WALKS IN FLORENCE: CHURCHES, STREETS AND PALACES
SUSAN AND JOANNA HORNER
Chapter XXXIII: The Via della Scala – Gardens of the Oricellari – Sta. Lucia – Borg' Ogni Santi – Lung' Arno Acciajoli – Bridges
The Via della Scala has its name from a well-known Foundling Hospital in this quarter, Sta. Maria della Scala, which was called after a similar hospital in Sienna., with three staircases – scale, or scalini. The founder of the Florentine hospital, at the corner of the via Oricellari and the Via della Scala, was a certain Cione di Lapo de' Pollini, whose marble bust is in the cortile of the Innocenti. In 1531 the building was ceded to the nuns of San Martino al Mugnone. In 1531 the building was ceded to the nuns of San Martino al Mugnone. In a chapel within the walls of the convent are frescos from the life of San Bernardo degli Uberti,263 and outside this chapel, which stands in a small piazza, is an inscription recording that here twenty thousand persons were buried during the plague of 1479. Sta. Maria della Scala, or San Martino al Mugnone, recognisable by the old style of rough masonry, is now used as a penitentiary. On the northern side of the Via della Scala, nearer the walls or boulevard, is the Conservatorio in Ripoli, once the Convent of San Jacopo in Ripoli, where was formerly a picture by Ridolfo Ghirlandaio, now in the Gallery of the Louvre at Paris. In the lunette over the door of this church is a fine example of Luca della Robbia ware; the subject, a Madonna and Child, with St. Dominick on one side and a saint on the other, surrounded by a beautiful garland of fruit. The treatment of this relief differs from most of Della Robbia's: the Child lies on his side, and is not as lovely as in other representations, but the virgin and saints are grand and statuesque. Ripoli is a village near Florence, where the Dominicans first had an oratory, dedicated to San Jacopo. It finally became a convent of Dominican nuns, who removed to the Via della Scala in 1300.
The Via Oricellari crosses the Via della Scala; and, proceeding towards the Arno, the high iron gates on the right are the entrance to the Orti Oricellari, or Rucellai Gardens, where at one time the Platonic Academy, founded by Cosimo de' medici, Pater Patriæ, held their meetings. A grotto and temple commemorate the exact spot; and the names of the academicians are inscribed on a column in the Garden; viz., Giovanni Rucellai, Angelo Poliziano, Lorenzo de' Medici, Pico della Mirandola, Nicoḷ Macchiavelli, Bernardo and Cosimo Rucellai, Luigi Pulci, Giovanni Corsini, Leon Battista Alberti. The palace in the midst of these gardens was built by Bernardo Rucellai, after a design by leon Battista Alberti, who also laid out the ground. It underwent alterations at the hands of the architect Silvani in the seventeenth century, when it became the property of the Marchese Strozzi Ridolfi, and was known as the Palazzo Strozzi. It was not until after the death of Lorenzo de' Medici that the Platonic Academy was transferred here by the invitation of Bernardo Rucellai; and it was in these gardens that Nicoḷ Macchiavelli recited his famous discourses on Livy, and that the first Italian tragedy, Rosamunda, the composition of Giovanni Rucellai, was read in the presence of Pope Leo X. The beautiful Bianca Capello occupied this Palace before her marriage with the Grand-Duke Francis I. The huge statue of Polyphemus in the midst of the garden is by Antonio Morelli. There is likewise a statue of Pope Boniface VIII., which was on the first facciata of the Cathedral.
In a direct line with the Via Oricellari, and at the end of the broad street called the Porta Prato, is the Church of Sta. Lucia del Prato, which in 1251 was built in the midst of meadows by a Confraternity of Frati Umiliati, an Order founded in 1180, and first composed of Milanese who had been expatriated by the German emperors. During their exile in Germany they improved themselves in the manufacture of cloth, and on their return to Italy settled in Florence, where they built their church and convent on this spot, and carried on their trade. In 1547 the Grand-Duke Cosimo I. obliged them to sell their convent to the Scolopi, who were canons of San Salvatore, and whom the Grand-Duke had expelled from their own Convent of San Piero Gattolino, near the Porta Romana, to make room for the fortifications of the city. The Church of Santa Lucia is now under the patronage of the Torrigiani family.
