Once, at the political heart of the Florentine Republic, much of the Palazzo Vecchio is a museum. It also acts as a symbol of local government, and functions as the town hall of Florence. The design of the Tuscan Gothic style building is attributed to Italian sculptor and architect Arnolfo di Cambio.
Rooms in the Old Palace
- First Floor
- Sala di Leone X - Pope Leo X.
- Studiolo di Francesco I - The study in which Cosimo's eldest son and heir performed his alchemy and science experiments and where Baroque paintings hide secret cupboards.
- The Great Hall of the Five Hundred - The grand staircase by Vasari leads to the Salone dei Cinquecento. The hall was commissioned by the Dominican friar Girolamo Savonarola. Murals depict battles and military victories by Florence over Pisa and Siena:
- La presa di Siena,
- La conquista di Porto Ercole,
- La vittoria di Cosimo I a Marciano in val di Chiana,
- La sconfitta dei pisani alla torre di San Vincenzo,
- Massimiliano d'Austria tenta la conquista di Livorno,
- Pisa attaccata dalle truppe fiorentine.
- Sala dei Gigli "Hall of the Lilies" - The hall is decorated with the red Giglio di Firenze, symbol of the city, resembling the gold fleurs-de-lis of the Valois.
- Sala di Ercole - Labours of Hercules from Book IX of Ovid's Metamorphoses:
- Ercole fanciullo che strozza i serpenti,
- Il toro di Creta,
- L'idra di lerna,
- Il leone Nemeo,
- Ercole che ruba i pomi delle Esperidi,
- Ercole e Cacoo.
"He was at bottom the most unsuitable man who could be found for such a work. His idea was a theocracy, in which all men were to bow in blessed humility before the Unseen, and all conflicts of passion wert not even to be able to arise. His whole mind is written in that inscription on the Palazzo della Signoria, the substance of which was his maxim as early as 1495, and which was solemnly renewed by his partisans in 1527: Jesus Christus Rex populi Florentini S.P.Q. decreto creatus. He stood in no more relation to mundane affairs and their actual conditions than any other inhabitant of a monastery. Man, according to him, has only to attend to those things which make directly for his salvation."
The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy, Jacob Burckhardt, 1860.
Lives of the Artists: Baccio Bandinelli
Giorgio Vasari, a former pupil in Baccio Bandinelli's workshop, claimed Bandinelli was driven by jealousy of Benvenuto Cellini and Michelangelo; and recounts that:
Baccio frequented the place more than any of the others, and had a counterfeit key; and it happened that, Piero Soderini having been deposed from the government about this time, in the year 1512, and the house of Medici having been restored to power, during the confusion caused in the Palace by the change of government, Baccio entered in secret, all by himself, and tore the cartoon into many pieces. Of which not knowing the reason, some said that Baccio had torn it up in order to have some pieces of the cartoon in his possession for his own convenience, some declared that he wished to deprive the other young men of that advantage, so that they might not be able to profit by it and make themselves a name in art, others said that he was moved to do this by his affection for Leonardo da Vinci, from whom Michelangelo's cartoon had taken much of his reputation, and others, again, perhaps interpreting his action better, attributed it to the hatred which he felt against Michelangelo and afterwards demonstrated as long as he lived. The loss of the cartoon was no light one for the city, and very heavy the blame that was rightly laid upon Baccio by everyone, as an envious and malicious person.
Lives of the Artists, Giorgio Vasari.
- 1299 to 1302 - The first stage in the building of Palazzo Vecchio dates from the time of Arnolfo da Cambio.
- 1308 - The tower, known as "Arnolfo's tower", was completed. It was subsequently topped with a cusp, a bronze sphere and the Marzocco, or lion, holding up the Florentine lily.
- 24 November 1494 - The army of Charles VIII of France departed Florence, an action for which the persuasive powers of Savonarola were credited. Savonarola subsequently promulgated a great council consisting of 3200 citizens of blameless reputation and over 25 years of age,with a third of the number sitting for six months in turn in the hall of the Cinquecento.
- 7 April 1498 - Savonarola sought refuge from the mob in the church of Saint Mark's. When the church was finally stormed, he surrendered to his enemies and was imprisoned in the tower cell which had once harboured Cosimo de' Medici, the first of the Medici political dynasty.
- 1504 - The Signoria of Florence commissioned Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo to paint the walls of the Grand Council Chamber. Leonardo worked on the Battle of Anghiari and Michelangelo on the the Battle of Cascina. Renaissance Florence was immediately divided into two camps passionately supporting one or the other. Michelangelo's work did not come further than the cartoon for the picture, which also was destroyed in the civil conflict of 1512.
- 1540's - The Palazzo della Signoria was the residence of Cosimo I de Medici, Duke of Florence.
- 1550 - The Medici duke's residence was moved across the Arno to the Palazzo Pitti and the building acquired its current name.
- 1555 - Giorgio Vasari returned to Florence to serve Duke Cosimo who appointed him architect of the Palazzo Vecchio.
- 1865 - When Florence became the capital of Italy, the palazzo housed the Chamber of Deputies and the Foreign Ministry.
- 1988 - Following restoration, Donatello's bronze of Giuditta e Oloferne, depicting the assassination of the Assyrian general Holofernes by Judith, was put on public display in the Sala dei Gigli.