Loggia dei Lanzi (Loggia della Signoria) by night (Perseus, The Rape of Polyxena)
The Loggia dei Lanzi, also called the Loggia della Signoria, is a building on a corner of the Piazza della Signoria in Florence, Italy, adjoining the Uffizi Gallery. It consists of wide arches open to the street, three bays wide and one bay deep. The arches rest on clustered pilasters with Corinthian capitals. The wide arches appealed so much to the Florentines, that Michelangelo even proposed that they should be continued all around the Piazza della Signoria.
Sometimes erroneously referred to as Loggia dell' Orcagna because it was once thought to be designed by that artist, it was built between 1376 and 1382 by Benci di Cione and Simone di Francesco Talenti, possibly following a design by Jacopo di Sione, to house the assemblies of the people and hold public ceremonies, such as the swearing into office of the Gonfaloniers and the Priors. Simone Talenti is also well-known from his contributions to the churches Orsanmichele and San Carlo.
The vivacious construction of the Loggia is in stark contrast with the severe architecture of the Palazzo Vecchio. It is effectively an open-air sculpture gallery of antique and Renaissance art.
The name Loggia dei Lanzi dates back to the reign of Grand Duke Cosimo I, when it was used to house his formidable landsknechts (In Italian: "Lanzichenecchi", corrupted to Lanzi), or German mercenary pikemen. After the construction of the Uffizi at the rear of the Loggia, the Loggia's roof was modified by Bernardo Buontalenti and became a terrace from which the Medici princes could watch ceremonies in the piazza.
Menelaus supporting the body of Patroclus, a much-restored Roman sculpture On the façade of the Loggia, below the parapet, are trefoils with allegorical figures of the four cardinal virtues (Fortitude, Temperance, Justice and Prudence) by Agnolo Gaddi. Their blue enamelled background is the work of Leonardo, a monk, while the golden stars were painted by Lorenzo de' Bicci. The vault, composed of semicircles, was done by the Florentine Antonio de' Pucci. On the steps of the Loggia are the Medici lions; two Marzoccos, marble statues of lions, heraldic symbols of Florence; that on the right is from Roman times and the one on the left was sculpted by Flaminio Vacca in 1598. It was originally placed in the Villa Medici in Rome, but found its final place in the Loggia in 1789.
On the side of the Loggia, there is a Latin inscription from 1750 commemorating the change of the Florentine calendar in 1749 to bring it into line with the Roman calendar. The Florentine calendar began on 25 March instead of 1 January. Other inscription from 1893 records the Florentines who distinguished themselves during the annexation of Milan (1865), Venice (1866) and Rome (1871) to the kingdom of Italy.
Underneath the bay on the far left is the bronze statue of Perseus by Benvenuto Cellini. It shows the mythical Greek hero holding his sword in his right hand and holding up triumphantly the Medusa's decapitated head in his left. The well-proportioned muscular body of Perseus stands poised on the right leg. Perseus is subdued, holding back his emotions. Blood is gushing from the head and the neck of the dead Medusa. The richly decorated marble pedestal, equally by Cellini, shows four graceful bronze statuettes of Jupiter, Mercurius, Minerva and Danaë. The bas-relief on the pedestal, representing Perseus freeing Andromeda, is a copy of the one in Bargello.
Benvenuto Cellini worked almost ten years on this bronze (1545-1554). His wax design was immediately approved by Cosimo I de' Medici. He met numerous difficulties which, according to his autobiography, almost brought him to the brink of death. The casting of this bronze statue was several times unsuccessful. When attempting again, the melting furnace got overheated, spoiling the casting of the bronze. Cellini gave orders to feed the furnace with his household furniture and finally with about 200 pewter dishes and plates, and his pots and pans. This caused the bronze to flow again. After the bronze had cooled, the statue was miraculously finished, except for three toes on the right foot. These were added later.
On the far right is the manneristic group Rape of the Sabine Women by the Flemish artist Jean de Boulogne, better known by his Italianized name Giambologna. This impressive work was made from one imperfect block of white marble, the largest block ever transported to Florence. The goccia model is now in the Galleria dell' Academia. Giambologna wanted to create a composition with the figura serpentina, an upward snakelike spiral movement to be examined from all sides. This is the first group representing more than a single figure in European sculptural history to be conceived without a dominant viewpoint. It can be equally admired from all sides. The marble pedestal, also by Giambologna, represents bronze bas-reliefs with the same theme. This marble and bronze group is in the Loggia since 1583.
Nearby is Giambologna's less celebrated marble sculpture Hercules beating the Centaur Nessus (1599) and placed here in 1841 from the Canto de' Carnesecchi. It was sculpted from one solid block of white marble with the help of Pietro Francavilla
The group Menelaus supporting the body of Patroclus, discovered in Rome stood originally at the southern end of the Ponte Vecchio. There is another version of this much-restored Roman marble in the Palazzo Pitti. It is an ancient Roman sculpture from the Flavian era, copied from a Hellenistic Pergamene original of the mid third century BC. This marble group was discovered in Rome. It has undergone restorations by Ludovico Salvetti, to a model by Pietro Tacca (1640) and by Stefano Ricci (about 1830).
On the back of the Loggia are five marble female statues (three are identified as Matidia, Marciana and Agrippina Minor), Sabines and a statue of a barbarian prisoner Thusnelda from Roman times from the era of Trajan to Hadrian. They were discovered in Rome in 1541. The statues had been in the Medici villa at Rome since 1584 and were brought here by Pietro Leopoldo in 1789. They all have significant, modern restorations.
The Feldherrnhalle in Munich, the site of a failed coup by the fledgling Nazi party in 1923, was modelled after the Loggia dei Lanzi.
