Architecture and urban space

Areli Marina

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    At the end of the thirteenth century Dante, like most Florentines, lived within a few hundred metres of at least one major building site. Half a block from his house on via di San Martino (now via Dante Alighieri) reconstruction of the city’s principal Benedictine abbey, the Badia, had been underway since 1288. Across the street from the Badia, the city government broke ground for its first permanent headquarters in 1255, and spent the next half century continually enlarging the complex, now known as the Bargello. Two hundred metres south-west, a new residence for the city’s priors (now the Palazzo Vecchio or della Signoria) rose around the nucleus of the former Foraboschi family tower starting in 1299. Further afield, work continued on an ambitious new circuit of walls, as well as on dozens of major and minor projects, including the construction of a larger cathedral to replace the dilapidated basilica of Santa Reparata. Dante did not only witness this architectural ferment; as an official in the Florentine government, he also promoted the city’s metamorphosis. He served on Florence’s Council of One Hundred (in charge of fiscal matters) when, on 5 June 1296, it considered a petition to launch one of the most significant urbanistic enterprises in the city’s history: The redesign of Piazza San Giovanni, the square between the free-standing baptistery of San Giovanni and the cathedral (Figure 25.1). The cathedral workshop’s administrators and the consul of the Arte di Calimala (the powerful cloth merchants’ guild) asked the commune for permission to expand the ‘confined and small’ piazza by removing the tombs surrounding the baptistery and demolishing one of Florence’s largest hospitals, San Giovanni Evangelista. (In addition to obstructing the piazza’s expansion, the hospital had been superintended by opponents of the city administration; many of the graves belonged to aristocratic families out of political favour.) As the record of the meeting notes, the proposed larger, unencumbered piazza would provide essential additional space for public religious ceremonies. The bigger square would also create unobstructed views of the cherished baptistery and, eventually, the facade of the new cathedral, whose foundation ceremony would take place three months later. Before the vote, Dante addressed the council gathered in the church of San Pier Scheraggio in favour of the proposal.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Title of host publicationDante in Context
    Place of PublicationCambridge
    PublisherCambridge University Press
    Number of pages21
    ISBN (Electronic)9781139519373
    ISBN (Print)9781107033146
    StatePublished - Jan 1 2015

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • General Arts and Humanities


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