WALKS IN FLORENCE: CHURCHES, STREETS AND PALACES
SUSAN AND JOANNA HORNER
Chapter XXIX: The Via San Gallo – The Palazzo Strozzi
Near where formerly stood the Porta Pinti, and as far as the Porta San Gallo, the old Walls have been demolished, and the new Boulevard has received the name of Viale Principe Umberto. Beyond the Porta San Gallo is a meadow or grove, where once stood an hospital for the reception of children abandoned by their parents; still earlier, the ground belonged to Dante Alighieri, who is said often to have rested here to meditate. The triumphal arch in front of this public garden was erected to commemorate the entrance of Francis II., the husband of the Empress Maria Theresa, who received Tuscany in exchange for his hereditary Duchy of Lorraine, which was ceded by the Pragmatic Sanction of 1737 to Stanislaus of Poland, and later to France.
The Porta San Gallo was built in 1284, and received its name from a neighbouring church, dedicated to San Gallo.237 Before the siege of 1529, this gate was closed, and postern opened at a little distance for the use of the public. It was again closed by the Grand-Duke Cosimo I., when he fortified this part of the city, but was finally reopened in 1661. On the side facing the country is a curious antique head carved in the stone, and within the arch is a lunette containing a fresco of the Virgin and Child and St. John the Baptist, painted by Michele, the pupil of Ridolfo Ghirlandaio. The high towers, which once rose above all the gates of the city, were demolished by the Grand-Duke Cosimo I., and a broad roof raised on pilasters erected in their stead to protect the cannon placed there; the Porta San Nicolò and the Porta Pinti were alone left in their original state, whilst the Porta di Faenza, following the Porta San Gallo, was included in the Fortezza del Basso.
The via San Gallo runs parallel with the Via Cavour. Near the Porta are the Convents of San Rocco and Sta. Caterina, which last has been converted into an Hospital for Incurables. Next San Rocco is San Clemente, once a convent of Augustinian nuns, under the special patronage of the Medici, and where two daughters of Duke Alexander ended their days. San Clemente is now joined to the suppressed Convent of Sta. Agata, and they form together a Military Hospital. Nearly opposite the entrance to the via delle Ruote is the Church of San Giovannino dei Cavalieri which belonged to the nuns of the order of St. John of Jerusalem. This church possessed several fine pictures, which have all been recently removed to the public galleries.
In the Via delle Ruote is the Church of Sta. Maria dei Battilani, where the Florentine insurgents of the thirteenth century, called the Ciompi, held their meetings, led by Michele di Lando the Wool Carder. Casa Baci, in this street, is the house built by the artist Santi di Tito for himself, and where he died in 1603.
Returning to the Via San Gallo, the church dei Pretori formed a refuge for secular priests who happened to arrive as strangers in Florence. On the pavement, at the entrance, is a singular epitaph over the grave of a Florentine with, the parish priest Arlotti. The inscription is to this effect: - "This sepulchre was constructed by the Piovano Arlotti for himself, and for all who may desire to enter." "Questa sepoltura il Piovano Arlotti la fece fare – per se e per chi ci vuol entrare."
At the corner of the Via Silvestrino is the beautiful Palazzo Pandolfini, built after a design by Raffaello of Urbino; the architect was Françesco di San Gallo, who was employed by Giannozzo Pandolfini, Bishop of Troy. The cornice and projecting roof are considered models of proportion in Florentine architecture. The Ionic windows on the first storey are extremely beautiful; but the Doric windows below have less strength and solidity, and greater elegance, than is usually characteristic of this style.
The Pandolfini were originally from Signa, half-way between Florence and Pisa: they fought on the Guelphic side in the battle of Montaperti, 1260, and afterwards became distinguished as Florentine citizens, filling the office of Priors and Gonfaloniers of the Republic, and were sent on important missions abroad. Giannozzo, Bishop of Troy, who built this Palace, was highly favoured by Pope Leo X., who appointed him his legate to the army sent against Françesco della Rovere, Duke of Urbino. The King of Naples made him Bishop of Troy, a title also conferred on his nephew Ferdinand.
On the opposite side of the Via San Gallo is the Lunatic Asylum of Florence, San Bonifazio, founded in 1377 by one Bonifazio di M. Ugolotti Lupi, Marquis of Soragna, a valiant captain, who served the Florentines in a war against Pisa in 1362. He built this hospital for the sick, which was afterwards converted into a lunatic asylum.
