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Loggia dei Lanzi

 

The equestrian statue of Cosimo I de' Medici, Neptune from the Ammannati fountain, and the copy of Michelangelo's David slyly survey Piazza della Signoria and sculptures of all periods look out with them from the Loggia of the Signoria, dominated by Benvenuto Cellini's Perseus, symbol of the Renaissance. From the tables of the historic cafés, or overwhelmed by the splendour of the monuments overlooking the square, you can't miss that protected place full of immobile observers, who in turn cannot help but be observed.

Brought back to light after restoration in 2002, the Loggia of the Signoria, or Loggia of the Lanzi, so called because the Lanzichenecchi (German mercenaries) used it for their encampment in 1527, became an open-air museum and one of the symbols of Florence, dominating the square in spite of its detached position. For a certain period it was also known as the Loggia dell'Orcagna, from the nickname of the architect Andrea di Cione, to whom it was wrongly attributed. In reality the Loggia was built by his brother Benci di Cione together with Simone Talenti.

It was built between 1376 and 1382, as a place where popular assemblies and the official ceremonies of the Florentine Republic, all public, were to be held. The building, with its late-Gothic forms, testifies to the taste for the classical, but already announces the Renaissance; it seems to be the forerunner of the style adopted by Filippo Brunelleschi to create the Hospital of the Innocents, the first Renaissance building.

The four panels, with allegorical figures of the Cardinal Virtues decorating the simple, linear façade, were the work of Agnolo Gaddi. The terrace above the Loggia, now part of the Uffizi, was built by Bernardo Buontalenti to enable the population to watch the ceremonies being held in the square below. Now it is part of the museum bar and is a splendid viewing point for watching the busy life in the square.

With the advent of Cosimo I, the Loggia was originally designed as a kind of workshop for sculptors, who by means of their works had the task of representing the clean break with the republican institutions in the city. It thus became a veritable exhibition space reserved for sculptures. Every statue displayed was to symbolise a part of the history of Florence, with numerous political references which must have been perfectly clear to the Florentines of the time.