The first week I arrived in Italy, I planned my week to be as efficient as possible. I got the opportunity to visit the Duomo in the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, and the Palazzo Vecchio. I have always been astonished by the Medici’s influence, power and story within Florence. Of course, the Palazzo Vecchio was wonderful and the frescoes it possessed were beyond glorious to the glance, but what I noticed carefully is how big the tower of Palazzo Vecchio was. The tower in Palazzo Vecchio is called Tower of Arnolfo in honor of Arnolfo di Cambio considered the architect and designer of the ancient palace.
Interestingly, the Arnolfo Tower is 95 meters high, and it surpasses Giotto’s Bell Tower in height, which is 82 meters high. What can this tell you about Florence? More than you think. The Palazzo Vecchio was, In the mid-sixteenth century, the residence of Cosimo I de’ Medici, who’s family was one of the most (if not the most) wealthy family in Florence. Florence became a Signoria, and the Medici were the governors for a long period of time. Of course, it was clear that the Medici ruled Florence, but the tower and its grandeur was a symbol of that power. What is also strikingly interesting is that this thought process was also present before the Medici and during the construction of the city center of Florence. Arnolfo di Cambio, while building the city center, aligned the Cattedrale and the Palazzo Della Signoria, to be exactly one in front of the other to demonstrate the power of the people of Florence and the church’s power to be at the same level. It is amazing how can architecture be used as a tool for power and prestige.
After my first week in Florence, I had the opportunity to go to Siena. I visited the most famous piazza in Siena, Piazza del Campo, which has a similar tower to the one in Florence, called Torre del Mangia. Doing the further investigation and going inside the Palazzo Pubblico (adjacent to the tower), it really caught my attention how Florence and Siena had their town halls built using the same methodology, even though they were made by different architects.
The Arnolfo Tower and the Torre del Mangia tower have the same purposes: show prestige and power. The tower, Torre del Mangia has the same height as the Cattedrale Metropolitana di Santa Maria Assunta (Siena’s Cathedral) as a sign that the church and the state had equal amounts of power.
I was really amazed at how within one country, every city demonstrates their pride and power, and of course independence, within art and architecture. Also, competition between cities was so prominent, that every neighboring city within this country wanted to have a unique Cattedrale and the city’s town hall had to be very prominent and project the city’s aristocracy and signore’s status and prestige. This is unique to Italy and something that should be understood and experienced by every tourist to understand art and architecture’s role in politics and power within Italy.
Thanks to #GlobalExplorersTravelAward for making this experiences possible!