Not far from San Bonifazio is Sta. Apollonia, founded in 1339 for Camaldolese nuns. The door of the church was renewed in the sixteenth century after a design by Michael Angelo. In the Refectory is a Cenacolo by Andrea del Castagno; the composition is very original, vigorous, and powerful, especially the head and attitude of St. Thomas, who is looking upwards in meditation. In a chapel off the spacious church is another Cenacolo by Bronzino, painted in 1561. There is much sweetness in the expression of the angels below, and in the female figures on either side, typical of Religion. The church, which is now used as a magazine for military stores, is built in the same style as the Church of San Felice Oltr' Arno; the tribune, or gallery for the nuns, extends half over the church, and is supported by six stone pillars; the ceiling is very handsome, of wood, and richly gilt; the altars are supposed to have been designed by Michael Angelo.
Parallel with the via San Gallo is the Via Sta. Reparata, once popularly known as the Campaccio, because here was the Jews' Cemetery. The Church of San Barnaba, at the corner of the Via San Zanobio and the Via Guelfa, was founded in 1309 in commemoration of the Battle of Campaldino, won by the Guelphic faction, in 1289, in which Dante fought. Near the suppressed Convent of San Barnaba, Luca della Robbia was born in 1388.
The Piazza della Indipendenza beyond was laid out in 1845; a small marble tablet over the entrance to some houses in a street leading to the Fortezza del Basso marks the model lodging-houses for poor artisans, built by the late Marchese Carlo Torrigiani, who died in 1865.
north-western angle of this piazza is the house once
inhabited by the accomplished authoress, Theodosia Trollope,
daughter-in-law of the more celebrated Mrs. Trollope.
Both died in Florence, and were laid in the Protestant
Cemetery of the Borgo Pinti. Theodosia Trollope
published, in the form of letters to a London periodical,
the most accurate account of the last revolution in Tuscany,
which led to the formation of the Italian kingdom.
The Fortezza di San Giovanni Battista, or Del Basso, was commenced in 1533 by Duke Alexander dei Medici, at the instigation of Filippo Strozzi, in order to repress any attempt of the Florentines to recover their liberty: it was finished by Alexander's cousin, the Grand-Duke Cosimo I. Strozzi himself furnished the means for the subjugation of his fellow-citizens, and he was among the first incarcerated in that fortress, which he had intended for others, and where he died by violence; some suppose by his own hand, but more probably, murdered by the order of Duke Cosimo.
In the Via Nazionale, leading from the Piazza della Indipendenza to the Piazza Vecchia di Sta. Maria Novella, is a large Tabernacle in Luca della Robbia Ware, probably by one of the nephews, as it is highly coloured, and inferior in composition to the works of his uncle.
Amidst the narrow streets in this quarter of the town, entering the Piazza Madonna, or Campo dei Corbellini – as it is called in old chronicles of the city – and behind the Church of San Lorenzo, is the Via dell' Amore, which had its name from a romance by Machiavelli: here was the Palace of Vincenzio Viviani, the astronomer, mathematician, and favourite pupil of Galileo Galilei. He received a pension from Louis XIV of France in 1622, and died in 1702 at eighty years of age. The bust of Galileo is over the door, and inscriptions in his honour are laced on either side. Galileo left Viviani his Library, which has since passed to the Hospital of Sta. Maria Nuova.238 In the Campo dei Corbellini lived the Gaddi family, Gaddo, Taddeo, and Agnolo, of the schools of Cimabue and Giotto; and the Via Melarancio, at the corner of the Via dell' Amore, was so called, from the pomegranates in their garden. The Palace of the philosopher Poggio Bracciolini was in the adjoining Via del Giglio, leading to the Via Panzani, and here lodged our English poet, Milton, when he came to Florence to visit Galileo Galilei.
The irregular space which forms the Piazza Vecchia di Sta. Maria Novella was once a usual meeting-place for both the Guelphic and Ghibelline factions. The Via Panzani and the via Cerretani lead from the Piazza Vecchia to the church of Sta. Maria Maggiore. Nearly opposite this church is the Albergo di Firenze, on the site of the houses of Nicolò de' Lapi, the Florentine citizen, who has been immortalised by the romance of Massimo D' Azeglio.
Sta. Maria Maggiore is supposed to have been founded in the sixth century, and the first building to have been an exact copy of the Basilica of the same name in Rome. The Florentine Sta. Maria Maggiore was made a Collegiate Church in 1021, with a condition attached, that all the canons should be of noble blood. In 1311 the building was restored after a design by Arnolfo di Cambio, and decorated with frescos by Paolo Uccello, Spinello Aretino, Agnolo Gaddi, Masaccio, Sandro Botticelli, Lippi, Bugiardini, &c., but all these paintings have disappeared. In 1515 Leo. X. bestowed the patronage of this church on the Chapter of the Cathedral, and the canons of Sta. Maria Maggiore ceded their rights to the Carmelite friars of Mantua, who were transferred here from their monastery at San Barnaba in 1521. Within the cloister was buried Ser. Brunetto Latini, a celebrated philosopher, the master of Dante Alighieri and of Guido Cavalcante. He died in 1294, after having filled the office of Prior of the Republic. In the Piazza beside this church is the Palazzo delle Cento Finestre – Hundred Windows – where lived the painter Cigoli.