Benvenuto Cellini: PERSEUS HOLDING THE HEAD OF MEDUSA
Perseus (Greek: Περσεύς),[note 1] the legendary founder of Mycenae and of the Perseid dynasty of Dana...
Piazza della Signoria is an L-shaped square in front of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, Italy. It wa...
Sinde Medieval this square has been the political center of Florence. The name ‘Signoria’ is derived ...
Inner courtyard of Palazzo Vecchio.
Overview and History
Florence has been relaxing since the very beginning, when Julius Caesar adapted the location to serve as a home for veteran soldiers. Its name means "flourishing" and that's what it's been doing ever since.
If we can ignore that pesky evidence of neolithic rock-smashers, Florence has been occupied for about two thousand years.
Caesar wisely chose the intersection of two rivers for the location of Florence, for defensive purposes. Admittedly he was not the first person to think of this idea, but we'll let him have it for now.
The Arno and Mugnone are the rivers over which Florentines built their beautiful bridges, in order to have something else to decorate. See Ponte Veccio for illustration.
Like all Roman cities, Florence was originally rectangular in shape, bearing long straight roads with ninety degree intersections. The heart of the city was originally at the intersection where today, you will find the Piazza della Republica.
"Piazza" means plaza, not pizza. For my American subway riders.
Being located in a fertile valley along a major river attracted people, commerce and wealth, according to the laws of burgeoning civilization, and Florence grew up to be a leader in all the new phases, such as the Cult of Isis and later, Christianity.
The dark ages hit Florence a little earlier than the rest of Europe. Because of its location on the Italian peninsula, it was fought over viciously during the Gotho-Byzantine war. When Florence was cut off from communications and trade with Rome in the 6th century, its status descended into terrible Lombard dominion most, most foul.
Charlemagne and the Carolingian empire were next up in the roster of rulers, so Florence became a county of the Holy Roman Empire.
Over the next five centuries Florence experienced more growth and construction and landed as the capital of the Tuscany region in the thirteenth century. Merchants' associations multiplied and brought international trade relations to Florence, and yet more wealth for the construction of Gothic buildings, such as the Cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore.
By the thirteenth century, Florence had rightly earned the reputation as the main city of the West. To symbolize this, they constructed the Palazzo della Signoria.
Enter Black Plague, 1348. Cue flood, wipe out bridges over Arno river. Begin serious urban planning as of fourteenth century, to remedy the economic and political crises.
Remedy? Rhymes with Medici? The Medici family took power by representing the disenfranchised middle class, and began the Italian Renaissance proper.
I suppose being bankers to the Pope didn't hurt the Medicis in their stellar rise to power and fame. The family sponsored generations of artists and thus became responsible for the creation of unsurpassable masterpieces by such titans as Leonardo di Vinci, Michaelangelo, Donatello, Boticelli, Brunelleschi... apologies to the curtness of this sneeze of a historical kleenex I write.
Let's jump to the year 1737, when the last of the Medicis died. Florence temporarily became part of the Austrian empire, then the capital of Italy in 1865. Rome took over six years later as capital and we enter the modern times.
Florence was occupied by the Germans for a year during World War Two. Mussolini met here with Hitler in 1940, after which he led Italy into the war as an Axis power.
In Florence, you will get an education in the Renaissance whether you mean to or not. Her progress now continues into the third millenium, where preservation may be the key word. Automobile exhaust is bad for marble, you know?
Peretola is closer to Florence (5km) but it's a small, single-runway airport. In 1990 it was renamed after Amerigo Vespucci, so Peretola is also called Vespucci just to confuse matters. From it you can take a bus, taxi or rent a car to get where you're going. The bus takes about half an hour and costs less than five Euro.
Pisa airport is keeping Tuscany's profile high in the world! The best way to connect to Florence is by the train, which costs about the same five Euros but takes an hour and a half.
Arriving by train is another option for European travelers. For some reason they haven't finished the underground transatlantic subway so Americans will have to fly.
The Santa Maria Novella train station is right in the center of the city and offers connections to bus lines, taxis, or your shoes for walking. For long range view, it connects Rome, and all of southern Italy, to the rest of Europe.
Car rental information is here. Practice yelling and swerving first so you'll be ready.
Taxi fare from Vespucci airport should be about fifteen Euro.
The city transit is run by ATAF bus company. Tickets are under two Euro and you can buy them all over the place at newspaper stands and such.
Most importantly, the center of the city is closed to through traffic and requires a special residency permit to drive there. The restricted area is called the ZTL, or Zone of Traffic Limitation. Car renters make note.
People and Culture
Florence is a very international city and they're on the Euro, so visiting while you're in Europe is no problem. Skipping Florence is a problem. Trying to describe it is an even bigger one, so come and have a look for yourself. The drinking age is only eighteen and the city is filled with students.
Things to do & Recommendations
If you speak the language of food and wine, Florence will be your home away from home. Tuscany is one of the world's great wine producers; the Chianti region is only a few clicks west of Florence.
Outdoor cinemas, theater, opera, ballet, cafes, and museums will easily fill up your time walking and gawking.
Here is a short list of pinpoints to start with in Florence, again with apologies to everything and everyone we had to leave out in consideration of space.
Santa Croce: medieval Franciscan basilica, National Central Library
Rifredi: where you can find Medici villas and also Chinese and African immigrants, and Peretola airport.
Check out Oltrarno for a kinda bohemian neighborhood.
For nightlife, go through all the floors of Central Park (the club) and call me in the morning. Which will be around 3pm if you really do it. Here's the best link we've got since their site went down.
Now can you please pass me the carafe? People do not grow any older while we're at the table. Thanks!
Text by Steve Smith.