In the first chapel to the right on entering, is a picture of St. Joseph with the infant Christ in his arms, and San Françesco di Sales and Sta. Teresa below; they are sweet in expression and soft in colour. Behind the high altar is a Nativity, by Domenico Ghirlandaio; a good picture, but in an obscure position. In the first chapel to the left is an Annunciation, by Pietro Cavallini, who painted the same subject in the SS. Annunziata. The Virgin is seated on a bench in a garden with a book beside her. She has a simple and innocent expression as she looks upwards at the dove which hovers over her; the angel kneels on the opposite side of the picture; and, though false in drawing, it is an interesting composition.
Beyond this quarter of the town is the Cascine, or Public Gardens of Florence, the fashionable promenade of the Florentine beau monde, and a favourite resort of all classes. Long avenues of fine trees and tall hedges of ilex and other evergreens afford shade and shelter in the hot days of summer; and in the evenings of May and June they are brilliant with thousand of fire-flies. The Arno, with a lovely view of the hills and villas beyond, is on one side of the Cascine, on the other, the magnificent range of Monte Morello and the Apennines.
The first palace of any importance along the Arno is modern; it was built by the celebrated actress Madame Ristori, but is now in the possession of the Marchese Fransoni, who belongs to an old Genoese family, and is nephew of the late Archbishop of Turin. The Palace contains several pictures of value – four small pictures by Albano; St. Sebastian and St. Jerome, by Guercino; two paintings attributed to Annibale Caracci, one of which is now supposed to be by Paris Bordone or Correggio; an exquisite miniature, representing Christ amidst the Doctors, by Mazzolino da Ferrara; a Madonna by Lorenzo di Credi, and another by Domenico Ghirlandaio; a Holy Family by Procaccino of Milan; a fine family portrait by Vandyke; and a lady of the Fransoni family, with her son and daughter, by the most celebrated Genoese painter, Bernardo Strozzi.264
In the Borg' Ogni Santi,265 the street parallel with the Arno, and at the corner of the Piazza Manin, is a Palazzo which belonged to the Quaratesi family, one of the oldest private dwellings in Florence, designed by Brunelleschi; this palace was at one time in the possession of the Gondi family, when it was painted by Andrea Feltrini in the peculiar Florentine manner, called Graffito.
The Church of Ogni Santi, or San Salvador, was founded by the Padri Umiliati after their removal from Sta. Lucia. They had already purchased the space occupied by the present Piazza, which they converted into a pool, filled with water from the river, for cleansing the wool, and here they built their monastery and adjoining church. In 1554 they were obliged to yield their rights to the Franciscans, who in 1627 rebuilt the church. A fresco was discovered this year – 1872 – behind the fine Luca della Robbia above the principal entrance; this fresco has been removed to Sta. Croce, but the Luca della Robbia group is restored to its original position.
The interior of the church consists of a nave and transepts, in the form of a Latin Cross. In one of the transepts are two paintings which were originally by Andrea Castagno; St. Francis receiving the Confirmation of his Order, and the Death of the Saint. Both pictures have been repainted, and the later artist has converted St. Francis into San Bernardino, who presents his tablet with the name of Jesus on it to Pope Martin V., and whose body is exhibited to the public.
The only works of real artistic merit in the church are two frescos on either side of the nave; that to the left is by Domenico Ghirlandaio, and represents St. Jerome in his study; it is one of the earliest works of the master before his style was formed, and though faulty in drawing, - the leg of the saint actually appearing severed from his body, - there is a diligence and attention to detail, with variety of invention and power of expression, which show the promise of future excellence; the colour is clear and bright, and every detail, to the pattern of the table-cover and the various articles on the shelf above, are finished in a style which recalls early German or Flemish pictures.266 The old man sits gracefully in a thoughtful attitude at his desk, which has the date 1480.
