Sunday, 12 January 2014


'Firenze Come Era - A terrible city, in many ways, uncomfortable and dangerous to live in, a city of drama, argument, and struggle'

' Florence was the 'daughter', Rome the 'mother' - this was the medieval notion''. The sobriety and decorum of Florence is the gravitas of Rome, set in the wild mountains, on a rushing river. This sense of an outpost, of a camp pitched in a military rectangle hard by the mountain of Fiesole, is still perceptible in the streets around the Duomo - Via Ricasoli, Via del Servi, which run straight out towards the mountain barrier like streets in the raw towns of the old American Far West.'

Beneath the surface of Florence lies a sunken Rome. In the dim light, the crypt of San Miniato, with it's pillars of odd sizes and shapes, resembles a petrified forest.'

'The tradition of Rome is palpable in Florence to those who know that it is there, just as, to those who know of it, the plan of the Roman colony, laid out like a camp or castrium, becomes visible in the city's old streets.'

Roman Florence had baths, temples, a forum, where the Piazza Della Republica is now, a Capitol or a great temple to Jupiter with the marble staircase leading up to it, an aqueduct, and a theatre, all of which have vanished, leaving a few street names as markers: Via del Campidoglio or Street of the Capitol. Outside the city walls, there was an amphitheatre, seating fifteen thousand people; it's outlines can still be seen on curving Via torta, Via die Bentaccordi, and Piazza dei Perruzzi, which transcribes half an oval near the church of Santa Croce."

'The statuary of Florence is its genius or attendant spirit, not only because it is better than any other statuary done since Ancient Greece, a categorical statement, but because, good and bad alike, it is part of the very fabric of the city - the respublica or public thing. It belongs to a citizenry, stubborn and independent, and to a geography, like that of Athens, of towering rock and stone.'

The Florentine sculptors of the quattrocento sprang from the quarries of the neighbouring hills, where the macigno or grey pietra serena was cut. Desiderio da Settignano, Benedetto da Maiano, Mino da Fiesole, Benedetto da Roveezzano - these were village boys brought up among stone-cutters. Michelangelo was put out to nurse in Settignano, and used to say that he imbibed his genius from his wet nurse's limy milk.'

'Michelangelo's 'David', before it became a statue, used to be known as 'The Giant'. It was a great block of marble eighteen feet high that had been spoiled by Agostino di lay for forty years in the workshops of the Cathedral, until Michelangelo made the Giant into the Giant killer.'

'The aringhiera was the platform from which political orations were delivered and decrees read by the signory to the people (this is the derivation of the word 'harangue'), and the statue of Judith cutting off the tyrant's head was intended to symbolise, more succinctly then words, popular liberty triumphing over despotism.' - Judith and Holofernes by Donatello. Bronze. 1460. 'One of the first renaissance sculptures to be conceived in the round, with its four distinct faces.'

'The Stones of Florence and Venice Observed'