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Palazzo Vecchio a Firenze

Itinerary: Men and God serving the city

Badia Fiorentina, the church of Santa Croce, Palazzo Vecchio, Orsanmichele


The great monastic complex of Badia Fiorentina is situated in the heart of Florence, and has shared the history, the work and the life of the city. The ancient church of Santo Stefano was sold to Willa, Marquess of Tuscany, who oversaw the restructuring with a dedication to the Virgin Mary (978). She entrusted the church to the care of Benedictine monks, for whom a monastery was built. The abbey was a vital part of the local community: many shops sprang up in the surrounding area in response to the needs and activities of the monks.

In 1284 the entire complex was renovated as part of the grand plan to expand the city by Arnolfo di Cambio. Many parts of the resulting gothic building still remain. More changes took place in the 1600s. The monks left in the 1800s, after the suppression, and the premises were split up and given different uses.

The church has always maintained its original function, and in 1998 was entrusted to the Monastic Communities of Jerusalem. Inside, on the left, is the famous painting The Apparition of the Madonna to St. Bernard (Filippino Lippi, 1482-86).


Bernardo and Egidio, followers of Saint Francis, came to Florence in 1209: in 1211 Francis himself stopped in the city with Silvestro. After an initial period of distrust, the Florentines came to love these men who had chosen, in imitation of Christ, a life of sharing with the poorest and weakest of people. They were given a chapel outside the walls, in an area prone to flooding, which is where the poorest people in the city lived.

A church dedicated to Santa Croce was built in 1221 – 1228, and King Francia Lucovico IX donated to it a relic of the Holy Cross (1258).

The Bardi chapel (1331) by Giotto communicates with extraordinary narrative force the Franciscan charisma through an outline of the life of the saint.

The wooden crucifix by Donatello (1415) represents the identification between God and man: the artist expresses the concept of the incarnation of God in the corporeality of Christ.


The religious sensibility of the Florentines is manifested in two elements on the outside of this building: the monogram of Christ on the Gothic pendent above the door, and an inscription of words inspired by Savonarola ‘Iesus Cristus rex fiorentini popoli’ (Jesus Christ king of the Florentines).

The inscription was replaced in 1551 by Grand Duke Cosimo I with "Rex Regum et Dominus Dominantium", as he wanted to erase any memory of the republic. The large marble statue of David (Michelangelo, 1504) also refers to the values of the Florentine people, as David defeats the giant not by force but through intelligence, carrying out the mission that God entrusted to him.


The history of this building is a testament to how instances of Christianity are intertwined with the social history of the city. Its initial function was a corn market, but in 1336 the Silk Guild decided to turn it into a symbol of the power of the guilds with twelve tabernacles on the outside of the building, one for each guild. The statues which are now inside each tabernacle are copies.
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