The fresco opposite is by Sandro Botticelli: St. Augustine in prayer; he looks upwards absorbed; beside him is an orrery: the hands and fingers are in Botticelli's peculiar manner; the saint is represented as an ordinary peasant – but the drawing is free and vigorous, the drapery falls in large and noble folds, and the colour is sober.267
The inside of the cupola over the tribune is painted by Giovanni di San Giovanni; and the life of St. Francis is represented in Pietra-Dura mosaic over the high altar: the bronze crucifix is by Cennini, a pupil of Tacca. The two marble angels on the gates of the choir are by Andrea Ferroni di Fiesole. The picture of San Bonaventura guided by an angel is by Fabrizio Boschi. The choir was built by Count Pandolfo Bardi; a Virgin in a dark situation over the entrance to the choir is by Bernardo Orcagna.268
Within the sacristy, to the left of the choir, is an interesting fresco of the Crucifixion, probably by Nicola di Pietro Gerini, the pupil and assistant of Taddeo Gaddi. Four angels hover above; Mary Magdalene is at the foot of the Cross; the Virgin, St. John, and two monks on either side. This painting has also been attributed to Françesco da Volterra, of the school of Giotto and a pupil of Gerini.269 In the left transept is a fine Crucifix by Giotto, and over the altar a wooden image of St. Francis in prayer.
The walls of the cloisters of Ogni Santi are painted by several good artists, and represent incidents and miracles in the life of St. Francis. Beginning from the door, the first five lunettes leading to the second cloister, and those on the side wall next the church, are by Giovanni di San Giovanni. The meeting of St. Francis and St. Dominick, and St. Francis receiving the Stigmata, are by Jacopo Ligozzi, who also painted all the lunettes on the northern and eastern walls. The door opening on the second or inner cloister conducts to the Refectory, where there is a noble Cenacolo, or Last Supper, by Domenico Ghirlandaio, bearing the date 1480, the same year that he painted the St. Jerome in the church, when he was only thirty-one years of age. Although the arrangement is in accordance with the conventional rule, the composition is very original. The Saviour's head is extremely beautiful; and the absorbed expression of his countenance, serene yet serious, as if the treachery of his disciple was forgotten in the thought that the great sacrifice was shortly to be consummated, is truly sublime. St. Peter, beside him, true to the impetuous nature of this apostle, has taken on himself to reprove Judas, and points significantly with his thumb to the Saviour. Perhaps to enhance the nobility of the head of Christ, the artist has erred in giving too much vulgarity to Peter, whose countenance nevertheless is very fine, animated, and expressive. The low, hardened villain, which Judas is represented, is well-expressed by his defiant attitude, and the sneer with which he meets Peter's angry reproof. St. John is asleep; his head is inferior to the same subject treated by other masters. Beyond him, one of the apostles leans his head on his hand, and appears plunged in melancholy reflections; his countenance and attitude are very beautiful, and are in contrast with the animation and questioning interest of the rest. Cavalcaselle remarks on this Cenacolo: - "It is not as yet here that Ghirlandaio impresses the beholder with his greatness as a composer; but the old symmetry of sitting apostles is already varied by a clearer exhibition of the moving thought in the assemblage, and great variety of individual expression and action is also apparent. But Ghirlandaio shows that his talent is not matured, especially in his handling of colour. Some roughness in the surface is caused by stippling. Some flatness is created by the absence of broad shadow; and the greatest depth being near the outline, communicates to the figures an unpleasant hardness, not diminished by the effort to define the forms with a wiry line. Sculptural grandeur, clearly within the painter's aim, is marred by too much arrangement of drapery, and the liquid general colour is of an unpleasant reddish tone."270
The Hotel d' Italia, on one side of the Piazza Manin, was the Palace of Caroline Murat. Not far from the Church of Ogni Santi is the Convent and Church of San Giovanni in Dio, adjoining which is the Hospital of that name on the site of the former houses of the Vespucci family. In one of these was born, in 1453, Amerigo Vespucci, who, from his discoveries north of where Columbus landed, gave his name to the Continent of America.
The Hospital of San Giovanni in Dio was founded by Simone, the son of Pietro Vespucci, in 1400. In 1587 it passed into the hands of the neighbouring Confraternity of San Giovanni in Dio, and was enlarged in 1735, at which time all the houses of the Vespucci were incorporated into the building. After the discovery of North America, the Vespucci were allowed the honour of attaching a Fanale to their houses, which has, however, been long removed, though an inscription records the birth-place of Amerigo Vespucci.
