palace during its long history. The building acquired its current name when the Medici duke's residence was moved across the Arno to the Palazzo Pitti.

The Palazzo Vecchio, Florence, Italy

Above the front entrance door, there is a notable ornamental marble frontispiece, dating from 1528. In the middle, flanked by two gilded lions, is the Monogram of Christ, surrounded by a glory, above the text (in Latin): "Rex Regum et Dominus Dominantium" (translation: "Jesus Christ, King of Kings and Lord of Lords". This text dates from 1851 and does not replace an earlier text by Savonarola as mentioned in guidebooks. Between 1529 and 1851 they were concealed behind a large shield with the grand-ducal coat of arms.

The Palazzo Vecchio, Florence, Italy
The Palazzo Vecchio, Florence, Italy

The first courtyard was designed in 1453 by Michelozzo. In the lunettes, high around the courtyard, are crests of the Church and City Guilds. In the center, the porphyry fountain is by Battista del Tadda. The Putto with Dolphin on top of the basin is a copy of the original by Andrea del Verrocchio (1476), now on display on the second floor of the palace. This small statue was originally placed in the garden of the villa of the Medici in Careggi. The water, flowing through the nose of the dolphin, is brought here by pipes from the Boboli Gardens.

The Palazzo Vecchio, Florence, Italy
The Palazzo Vecchio, Florence, Italy

In the niche, in front of the fountain, stands Samson and Philistine by Pierino da Vinci. The frescoes on the walls, representing scenes of the Austrian Habsburg estates, were painted in 1565 by Giorgio Vasari for the wedding celebration of Francesco I de' Medici, the eldest son of Cosimo I de' Medici, and Johanna of Austria, sister of the Emperor Maximilian. The harmoniously proportioned columns, at one time smooth, and untouched, were at the same time richly decorated with gilt stuccoes.

The Palazzo Vecchio, Florence, Italy
The Palazzo Vecchio, Florence, Italy

Located in between the first and second floors, these rooms are occupied by Renaissance and Medieval objects given in a bequest by Charles Loeser, an American expat collector and scholar. This collection is one of the most valuable municipal collections for its artistic and historical value. The rooms are located in the old palace, and were renovated in the mid-15th century by Michelozzo. It is the only part of the palace where the original 14th- and 15th-century ceilings are still entirely visible.

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