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The Palazzo Vecchio (IPA pronunciation: [palatzo vɛkio]) (Italian for Old Palace) is the town hall of Florence, Italy. This massive, Romanesque, crenellated fortress-palace is among the most impressive town halls of Tuscany.[1] Overlooking the Piazza della Signoria with its copy of Michelangelo´s David statue as well the gallery of statues in the adjacent Loggia dei Lanzi, it is one of the most significant public places in Italy.Originally called the Palazzo della Signoria, after the Signoria of Florence, the ruling body of the Republic of Florence, it was also given several other names: Palazzo del Popolo, Palazzo dei Priori, and Palazzo Ducale, in accordance with the varying use of the palace during its long history. The building acquired its current name when the Medici duke´s residence was moved across the Arno to the Palazzo Pitti.In 1299, the commune and people of Florence decided to build a palace, worthy of the city´s importance and giving greater security, in times of turbulence, to the magistrates. Arnolfo di Cambio, the architect of the Duomo and the Santa Croce church, began constructing it upon the ruins of Palazzo dei Fanti and Palazzo dell´Esecutore di Giustizia, once owned by the Uberti family. Giovanni Villani (12761348) wrote in his Nuova Cronica that the Uberti were rebels of Florence and Ghibellines, stating that the plaza was built so that the Uberti family homes would never be rebuilt on the same location. Giovanni Villani wrote that Arnolfo di Cambio incorporated the ancient tower of the Foraboschi family (the tower then known as La Vacca or The Cow) as the substructure of the tower into its facade; this is why the rectangular tower (height 94 m) is not directly centered in the building. This tower contains two small cells, that, at different times, imprisoned Cosimo de´ Medici (the Elder) (1435) and Girolamo Savonarola (1498). The tower is named after its designer Torre d´Arnolfo. The solid cubicle shaped building is enhanced by the simple tower with its Lederle clock.The large, one-handed clock was originally constructed by the Florentine Nicolò Bernardo, but was replaced in 1667 by a clock made by Vincenzo Viviani.The cubical building is built in solid rustic stonework, with two rows of two-lighted Gothic windows, each with a trefoil arch. Michelozzo Michelozzi added decorative bas-reliefs of the cross and the lily in the spandrels between the trefoils. The building is crowned with projecting crenellated battlement, supported by small arches and corbels. Under the arches are a repeated series of nine painted coats of arms of the Florentine republic. Some of these arches can be used as embrasures (spiombati) for dropping heated liquids or rocks on invaders.The name was officially changed after Cosimo moved to the Palazzo Pitti, renaming his former palace the Palazzo Vecchio, the Old Palace, although the adjacent town square, the Piazza della Signoria, still bears the old name. Cosimo commissioned Giorgio Vasari to build an above-ground walkway, the Vasari corridor, from the palace, through the Uffizi, over the Ponte Vecchio to the Palazzo Pitti.Cosimo I also moved the seat of government to the Uffizi. The palace gained new importance as the seat of United Italy´s provisional government from 1865-71, at a moment when Florence had become the capital of the kingdom of Italy.Although most of the Palazzo Vecchio is now a museum, it remains the symbol of local government: since 1872 it has housed the office of the mayor of Florence, and it is the seat of the City Council.Above the front entrance door, there is a notable ornamental marble frontispiece, dating from 1528. In the middle, flanked by two gilded lions, is the Monogram of Christ, surrounded by a glory, above the text (in Latin): Rex Regum et Dominus Dominantium (translation: Jesus Christ, King of Kings and Lord of Lords. This text dates from 1851 and does not replace an earlier text by Savonarola as mentioned in guidebooks. Between 1529 and 1851 they were concealed behind a large shield with the grand-ducal coat of arms.Michelangelo´s David also stood at the entrance from its completion in 1504 to 1873, when it was moved to the Accademia. A replica erected in 1910 now stands in its place, flanked by Baccio Bandinelli´s Hercules and Cacus.The first courtyard was designed in 1453 by Michelozzo. In the lunettes, high around the courtyard, are crests of the Church and City Guilds. In the center, the porphyry fountain is by Battista del Tadda. The Putto with Dolphin on top of the basin is a copy of the original by Andrea del Verrocchio (1476), now on display on the second floor of the palace. This small statue was originally placed in the garden of the villa of the Medici in Careggi. The water, flowing through the nose of the dolphin, is brought here by pipes from the Boboli Gardens.In the niche, in front of the fountain, stands Samson and Philistine by Pierino da Vinci.First courtyard.The frescoes on the walls, representing scenes of the Austrian Habsburg estates, were painted in 1565 by Giorgio Vasari for the wedding celebration of Francesco I de´ Medici, the eldest son of Cosimo I de´ Medici, and Johanna of Austria, sister of the Emperor Maximilian. The harmoniously proportioned columns, at one time smooth, and untouched, were at the same time richly decorated with gilt stuccoes.The barrel vaults are furnished with grotesque decorations.
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Sources and References Index
Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palazzo_Vecchio
 
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