[The Ponte Carraia was rebuilt following its WWII
The first bridge across the Arno, after the Suspension Bridge at the further end, near the Cascine or Public Gardens of Florence, is the Ponte alla Carraia. The foundation-stone was laid in 1218 by a certain Lapo, a friend of Arnolfo di Cambio. It was then called Ponte Nuovo, to distinguish it from Ponte Vecchio, but it was afterwards known as the Carraia, from a postern or gate which stood at the entrance to the present Via Borg' Ogni Santi. The first Ponte alla Carraia was swept away by a flood in 1274, but it was rebuilt at the expense of the Padri Umiliati of Ogni Santi, and after a design of Fra Ristoro and Fra Sisto, the Dominicans who built Sta. Maria Novella. They laid the piles in stone but constructed the bridge itself of wood, in consequence of which a fatal disaster took place during a theatrical representation conducted by the painter Buffalmacco, and given by the inhabitants of the Borgo San Frediano. The amusement consisted in an exhibition of the Infernal Regions upon the river; the advertisement ran as follows: - "Chiunque avesse disiderato di aver nuove dell' altro mondo, si fosse portato al d́ di calan di Maggio sul Ponte alla Carraia."271 Boats were filled with persons dressed to resemble demons, who, amidst fire and smoke, uttered cries, to simulate the agony of the tormented. The bridge was crowded with spectators, when it suddenly gave way, all fell into the river, and between fire and water, most of those who had come to learn something of another world, perished miserably. The bridge was rebuilt, but again destroyed by an inundation of the Arno in 1333; it was restored, but partially injured in 1557, and repaired by Ammanati in 1559, by order of the Grand-Duke Cosimo I. Within the last few years a chapel at the Oltr' Arno extremity has been removed, and the bridge widened.272
[The Ponte Santa Trinità was rebuilt following its
The quay of the Lung' Arno Corsini connects the Ponte alla Carraia with the Ponte S. Trinità. This bridge was founded in 1252 by Lamberto Frescobaldi, whose Palace is on the opposite side; it was carried away by the flood of 1269, and reconstructed by Fra Ristori and Fra Sisto; but it was again destroyed when the Ponte alla Carraia was swept away in 1333. Taddeo Gaddi began its restoration, which lasted until 1557, when it was destroyed for the last time, and rebuilt, as well as the Carraia, by Ammanati. It is considered one of the finest specimens of construction, and is much admired for the elegant curve of the arches. The four marble statues above, life-size, represent the seasons: Winter is by Taddeo Landino; Spring and Autumn by Caccini, and Summer by Francavilla, a pupil of Michael Angelo. Francavilla was accused of having made the neck and right leg of his figure too long.
The Lung' Arno Acciajuoli, where once were the houses of the Acciajuoli family, extends from the Ponte della SS. Trinità to the Ponte Vecchio.273 The Acciajuoli family are supposed to have been workers in steel or iron at Brescia, who, about the year 1160, emigrated to Florence to escape the savage cruelty of Frederick Barbarossa. In 1313 one Dardano Acciajuoli was sent as Florentine Ambassador to King Robert of Naples. Their influence and power declined with the failure of the Bank of Bardi, Peruzzi, and Corsini; but they soon recovered their fortune. The year of this calamity (1342), Angelo Acciajuoli, a Dominican monk, was chosen Bishop of Florence, but he proved a traitor to his country, when he persuaded the Signory to invite Walter de Brienne Duke of Athens to take the city under his protection; afterwards, by a double act of treachery, he headed the conspiracy against him which ended by causing his own fall.