Behind Sta. Maria Maggiore is the beautiful Palazzo Orlandini, built early in this century, but including within its walls the original Palace of the Gondi, and that of the Beccuti, who represent the extinct family of the Orlandini, and in whose house lodged Pope John XXIII. after he had been deposed by the Council of Constance.
Between the Via Cerretani and the Piazza di San Gaetano is the via Rondinelli, where the family Rondinelli had their residence, one of whom became the husband of Ginevra, who was buried and came to life again, as related in a former chapter.239
The Church of San Gaetano was built on the site of San Michele Bertoldi, one of the most ancient churches in Florence, but it contains nothing of interest. Opposite is the Palazzo Antinori, where once was Ridolfo Ghirlandaio's finest work, a Spasimo, or Christ bearing His Cross, now removed from this Palace. The palace was built in the fifteenth century after a design by Giuliano di San Gallo for one of the Boni family, from whom it came to the Antinori.
The Palazzo Corsi, belonging to the ancient family of that name, is in the via Tornabuoni. It was designed by Michelozzo Michelozzi, but has lately been renewed, and the ground-floor let out in shops.
Beyond is the
magnificent Palazzo Strozzi, which was commenced in 1489,
after a design by Benedetto da Majano, for the wealthy
merchant Filippo Strozzi the elder, who was dissatisfied
with the dimensions of the small though solidly-built
palace, which still remains in the Piazza delle Cipolle,
behind the dwelling of Prince Strozzi. The merchant
had his shop in the Via Porta Rossa, and his child, the
younger filippo, who ended his days in the Fortezza del
Basso, was carried to the foundations of the new palace and
made to drop a small coin in the ground to bring good
fortune to the inhabitants. Il Cronaca continued the
work begun by Benedetto da Majano, but neither the architect
nor the owner lived to see it finished.240 The
Cortile, with its beautiful columns, was wholly designed by
Il Cronaca. The uppermost story is surmounted by a
gallery supporting the roof, which, where complete, projects
beyond the walls, casting a broad shadow beneath,
characteristic of Florentine architecture. The rough
masonry below gives the usual appearance of strength or
solidity to the building. At the corner is a
peculiarly elegant Fanale, the work of Nicolò Caparrà. This
delicately wrought-iron ornament, used for the purpose of
fire-works or illuminations, was, it may be remembered, a
privilege only conceded to distinguished Florentine
The suite of reception rooms is adorned by a very choice collection of pictures and sculpture. In the first room is a portrait bust by Mino da Fiesole, of Nicolò Strozzi, the father of the elder Filippo. The forehead is narrow and the lower part of the face heavy, but is not wanting in intelligence. Near it, is a portrait of Lorenzo Strozzi. A small Annunciation, by Filippino Lippi, is extremely beautiful. A bronze statuette on a table of St. John the Baptist is by Donatello, and on one side there is a copy of Michael Angelo's celebrated Pietà at Rome, by Giovan Bologna. Two fine Carlo Dolce's, and David, by Guido Reni, are also worthy of notice. In the next room is one of the most celebrated busts by Desiderio di Settignano, of Marietta Strozzi, who married one of the family of the Este of Ferrara. The grace, refinement, delicacy of finish, and fine surface, are all characteristic of this artist: the bust is cited by Vasari. Facing the window is the Puttina, the portrait of a little girl feeding her dog, by Titian. She is in a white dress, with a pearl necklace, and a girdle or châtelaine of jewels. She stands on a balcony, with a landscape background. The picture, though very charming from the childlike animation and grace, united with great elegance in the composition, has been probably much repainted; in a letter of the Countess of Pomfret to Lady Hertford, in the middle of the last century, she describes La Puttina as in "so ruined a condition" that she expresses a hope that "a good copy may be made before the original wholly disappears." This little girl was a niece of Luisa Strozzi, who was celebrated for her beauty and misfortunes. Beside the Puttina, another lovely young girl of the family is by Leonardo da Vinci. A portrait of Giuliano de' Medici, the brother of Lorenzo de' Medici, who was murdered by the Pazzi, is by Pollajuolo; it was taken after death. A small and early picture of a Holy family is by Andrea del Sarto; the virgin resembles the most celebrated Madonna of Andrea in the Pitti. A large family picture is by Sustermans. The Garden of Gethsemane, a small picture by Perugino, is in composition like the larger in the Academy, but whilst the Academy picture has more of Raffaelle in the drawing, this is quite in the manner of Perugino.