The most distinguished man of this family was Nicoḷ
Acciajuoli, who, when on a journey to Naples for purposes
connected with his trade, found favour in the eyes of
Catherine, titular Empress of Constantinople, and wife of the
Prince of Taranto. King Robert, perceiving the talents
of Nicoḷ, encouraged this attachment, as he believed the
Florentine merchant might be of use to his nephews, the sons
of Catherine, and he appointed him Baiḷ or Governor of the
Principality of Taranto. In 1338 Nicoḷ accompanied one of his
pupils to Greece, and for three years he conducted a war
against the Turks with consummate ability. King Robert
on his deathbed named as his successor his grand-daughter,
Joanna, married to Andrew, Prince of Hungary. Andrew was
hated by the Neapolitans, and no less hated, it appears, by
his wife, who caused him to be strangled in 1345. It is
uncertain whether Nicoḷ was an actual accomplice in this
deed, but he contrived to turn it to advantage, by persuading
the widowed queen to marry his pupil, Lodovico, Prince of
Taranto, when he took the government of the kingdom into his
own hands, whilst maintaining Lodovico on the throne.
When the King of Hungary threatened vengeance for the murder
of his brother, Nicoḷ carried the Prince to Avignon, and only
brought him back to Naples in 1348, when the plague had broken
out in the south of France. In reward for these
services, Nicoḷ was created Seneschal of Naples, and various
rich estates in the kingdom were bestowed on him. Peace
was at length concluded with Hungary through the mediation of
the Pope, and Acciajuoli turned his attention to rid the
country of brigands, and to recover Sicily from the
Aragonese. When Naples was threatened with an interdict,
Nicoḷ hastened to Innocent VI. And persuaded him to desist
from this intention; the Pope was so fascinated by this
extraordinary man, that he presented him with the Golden Rose,
an honour hitherto reserved for royal persons, created him a
Roman Senator, and sent him as his ambassador to Bernaḅ
Visconti Lord of Milan. On his return to Naples,
Acciajuoli enjoyed an almost sovereign power until his death
in 1366. But though his life was thus spent abroad, he
never forgot Florence, in whose neighbourhood he erected the
splendid monastery of the Certosa, where he was buried, and
where Andrea Orcagna raised a superb monument over his
remains. Acciajuoli endowed there a college for fifty
youths, who were to be instructed in the liberal arts, but
this part of the monastery was never finished. Though
proud of their great citizen, the Florentines jealously
guarded against any attempts on his part to obtain power at
home. They accordingly passed a decree that any citizen
having jurisdiction in a city or castle out of Florence,
should be excluded from holding office; but in order to
mitigate the severity of this law they, at the same time,
exempted him from the payment of taxes.
A bishop of the Acciajuoli family, who inhabited the palace on the Lung' Arno, which is now the Hotel dell' Arno, employed Pocetti to paint frescos, still in preservation in one of the rooms. The last of the family was Monsignore Filippo Acciajuoli, who died at Venice in 1834.
Close to the Palazzo Acciajuoli is the Ponte Vecchio, the oldest bridge in Florence, which, until 1080, was constructed of wood; in 1177 it was carried away by a flood, and rebuilt of stone; but it was again swept away by the great inundation of 1333, and was rebuilt by the painter and architect Taddeo Gaddi,274 and it has ever since resisted the violence of the Arno. From the year 1422 to the middle of the sixteenth century, the butchers of Florence had their shops here, but the Grand-Duke Cosimo I. dismissed them, and established the goldsmiths in their place; Vasari made use of the shops on the eastern side as a support for his gallery connecting the Palazzo Pitti with the Uffizi. The various coats of arms on the bridge are those of the Guilds which contributed to its repair, and an inscription commemorates a flood of the Arno. On the opposite side of the river, to the right of the bridge, was once the hospice of the Knights of Malta, which had been built in 1050 for the Templars. Near this spot, at a still earlier period, stood the column on which was the statue of mars on horseback, at the foot of which fell young Buondelmonti, murdered by the enemies of his family; the statue of mars was replaced by the group of Ajax and the wounded Patroclus, afterwards removed to the Loggia de' Lanzi. A small hospital was attached to the hospice of the Templars, which was afterwards ceded to the monks of San Miniato al Monte, and called the oratory of the Holy Sepulchre; this was handed over to the Knights of Malta when the Order of Templars was suppressed in 1311. In this house the poet Ariosto lodged for six months in 1513, the year Leo X. ascended the Pontifical throne, an event celebrated in Florence with peculiar magnificence. Ariosto came to study the Tuscan idiom, and was received by Nicoḷ Vespucci, the Superior of the Order, who had at the same time permitted Alexandrina Benucci, the beautiful widow of Titus Strozzi, to spend the months of her retirement from the world in this hospice. An attachment sprang up between her and Ariosto, which only terminated with the poet's death at Ferrara, in 1533.
Acciajuoli came to Florence from Brescia 1313
Acciajuoli bankrupt 1342
Acciajuoli, Nicoḷ in Greece 1338
Alberti, Leon Battista 1405-1472
Amerigo Vespucci born 1453
Ammanati, Bartolommeo 1511-1592
Ariosto died at Ferrara 1583
Botticelli, Sandro 1447-1510
Brunelleschi, Filippo 1379-1446
Castagno, Andrea 1396-1457
Cellini, Benvenuto 1500-1571
Feltrini, Andrea 1477-1540(?)
Francia, Françesco 1450-1517
Gaddi, Taddeo 1300-1366
Gerini, Nicola 1385 (?)
Ghirlandaio, Domenico 1449-1494
Giovanni di San Giovanni 1576-1636
Joanna, Queen of Naples, reigned 1343-1381
Ligozzi, Jacopo 1543-1627
Lucia, Sta., in Prato built 1251
Lucia, Sta., Frate Umiliati obliged to leave 1547
Macchiavelli, Nicoḷ 1469-1527
Mazzuola di Ferrara 1504-1540
Medici, Lorenzo de' 1448-1492
Mirandola, Pico dell 1463-1494
Ogni Santi, church of, built 1547
Ogni Santi, Church of, inhabited by Franciscans 1554
Ogni Santi, Church of, rebuilt 1627
Poliziano, Angelo 1454-1494
Ponte alla Carraia swept away by floods in 1274
Ponte alla Carraia swept away by floods in 1333
Ponte alla Carraia swept away by floods in 1557
Ponte alla Carraia finally restored 1559
Ponte SS. Trinità founded by Frescobaldi 1252
Ponte SS. Trinità swept away by floods 1333
Ponte SS. Trinità swept away by floods 1557
Ponte Vecchio built of stone 1080
Ponte Vecchio destroyed by floods 1171
Ponte Vecchio destroyed by floods 1333
Pulci, Luigi d. 1490
Robert, King of Naples, reigned 1309-1343
San Giovanni in Dio founded 1400
frescos are now in the Castle of Vincigliata, belonging to Mr.
264 These pictures were formerly in the ancient Fransoni Palace of Genoa. See Guide by Carlo Giuseppa Rath, 1780.
265 This book's original owner, Ellen Orton, who visited Florence in May 1880, noted in the book: "My window at the Washington looked into the Borg' Ogni Santi. I shall never forget my first morning in Florence, Sunday, and being awoke at 4:00 am by the rush of feet in the street beneath me hurrying to early mass, whilst the bells of the Ogni Santi were so melodious that one could hardly believe one's self out of Heaven." An 1889 edition of the Baedeker for Northern Italy names (on page 374) the Hôtel de Florence & Washington, Lungarno Am. Vespucci 6.
266 See "Crowe and Cavalcaselle," vol. ii. p. 464.
267 Ibid., vol. ii. p. 415-420.
268 Ibid., vol. i. p. 453.
269 See "Crowe and Cavalcaselle," vol. i. p. 365-395.
270 See Crowe and Cavalcaselle," vol. ii. p. 464.
271 Whoever desires to have news of the other world, let him come to the Bridge of the Carraia, on the Calends of May.
272 Ellen Orton, the original owner of the book from which this ebook was prepared, noted of her visit to Florence in May 1880: My Hotel Washington was below the bridge Alla Carraia on the Lung' Arno."
273 Ellen Orton remarks that in May 1880 "This is where some good jewellers and mosaic shops are."
274 Ellen Orton: "I crossed it [Ponte Vecchio] several times for Taddeo's sake."
Chapter XXXIV: Via de' Bardi – Palazzo Torrigiani – Church of San Nicolo – Porta San Nicolo and Porta San Giorgio
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