In the third room is the bust of Filippo Strozzi the
Elder, by Benedetto da Majano. Though more refined and
intelligent-looking than his father, judging by the bust,
Filippo has the same narrow forehead and peculiar elevation of
the head. Above it hangs the portrait of filippo Strozzi
the Younger, the friend of the Grand-Duke Cosimo I., who ended
his days in the Fortezza del Basso. This picture is a
fine copy of the original by Titian, which is in Vienna.
Filippo is dressed in a cloak trimmed with fur, and in the
graceful but nervous action of the hand, and, in his whole
bearing, the character of the feeble but accomplished
gentleman is well given. The portraits of his three
sons, the brothers of Luisa Strozzi, are good pictures, by
Alessandro Allori; Piero, the eldest, is in armour: he
spent the days of his exile in France, protected by Catherine
de' Medici, who saved him from the attempts at poison of
Cosimo I. Roberto, the father of the "Puttina," is
beside him. Leone, the prior of Capua, is on the other
side of their father, and beyond him is Filippo, a son of
Piero, who served as a French general. A round picture
over the door, of a Madonna worshipping the child, is by
Perugino or Pinturicchio, and opposite is a Holy Family by
In the last room are two exquisite little landscapes by Salvator Rosa, and graceful portraits of two youths; one represents Cardinal Bembo, and is by Angelo Bronzino: he stands facing the spectator holding a book, and leaning on a table; the other, a still more interesting portrait, is the poet Ludovico Martelli, by Raffaelle. These portraits are placed near one another, to prove how Bronzino could approach the great master. A good portrait of pope Paul III. is by Paolo Veronese; a large picture of card-players is by Caravaggio; and opposite, there is a good picture, by the living painter Gordigiani, of the present Princess Strozzi.
Apollonia, Church of Sta., founded 1339
Arnolfo di Cambio b. 1232 – d. 1310
Barnaba, Church of Sta., founded 1309
Bembo, Cardinal b. 1470 – d. 1547
Benedetto da Majano b. 1442 – d. 1497
Bonifazio, San, founded 1377
Botticelli, Sandro b. 1447 – d. 1510
Bronzino b. 1535 – d. 1607
Brunetto Latini 1294
Bugiardini b. 1481 – d. 1556
Campaldino, Battle of 1289
Caravaggio, Michel Angelo da b. 1569 – d. 1609
Castagno, Andrea b. 1409 – d. 1480(?)
Cigoli, Ludovico Cardi b. 1559 – d. 1613
Ciompi Riots 1378
Dolce, Carlo b. 1616 – d. 1686
Fortezza del Basso commenced 1533
Galileo Galilei b. 1564 – d. 1642
Ghirlandaio, Domenico b. 1449 – d. 1493
Ghirlandaio, Ridolfo b. 1485 – d. 1560
Guido Reni b. 1575 – d. 1642
Il Cronaca, Simone Pollaiolo b. 1459 – d. 1508
Leo X., Pope b. 1475 – d. 1521
Lippi, Fra Filippo b. 1400 – d. 1469
Lippi, Filippino b. 1460 – d. 1505
Lucas van Leyden b. 1494 – d. 1533
Maria Maggiore, Church of Sta., made collegiate 1021
Maria Maggiore, restored by Arnolfo di Cambio 1311
Martelli, Ludovico b. 1499 – d. 1527
Masaccio b. 1401 – d. 1443
Montaperti, Battle of 1260
Orcagna, Andrea b. 1329 – d. 1375
Perugino, Pietro b. 1446 – d. 1524
Pragmatic Sanction 1737
Raffaellino del Garbo b. 1476 – d. 1534
Raffaello d' Urbino b. 1483 – d. 1520
Salvator Rosa b. 1615 – d. 1673
San Gallo, Françesco di b. 1498 – d. 1570
San Gallo, Porta di, built 1284
Santi di Tito b. 1538 – d. 1603
Spinello Aretino b. 1308 – d. 1400
Strozzi, Filippo b. 1488 – d. 1538
Strozzi, Piero b. – d. 1558
Strozzi, Palazzo, commenced 1489
Sustermans b. 1597 – d. 1681
Titian b. 1477 – d. 1576
Uccello, Paolo b. 1349 – d. 1436
Viviani, Vincenzo b. 1622 – d. 1703
237 Giuliano di
San Gallo rebuilt this church, and thus obtained the name of
238 Among the recent alterations in Florence a splendid market has been constructed in this immediate neighbourhood.
239 See "Piazza del Duomo."
240 See Vasari, "vite de' Pittori," vol. viii. pp 117-120.
Chapter XXX: Palazzo Rucellai – San Pancrazio – Via Tornabuoni – SS. Trinita – Palazzo Corsini – Piazza Sta. Maria Novella
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